Cape Mendocino

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The Cape Mendocino Coast. Cape Mendocino Coast.jpg
The Cape Mendocino Coast.

Cape Mendocino, approximately 200 miles (320 km) north of San Francisco, is located on the Lost Coast entirely within Humboldt County, California, USA. At 124° 24' 34" W longitude it is the westernmost point on the coast of California. [1] The South Cape Mendocino State Marine Reserve and Sugarloaf Island are immediately offshore, although closed to public access due to their protected status. [2] [3] Sugarloaf Island is cited as California's westernmost island. [4]

Contents

History

Named by Spanish explorer Andrés de Urdaneta in 1565 in honor of Antonio de Mendoza, Viceroy of New Spain, Cape Mendocino has been a landmark since the 16th century, when Manila Galleons followed the prevailing westerlies across the Pacific to the Cape, then followed the coast south to Acapulco, Mexico. The Cape Mendocino Light was lit on December 1, 1868, standing on eight prefabricated panels sent up from San Francisco. An automated light stood near the original location but was removed in 2013. [5]

Geology

Regional Seismicity 1985-2003 Ferndale Eureka RegionHistoricSeismicity.jpg
Regional Seismicity 1985–2003

The Cape Mendocino region of California's north coast is one of the most seismically active regions in the contiguous United States. Three earthquakes with epicenters nearby at the town of Petrolia and offshore west of Cape Mendocino, 25–26 April 1992, were outstanding, one reaching 7.2 Mw; [6] shaking the town so badly, fires broke out and burned down historic buildings, including the 100-year old General Store and the original Post Office. Even the fire station suffered so much shifting from the quakes, fire crews had a difficult time extinguishing the fires [7] . The quakes demonstrated that the Cascadia subduction zone is both capable of producing large earthquakes and generating tsunamis. Many geologists and seismologists believe that the main shock in the 1992 sequence may be a forerunner of a much more powerful earthquake in the Pacific Northwest. [8]

Offshore of Cape Mendocino lies the Mendocino Triple Junction, a geologic triple junction where three tectonic plates come together. The San Andreas Fault, a transform boundary, runs south from the junction, separating the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate. To the north lies the Cascadia subduction zone, where the Gorda Plate is being subducted under the margin of the North American plate. Running west from the triple junction is the Mendocino Fault, the transform boundary between the Gorda Plate and the Pacific Plate. Cape Mendocino California is part of the Cascadia subduction zone.

Coordinates: 40°26′24″N124°24′34″W / 40.4401°N 124.4095°W / 40.4401; -124.4095

See also

Related Research Articles

San Andreas Fault A continental transform fault through California between the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate

The San Andreas Fault is a continental transform fault that extends roughly 1,200 kilometers (750 mi) through California. It forms the tectonic boundary between the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate, and its motion is right-lateral strike-slip (horizontal). The fault divides into three segments, each with different characteristics and a different degree of earthquake risk. The slip rate along the fault ranges from 20 to 35 mm /yr.

North American Plate Large tectonic plate including most of North America, Greenland and part of Siberia.

The North American Plate is a tectonic plate covering most of North America, Greenland, Cuba, the Bahamas, extreme northeastern Asia, and parts of Iceland and the Azores. With an area of 76 million km2 (29 million sq mi), it is the Earth's second largest tectonic plate, behind the Pacific Plate.

Juan de Fuca Plate small tectonic plate in the eastern North Pacific

The Juan de Fuca Plate is a tectonic plate generated from the Juan de Fuca Ridge that is subducting under the northerly portion of the western side of the North American Plate at the Cascadia subduction zone. It is named after the explorer of the same name. One of the smallest of Earth's tectonic plates, the Juan de Fuca Plate is a remnant part of the once-vast Farallon Plate, which is now largely subducted underneath the North American Plate.

Gorda Plate One of the northern remnants of the Farallon Plate

The Gorda Plate, located beneath the Pacific Ocean off the coast of northern California, is one of the northern remnants of the Farallon Plate. It is sometimes referred to as simply the southernmost portion of the neighboring Juan de Fuca Plate, another Farallon remnant.

Explorer Plate oceanic tectonic plate beneath the Pacific Ocean off the west coast of Vancouver Island, Canada

The Explorer Plate is an oceanic tectonic plate beneath the Pacific Ocean off the west coast of Vancouver Island, Canada and is partially subducted under the North American Plate. Along with the Juan De Fuca Plate and Gorda Plate, the Explorer Plate is a remnant of the ancient Farallon Plate which has been subducted under the North American Plate. The Explorer Plate separated from the Juan De Fuca Plate roughly 4 million years ago. In its smoother, southern half, the average depth of the Explorer plate is roughly 2,400 metres (7,900 ft) and rises up in its northern half to a highly variable basin between 1,400 metres (4,600 ft) and 2,200 metres (7,200 ft) in depth.

Cascadia subduction zone Convergent plate boundary that stretches from northern Vancouver Island to Northern California

The Cascadia subduction zone is a convergent plate boundary that stretches from northern Vancouver Island in Canada to Northern California in the United States. It is a very long, sloping subduction zone where the Explorer, Juan de Fuca, and Gorda plates move to the east and slide below the much larger mostly continental North American Plate. The zone varies in width and lies offshore beginning near Cape Mendocino Northern California, passing through Oregon and Washington, and terminating at about Vancouver Island in British Columbia.

Megathrust earthquakes occur at subduction zones at destructive convergent plate boundaries, where one tectonic plate is forced underneath another, caused by slip along the thrust fault that forms the contact between them. These interplate earthquakes are the planet's most powerful, with moment magnitudes (Mw) that can exceed 9.0. Since 1900, all earthquakes of magnitude 9.0 or greater have been megathrust earthquakes. No other type of tectonic activity of terrestrial origin has produced earthquakes of this scale.

Triple junction The point where the boundaries of three tectonic plates meet

A triple junction is the point where the boundaries of three tectonic plates meet. At the triple junction each of the three boundaries will be one of 3 types – a ridge (R), trench (T) or transform fault (F) – and triple junctions can be described according to the types of plate margin that meet at them. Of the many possible types of triple junction only a few are stable through time. The meeting of 4 or more plates is also theoretically possible but junctions will only exist instantaneously.

Mendocino Fracture Zone A fracture zone and transform boundary off the coast of Cape Mendocino in far northern California

The Mendocino Fracture Zone is a fracture zone and transform boundary over 4000 km long, starting off the coast of Cape Mendocino in far northern California. It runs westward from a triple junction with the San Andreas Fault and the Cascadia subduction zone to the southern end of the Gorda Ridge. It continues on west of its junction with the Gorda Ridge, as an inactive remnant section which extends for several hundred miles.

Mendocino Triple Junction The point where the Gorda plate, the North American plate, and the Pacific plate meet

The Mendocino Triple Junction (MTJ) is the point where the Gorda plate, the North American plate, and the Pacific plate meet, in the Pacific Ocean near Cape Mendocino in northern California. This triple junction is the location of a change in the broad plate motions which dominate the west coast of North America, linking convergence of the northern Cascadia subduction zone and translation of the southern San Andreas Fault system. The Gorda plate is subducting, towards N50ºE, under the North American plate at 2.5 – 3 cm/yr, and is simultaneously converging obliquely against the Pacific plate at a rate of 5 cm/yr in the direction N115ºE. The accommodation of this plate configuration results in a transform boundary along the Mendocino Fracture Zone, and a divergent boundary at the Gorda Ridge.

Gorda Ridge tectonic spreading center off the northern coast of California and southern Oregon

The Gorda Ridge, aka Gorda Ridges tectonic spreading center, is located roughly 200 kilometres (120 mi) off the northern coast of California and southern Oregon. Running NE – SW it is roughly 300 kilometres (190 mi) in length. The ridge is broken into three segments; the northern ridge, central ridge, and the southern ridge, which contains the Escanaba Trough.

Blanco Fracture Zone right lateral transform fault zone between the Gorda Ridge and the Juan de Fuca Ridge in the northwest Pacific

The Blanco Fracture Zone or Blanco Transform Fault Zone (BTFZ) is a right lateral transform fault zone, which runs northeast off the coast of Oregon in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, extending from the Gorda Ridge in the south to the Juan de Fuca Ridge in the north.

Queen Charlotte Fault

The Queen Charlotte Fault is an active transform fault that marks the boundary of the North American and the Pacific Plates. It is Canada's right-lateral strike-slip equivalent to the San Andreas Fault to the south in California. The Queen Charlotte Fault forms a triple junction on its south with the Cascadia subduction zone and the Explorer Ridge.

Explorer Ridge mid-ocean ridge west of British Columbia, Canada

The Explorer Ridge is a mid-ocean ridge, a divergent tectonic plate boundary located about 241 km (150 mi) west of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. It lies at the northern extremity of the Pacific spreading axis. To its east is the Explorer Plate, which together with the Juan de Fuca Plate and the Gorda Plate to its south, is what remains of the once-vast Farallon Plate which has been largely subducted under the North American Plate. The Explorer Ridge consists of one major segment, the Southern Explorer Ridge, and several smaller segments. It runs northward from the Sovanco Fracture Zone to the Queen Charlotte Triple Junction, a point where it meets the Queen Charlotte Fault and the northern Cascadia subduction zone.

This is a list of articles related to plate tectonics and tectonic plates.

2010 Eureka earthquake

The 2010 Eureka earthquake occurred on January 9 at 4:27:38 pm PST offshore of Humboldt County, California, United States. The magnitude was measured 6.5 on the Mw scale, and its epicenter was located offshore in the Pacific Ocean 33 miles (53 km) west of the nearest major city, Eureka. Additionally, there was a separate earthquake further offshore of Eureka on February 4 with a slightly lower magnitude of 5.9. It was also the most significant earthquake in the Eureka area in terms of magnitude since the 1992 Cape Mendocino earthquakes. It was felt from Santa Cruz County, California in the south, to Eugene, Oregon in the north and to the east as far as Reno, Nevada.

1992 Cape Mendocino earthquakes

The 1992 Cape Mendocino earthquakes occurred along the Lost Coast of Northern California on April 25 and 26. The three largest events were the M7.2 thrust mainshock that struck near the unincorporated community of Petrolia midday on April 25 and two primary strike-slip aftershocks measuring 6.5 and 6.6 that followed early the next morning. The sequence encompassed both interplate and intraplate activity that was associated with the Mendocino Triple Junction, a complex system of three major faults that converge near Cape Mendocino. The total number of aftershocks that followed the events exceeded 2,000.

1980 Eureka earthquake

The 1980 Eureka earthquake occurred on November 8 at 02:27:34 local time along the northern coastal area of California in the United States. With a moment magnitude of 7.3 and a maximum Mercalli intensity of VII, this strike-slip earthquake was the largest to occur in California in 28 years. Although damage was considered light, several loss estimates equaled or exceeded $2 million, and six injuries resulted when two vehicles came down with the partial collapse of a highway overpass on US 101 in Fields Landing. The north coast of California experiences frequent plate boundary earthquakes near the Mendocino Triple Junction and intraplate events also occur within the Gorda Plate.

1932 Eureka earthquake

The 1932 Eureka earthquake occurred on June 6 at 00:44:26 local time along the northern coastal area of California in the United States. With a moment magnitude of 6.4 and a maximum Mercalli intensity of VIII (Severe), this earthquake left one person dead from a falling chimney and several injured. The shock was the largest in the area since 1923 and was felt in southern Oregon and northern California.

References

  1. "Cape Mendocino". Geographic Names Information System . United States Geological Survey.
  2. California Department of Fish and Wildlife , California Protected Marine Areas, 14 March 2013
  3. California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Sugarloaf Island Special Closure, 2015
  4. Sugarloaf Island Special Closure Archived 2015-07-13 at the Wayback Machine , California Marine Sanctuary Foundation, accessed July 12, 2015
  5. Rowlett, Russ. "Northern California". Lighthouses of the United States. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved 9 September 2012.
  6. USGS. "Cape Mendocino, California Earthquakes". Archived from the original on 2009-09-09. Retrieved 2009-10-21.
  7. "Today in Earthquake History: Cape Mendocino 1992". seismo.berkeley.edu. Retrieved 2019-06-25.
  8. Kathy Moley. "Why we have earthquakes: a unique geologic setting". Archived from the original on 2006-09-09. Retrieved 2009-10-21.