Southern California is a tortured landscape, and it isn't just the pop culture. The entire region has been twisted more than 90 degrees from its original orientation, forming one of the very few east-west trending mountains ranges in North America. The rotation is a consequence of the crust being caught between the Pacific and North American plates along the San Andreas and related fault systems. The end result of the rotation and stepwise motion of the fault is massive compressional forces that have lifted the San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountains to great heights in a very short period of geologic time, just a few million years.
|The San Andreas fault shifts sideways with the consequence that long ridge lines called shutter ridges offset stream channels and block drainages. The two foreground ridges run parallel to the San Andreas along the north side of the San Gabriels.|
Geologists sometimes seem to court disaster, in the sense that someone like me will stand on a major fault zone and think to himself that it would be cool to see the "Big One" happen just then. Such an event is going to be a horrible tragedy, and I would never wish it on anyone, but we live here in California, and the quakes do happen. It's just that there is an intellectual curiosity about what it looks like when a fault ruptures and shifts 15 or 20 feet. It would indeed be a sight to see.