Will ‘The Big One’ take California into the ocean? It’s been a controversial topic for years, but new data has scientists worried.
Scientists now believe that the California coastline will be vastly changing over the course of the next 7-10 years. Geologists and Geomorphologists from the California Institute of Geological Research have come to this conclusion based on the increase of earthquake and geologic activity in the past few years along the Ring of Fire, specifically along the California and Oregon fault lines.
“It’s frightening, but also interesting,” said James Perez PhD. “It’s frightening because the last time anything like this was recorded was when Plato wrote about Atlantis disappearing into the Mediterranean Sea. Some believe it’s myth, but as scientists we know that such a thing is possible. If such a place as Atlantis did exist, and it sat on the edge of a convergent boundary in a subduction zone, it could have literally been pulled into the sea. This is what we believe is starting to happen along the California coast line.” For those who aren’t well versed in plate tectonics, a convergent boundary is where one tectonic plate meets another. Subduction is the process of one plate slipping underneath another, at which point the crust that was on the surface dives under the surface and is melted down into magma and recycled into new crust later on.
Scientists have been researching the possibility of the West Coast coastline changing for the last twenty years, and they haven’t always agreed on what’s going to happen. “It hasn’t happened yet and I don’t believe it’s going to,” said PhD Melissa Porter. “We’ve never seen it happen anywhere.” While she doesn’t believe that California will fall into the ocean, Porter, a prominent Geologist teaching at UC Berkley acknowledges that there has been a disturbing trend in the last ten years of increasing intensity and frequency of earthquakes. “We can’t just look at earthquakes when studying this kind of possibility,” she said, “the public doesn’t realize that we closely monitor volcanic activity as an indicator of earthquakes and plate slippage as well. It also works in reverse. We can often predict eruptions when low intensity earthquakes increase in frequency in a localized area.”
According to Perez, there have been big earthquakes from tectonic plates slipping in California before. “We’ve seen earthquakes as large as 7.8 such as the San Francisco quake of 1906. That was big. It destroyed the city. But we’re not talking about a 7 or even an 8. We’re talking about the ‘big one’. It doesn’t matter how the buildings are designed because when it hits, San Francisco’s going to be under water. There’s a real possibility that in the next 10 years, Stockton is going to be oceanfront property. The Juan De Fuca Plate is going to come up over the North American plate, pulling it under where California meets the ocean.”
Perez and other Geologists at the California Institute of Geological Research estimate that there will be a series of quakes over the next several years that will help re-shape the coastline. “There are going to be naysayers,” Perez said, “there always have been. The data is solid however and we believe that as the quakes become more frequent and powerful, other geological institutions will begin to re-examine their data and conclusions.”
In case you’re a skeptic, we encourage you to do your own research. The USGS has a website where you can view and monitor all recent earthquakes around the world. There is also a site here run by several California Universities that show all recent quakes in California both large and small. You can also read about Plate Tectonics, and Fault Lines. Also check out the informational video below on predicting earthquakes.
“What really worries me is the potential for loss of life,” Perez told us. “The major news outlets aren’t willing to report this until other government institutions get involved and sign off on the research, but in the mean time the public doesn’t know, and that’s the scary part. People are going to be blindsided by this.”