California earthquakes always a hot topic!


How do earthquakes occur in California?

California earthquakes are part of everyday life, but most of them are left unnoticed. An earthquake is a vibration of the earth. There are cracks in the earth's crust that form our continental plates (tectonic plates). These plates are uneven at their edges and "float" on the liquid core of our earth. As the plates touch each other, they "get stuck" again and again and tensions build up, which will eventually be solved. This detachment is measurable and often noticeable as an earthquake.

In this video, you'll see an imitation experiment that easily illustrates how earthquakes occur in California and elsewhere around the world.

Why is California affected by earthquakes?

California is known for its nature, cities and beaches. What many do not know is that the earth's crust is broken from the south to the north of California. This is exactly where two continental plates meet, the Pacific and the North American, which rub against each other. This break is called San Andreas Fault and is one of the most active faults in the world.

Life in the earthquake area

My daughter-in-law still often thinks back to the last big earthquake in southern California in 1994. At that time she was only 8 years old and it happened in the middle of the night at 4:30. She was awakened by the suddenly falling bookshelf that on her bed a lot. Seconds later, her father Craig ran into the room and lifted the shelf from her bed. The earthquake lasted only about 15 seconds, she says, but the damage throughout the San Fernando Valley has been enormous. Even freeway bridges collapsed due to the impact of the quake. Afterwards, the whole family had to leave the house for several hours, as the aftershocks continued for a long time. My daughter-in-law Shaina still places a red bag right next to the front door. She calls them the Emergency Bag and inside are clothes, some cash and medicines.

One sees this earthquake, which became known as Northridge Quake, has left its mark on the population of the Valleys. Especially when you consider that the next big quake in this region is long overdue. It is expected that the next major earthquake in Southern California will be even heavier than the Northridge quake. Measurements in the earth's crust in this area have shown that the stresses are at a maximum level. So the next big quake can happen any moment.

How many earthquakes are there in California every year?

"Yeah," you'll say. "The chance that an earthquake will happen when we are in California is small." But I have to disappoint you. Every year there are more than 10,000 earthquakes in California. The good news, however, is that most of them are not noticeable. So do not let your holiday in California go awful. The chances that the next big earthquake will happen in California when you're there are therefore very small!

A funny fact ....

Per year, the Pacific plate migrates on which Los Angeles is about 3.2 inches to the north. For many (millions of) years, Los Angeles will be a suburb of San Francisco. The city hall in the center of Los Angeles has walked since 1927 already 2.7 meters towards San Francisco!


  • Sounds interesting! Especially if you have not dealt with the subject of earthquakes yet 🙂 I definitely hope that I will never witness an earthquake live!

    best regards

    • I always remember that when I'm in Los Angeles. I also hope that it will never happen because my son lives there.
      best regards

  • ftuchscheerer2017

    Very interesting, and I hope that something is spared me. But Los Angeles is on my travel list pretty high up, well let's hope that then no earthquake comes.
    LG Frank

  • Well written! We have already experienced a few earthquakes in small Switzerland but nothing comparable to California.

  • desire wrought

    Dear Sigrid,

    a very interesting and enlightening article. All I know so far is that around San Francisco there is an earthquake center, but not that it's that far from California.

    Many greetings


    • I always have a queasy feeling when I'm in LA. Of course, I'm worried about my family living there. because the time is overdue and there should be a quake soon.

  • Interesting post.

    Once I participated in a mini-earthquake and already thought what kind of natural forces have to work there. Respect for the people who live in such regions.

    Best regards and a beautiful Friday afternoon, Simone

  • I am glad to live in the north of Germany. Even though a tornado sometimes flies through here, there are no earthquakes here. Otherwise, I would not know how I should behave in the case.


  • I first read 'strawberries' and did not even diverge the connection 😀 I am really glad that I have never experienced an earthquake or generally tornadoes and everything that exists in the USA. In Florida, a whirlwind just before our place turned off - what a lucky.
    I find it so interesting in San Francisco with the clouds on the Golden Gate Bridge :)

    best regards

    • I am also glad to have never experienced something like that before. Unfortunately I have not been to San Francisco yet but I will catch up soon. best regards

  • Dear Sigrid

    Such an interesting report! Thank you!

    A week ago we had a strong storm, luckily we were in New York at that time, but my girlfriend was still in Florida and said it was awesome!

    I hope I never have to experience an earthquake or a strong storm!

    Have a nice weekend!


  • primetime chaos

    Totally interesting! I have friends there, who are trained as children already for emergencies!
    All the best, Theresa

  • Hey you.
    Thanks for the interesting contribution. I also do not want to experience an earthquake and did not know that it moves to California. That was really very enlightening.

    Dearest greetings,

    • I already knew that and I'm afraid of it every time. Is yes according to scientists overdue in the region. Greetings Sigrid

  • Hello Sigrid,

    a topic that you always hear in the news and now it is explained vividly. We used to have that with geography in the learning material, if today is still like that ?? In any case, it was interesting!



  • Very interesting. 🙂
    That there are so many earthquakes in California I would never have thought.
    I do not know if I could feel like your daughter-in-law, after such a quake in this place ...
    Best regards Tamara

  • A super interesting article, only the day before yesterday, my little lioness after earth plates and earthquakes and I have it on the hand of Butterkeksen explained 🙂 Greetings Alex from

  • sprinzeminze

    A really interesting article, I did not know that there are so many earthquakes in California, but of course if you do not touch most of them you will not hear about it! Thank you for all this information! Lg Iris

  • mary dream team fitness

    Super interesting article. I learned it early, but a refresher was necessary 😉 I think at the latest when the kids ask for it, we adult again the textbooks on!
    best regards

  • Did not think that California is affected by so many earthquakes. You rarely hear about it. Nevertheless, I find something bad, especially if you look at the destruction afterwards. I once was lucky enough to experience an earthquake in Turkey on the beach. I did not know what to do right then. That was just the noticeable aftershock. In the news I saw how the neighboring town suffered.
    Glg Karolina

  • I had never thought about how earthquakes occur. Have shown fine contribution equal to my daughter. Educational task done for today and even learned something! Thank you very much!

  • I am very afraid of natural disasters! In summer the earthquake was in our resort Kos! The fear was always there. Thanks for the interesting contribution. Greetings Ronja

  • A really interesting contribution. This is what my geography teacher should have said, then I would have rather paid attention and understood everything!

    Love, Sylvie from

  • Thanks for this interesting post! I am glad that I live in a country where such a thing is more of a rarity and not so strong!

    All the best,

  • Very interesting post. I had never dealt so exactly with the topic.

    best regards


  • Wow, never thought there would be so many earthquakes!
    Thanks for the explanation. Good article 🙂
    Best regards, Lina from <3

  • A very interesting contribution! I am really glad I did not notice anything in DE. When I go on vacation in the Philippines, you often get something like that.
    best regards

  • Super interesting post! I still have fond memories of how it was when the earth began to shake suddenly. And that is Germany! I do not want to know what it's like to actually live in a crisis area.

  • I have experienced an earthquake in LA for my flight attendant times ... since then I have always looked at the escape routes and I am particularly flexible in what happens when the earthquake. Fortunately, in Austria we do not know such heavy earthquakes.

    best regards

    • Luckily you do not need to worry about it, but knowing it could happen makes me worried about my family there.
      best regards

  • I lived in Orange County, Dana Point, for 2 years and was also awakened by an earthquake once a night. But I did not know that I woke up because of a quake. I only found out about it 2 weeks later. I am now a flight attendant and occasionally fly to San Francisco or LA and wonder when the big quake will come. It has already been announced for years. As Verena has already written, I now always look first at the escape routes in the hotels, where we spend the night. Let's hope that it will either take a long time or it will not be as bad as announced. Greetings Jules

    • I also hope it will take a long time, because my son lives with his family in Los Angeles. Of course, I'm a little scared, it could happen soon.
      My daughter-in-law always has a packed bag with everything important next to the door.
      Best regards

  • We also live in an earthquake area - on the spa line in the east of Austria. But they are usually so weak with us, that I only hear in the news that one was again. So hardly noticeable.

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