The last week has seen a large number of earthquakes (of varying magnitudes) in California and most of these have occurred along the San Andreas Fault.
Even larger quakes appeared in Mexico’s Gulf of California, but thankfully none of these have caused any serious damage.
However, it has of course raised the usual questions, is this a prelude to something bigger, or has this latest “movement” delayed the “big one” that has been predicted?
There are many who believe that a part of California could break off into the sea, if there is sufficient damage along the fault line, but scientists say this is not possible.
The San Andreas Fault is a boundary between the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate. On average this moves a couple of inches a year. However, the plates can remain locked with no movement for years and then suddenly slip a few feet all at once.
Whilst a part of California may not fall into the sea, one could speculate that a large enough movement along the fault line could (in theory) create a large enough crack to allow the sea to separate the two areas of land (that are situated on either side of the fault line), effectively creating an island.
Such a disaster would require a huge movement of the plates, and the earthquakes resulting from this would produce a considerable amount of structural damage, and the loss of many lives.
Whatever happens, part of California will eventually move away from the current mainland, but this could take millions of years to occur. India has also moved quite some distance over the years, and 71 million years ago was far from its current location.
In the past, England and France were once joined together, but following a climatic change the land between them collapsed, allowing the sea to separate the two countries.
One thing is sure, California can expect a never ending supply of earthquakes in the future. Most will be relatively small and harmless, but there are certain to be some big ones along the way.