The Geology Of California

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The geology of California

Executive Summary

California has an area of 423,971 km square with a coastline of 1,350 km. The maximum distance is about 1240 km from north to south and 595 km from east to west. The average altitude is 880m with values, however, extremely varied: from 86m beneath the sea-level in Death Valley: the largest continental depression) to 4418 m of Mount Whitney in the Sierra Nevada, one of the highest of the United States. The state can be divided into four physical regions: Central Valley, deep and lush alluvial valley surrounded on the east by the rugged mountains of the Sierra Nevada, to the north by the chain of the Cascades (a volcanic plateau comprising numerous craters like those of Mount Shasta - 4317 m, now extinct - and Lassen Peak - 3,187 m, still active) and the Klamath Mountains, to the west by the Coast chain interrupted by depressions in the Salinas Valley and the lowlands surrounding the San Francisco Bay and the south west, including the mountain ranges of the Transverse Ranges and Peninsular Ranges, which differ from the Sierra Nevada to their lower elevation and the absence of glaciers, the South East region, including many desert areas and arid basins such as the Great Basin, the northernmost, where are the great Mojave Desert and Death Valley, and finally the coast, geologically unstable and characterized by many fractures, including the dreaded San Andreas Fault. The main rivers of California are the Sacramento, which comes from Mount Shasta and flows in the San Francisco Bay Area, and the San Joaquin starting from the Sierra Nevada. The two rivers flow mainly through the Central Valley and, with their numerous tributaries, include the waters that come down from the Sierra Nevada by the chain of waterfalls in the South-East. Among the many lakes in the area, almost all of modest size, the one worth mentioning is Lake Tahoe, on the border with Nevada.

Table of Contents


Origin of the name4

Geography of California5


Mineral and energy resources5




Ingenous, Sedimentary & Metamorphism and Metamorphic rocks9



Rock glaciers13

Geology and plate tectonics in California15

Weathering and soil17

Geologic time18

The ocean floor19

Plate tectonics; the framework for modern geology (the CBLM)21

Mass wasting: the work of gravity23

Running water25

Death Valley National Park26

Crustal Deformation & Earthquakes27


The geology of California


California, a beautiful state belonging to the United States of America is located on the west coast towards the shores of the Pacific Ocean. It shares borders with the American states of Oregon (in the north), Nevada (East), Arizona (South-east) and with the Mexican state of Baja California (South). California, the 31st U.S. state to be formed was erected on September 9, 1850. Before that it was under the rule and jurisdiction of Spain and Mexico. California is one of the most populous states in the U.S. (as per the population census estimated in 2008) and the third largest according to area (after Alaska and Texas). Capital of the state is Sacramento and the largest city of this state is the very popular, Los ...
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