Will California eventually fall into the ocean?

No, California is not going to fall into the ocean. California is firmly planted on the top of the earth’s crust in a location where it spans two tectonic plates. The San Andreas Fault System, which crosses California from the Salton Sea in the south to Cape Mendocino in the north, is the boundary between the Pacific Plate (that includes the Pacific Ocean) and North American Plate (that includes North America). These two plates are moving horizontally, slowly sliding past one another. The Pacific Plate is moving northwest with respect to the North American Plate at approximately 46 millimeters per year (the rate your fingernails grow). The strike-slip earthquakes on the San Andreas Fault are a result of this plate motion. There is nowhere for California to fall, however, Los Angeles and San Francisco will one day be adjacent to one another!

Learn more:
Earthquakes, Megaquakes, and the Movies
What Kind of Movement Has Occurred Along the San Andreas Fault?

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Do solar flares or magnetic storms (space weather) cause earthquakes?

Solar flares and magnetic storms belong to a set of phenomena known collectively as "space weather". Technological systems and the activities of modern civilization can be affected by changing space-weather conditions. However, it has never been demonstrated that there is a causal relationship between space weather and

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Can some people sense that an earthquake is about to happen (earthquake sensitives)?

There is no scientific explanation for the symptoms some people claim to have preceding an earthquake, and more often than not there is no earthquake following the symptoms.

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Can the ground open up during an earthquake?

Shallow crevasses can form during earthquake-induced landslides, lateral spreads, or from other types of

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Is there earthquake weather?

In the 4th Century B.C., Aristotle proposed that earthquakes were caused by winds trapped in subterranean caves. Small tremors were thought to have been caused by air pushing on the cavern roofs, and large ones by the air breaking the surface. This theory lead to a belief in earthquake weather, that because a large amount

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Can animals predict earthquakes?

The earliest reference we have to unusual animal behavior prior to a significant earthquake is from Greece in 373 BC. Rats, weasels, snakes, and centipedes reportedly left their homes and headed for safety several days before a destructive earthquake. Anecdotal evidence abounds of animals, fish, birds, reptiles, and insects

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Why are we having so many earthquakes? Has naturally occurring earthquake activity been increasing? Does this mean a big one is going to hit? OR We haven't had any earthquakes in a long time; does this mean that the pressure is building up for a big one?

A temporary increase or decrease in seismicity is part of the normal fluctuation of earthquake rates.  Neither an increase or decrease worldwide is a positive indication that a large earthquake is imminent.

The ComCat earthquake catalog contains an increasing

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Can "MegaQuakes" really happen? Like a magnitude 10 or larger?

No, earthquakes of magnitude 10 or larger cannot happen.  The magnitude of an earthquake is related to the length of the fault on which it occurs. That is, the longer the fault, the larger the earthquake. A fault is a break in the rocks that make up the Earth's crust, along which rocks on either side have moved past each

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Can you predict earthquakes?

No. Neither the USGS nor any other scientists have ever predicted a major earthquake. We do not know how, and we do not expect to know how any time in the foreseeable future. An earthquake prediction must define 3 elements: 1) the date and time, 2) the location, and 3) the magnitude.

Yes, some people

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Are earthquakes associated with variations in the geomagnetic field?

Electromagnetic variations have been observed after earthquakes, but despite decades of work, there is no convincing evidence of electromagnetic precursors to earthquakes. It is worth acknowledging that geophysicists would actually love to demonstrate the reality of such precursors, especially if they could be used for

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Date published: April 8, 2011

California Can Learn From Recent Large Earthquakes

A new report issued by the American Red Cross and the U.S. Geological Survey documents the Chilean response and recovery efforts following the Feb. 2010 magnitude 8.8 earthquake and the lessons that California should learn from this disaster.   

Date published: October 4, 2007

Geologists Recover Rocks Yielding Unprecedented Insights into San Andreas Fault

For the first time, geologists have extracted intact rock samples from 2 miles beneath the surface of the San Andreas Fault, the infamous rupture that runs 800 miles along the length of California.

Date published: September 30, 2004

A Strong Earthquake Shakes Central California Fulfilling USGS' Parkfield Forecast

Calling it "one of the most significant earthquakes in the history of seismology," William Ellsworth, chief scientist for the USGS Earthquake Hazards program in California, today commended efforts to densely instrument the location of the September 28th Parkfield 2004 Earthquake.

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WERC Coastal ecosystem
2017 (approx.)

Coastal ecosystem studies at Trinidad coast, California. 

Photograph of Pacifica, California taken from the hills and looking slightly southwest out to the Pacific Ocean.
March 25, 2017

Photograph looks southwest onto the town of Pacifica, California and out to the Pacific Ocean, from Sweeney Ridge Trail.

Image: California Cliffs and Coastline
July 1, 2009

Colorful vegetated clifftop near Half Moon Bay, California.

Photograph shows eroding cliff in Isla Vista, California, with parts of houses hanging over edge.
April 28, 2005

Homes along the edge of the coast in Isla Vista, California, Santa Barbara County, face a short lifespan because of eroding bluffs that support them.

Image shows an aerial view of the San Andreas Fault
November 30, 2000

Aerial photo of the San Andreas Fault in the Carrizo Plain. By Ikluft - Own work, GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3106006