I teach a geology lab at my university and I cannot tell you how many people still believe that California is going to fall and sink into the ocean. This is incorrect. I believe this falsehood that has somehow crept into unsuspecting minds is from the first Superman movie. In Superman, evil Lex Luthor drops a nuclear bomb on the San Andreas fault so the property he has purchased in California's eastern desert will become ocean front property.

But this will not happen. The western half of California will eventually break off but it's not going to sink. The San Andreas fault is a strike-slip fault meaning it is experiencing shearing forces. The southern part of California which is part of the Pacific Plate will shear off the North American plate (over a very long period of time) . And San Francisco and the areas south will slowly travel northward. No sinking will occur.

If you cannot picture this, look at a map of Baja California. This peninsula was once attached to continental Mexico and has since sheared off.

For more information, see plate tectonics.

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