Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Los Angeles - Transform

After 10 hours the great skyline of LA was in sight.  My flight finally landed in the Los Angeles International Airport.  It felt good to be back in the Unites States.  Los Angeles is in California which is located in the western part of North America, or more exactly, at 34°03'N 118°15'W I hurried through the airport and caught a taxi to my hotel.  Although I have always lived relatively close to California I've never actually been there so I'm excited to finally see what it's like! 

Los Angeles International Airport - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:LAX_LA.jpg

Hotel Shangri-La Santa Monica - http://tinyurl.com/7rhuq5a

I arrived at the swanky, five-star Hotel Shangri-La Santa Monica and was eager to hit the hay.  It's surprising how tiring traveling is!

Natural History museum of Los Angeles County - http://tinyurl.com/7tqmfl2

I woke up and had a quick meal consisting of instant oatmeal with brown sugar and an assortment of berries and then I left for the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.  I was really excited to see what I could further learn about tectonic plates.


Was it luck that I happened to choose LA as one of my destinations because it happened to be right next to a different kind of tectonic boundary, a transfrom boundary.  I learned that at a transform boundary two plates of equal or near equal density go in opposite direction so that they "pass by" each other instead of going towards or away from each other.  This is depicted in the picture above.  In this case the Pacific Plate and North American Plate are sliding by each other (LA is on the Pacific Plate).

Diagram showing the San Andreas Fault running through almost all of western California - http://tinyurl.com/7uwx5fy

Bird's eye view of the San Andreas Fault - http://tinyurl.com/6qbgbwk

From this particular movement of  tectonic plates, transform boundaries like the San Andreas fault make geological features resembling valleys, or more simply, giant cracks in the ground.  The San Andreas fault is over 800 miles long and is 10 or more miles deep in the Earth's crust in places.

Because none of the plates are subducting under the other there aren't any volcanoes but there are many earthquakes.  When pressure builds up and the plates make a sudden movement an earthquake occurs.   Thousands of small earthquakes occur in California every year although the vast majority of these have such low frequency and/or they're so far underground that we can't even notice them. 

Some earthquakes are massive though.  The largest recorded earthquakes along the San Andreas fault occurred in 1857 and 1906.  The large earthquakes that took place in these years had a magnitude of around 8, which is incredibly big!  From the earthquake on January 9th in 1857 and other more minor earthquakes in the year the plates moved around 30 feet! On April 18, 1906 the massive earthquake mainly in the San Francisco area caused a fire and all together 700 lives were lost.

The two most recent earthquakes created by the San Andreas fault occured in 2011.  One happened on January 7th in San Jose  and the other on January 12th in the small city of San Juan Bautista.  Both of these earthquakes measured a little over a magnitude of 4.

Well LA and the San Andreas fault are both so interesting but I did some research in my hotel room and I decided on my next destination... Kathmandu, Nepal, which is in the midst of probably the most famous collision boundary, and of course, the Himalayas.

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