Since some of you have been probing my steel-trap mind for the details of the disaster around the Indian Ocean, I found a really spectacular website for you to play with. My great-grandfather Cohen was a geologist of a sort, and I soon realized that geology is very much like biology, just much, much slower.
It is terrible that well over 100,000 people were killed, but they did not kill each other. Just like I would not really be surprised to be flattened in an earthquake, we can only adapt this planet so much for our needs. If you still feel bad, there are plenty of place to donate money to help the UN.
No, we are NOT going to have a similar event in Southern California, because we are not in a subduction zone (where ocean floor is being pushed below a continent). Millions of years ago we were in a subduction zone, which created the batholith of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, but then the Atlantic Ocean split apart shoved California right over the top of the local spreading center, which is why the Rockies are still lifting up, and tore the continent in two along the San Andreas fault. We have been hit by serious tsunamis from similar deep-sea quakes in Alaska, and Oregon, Washington and British Columbia are all sitting over subductions zones, create the great volcanos up there as the sinking plates melt. I did see a tsunami hit San Francisco (admittedly only a few feet high) in the 1980s, but still impressive as it had come all the way from Alaska.
For those who are more interested, here's the website with easy-loading VR animations. To see what caused the tremendous event in the Indian Ocean, check out this map; it's about halfway down the page, and moves when you click and drag your mouse over it from side to side:
As India moves north (at a rapid clip; it just moved 100 feet at once), you can see how it crushed a group of islands together to form Asia (and the Himalayas; unlike sea floor, continents are light and can't be subducted, they just smash into each other and form high mountains, in this case, the world's highest). India hasn't hit Thailand and Indonesia head on, but you can also see how it's twisted them around over 45 degrees.
The best, of course is looking 250 million years into the FUTURE; again, the map is halfway down the webpage. Looks like all those bridges are going to be useless! Yep, it's another Pangea:
There are plenty of other fun animations at this site, especially a series of virtual globes. Check out what the earth looked like in the Jurassic:
You can even see what the weather might have been like millions of years ago:
Hint: move your mouse slowly.
Perhaps our companions on this rock are more in tune with these change than we are (thanks, Lucas):
What do they know that we dont?
Experts: Tsunami Kills Few Animals
30 December 2004