Los Angeles metropolitan area facts for kids

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Los Angeles, CA from the air
Los Angeles metropolitan area

The Los Angeles metropolitan area, also known as Metropolitan Los Angeles or the Southland, is the 18th largest metropolitan area in the world and the second-largest metropolitan area in the United States. It is entirely located in the southern portion of the U.S. State of California.

The metropolitan area is defined by the Office of Management and Budget as the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), consisting of Los Angeles and Orange counties, a metropolitan statistical area used for statistical purposes by the United States Census Bureau and other agencies. Its land area is 4,850 sq. mi (12,562 km2).

Los Angeles and Orange counties are the first and third most populous counties in California respectively, and Los Angeles, with 9,819,000 people in 2010, is the most populous county in the United States. The combined Los Angeles metropolitan area is home to 18.2 million people, making it the most populous metropolitan area in the western United States and the largest in area in the United States. The metro area has at its core the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim corridor, an urbanized area defined by the Census Bureau with a population 12,150,996 as of the 2010 Census.

The Census Bureau also defines a wider region based on commuting patterns, the Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA Combined Statistical Area (CSA), more commonly known as the Greater Los Angeles Area, with an estimated population of 18,550,288 in 2014. This includes the three additional counties of Ventura, Riverside, and San Bernardino. The total land area of the combined statistical area is 33,955 sq. mi (87,945 km²).

Definitions

GreaterLAmap
Los Angeles metropolitan area in yellow

The counties and county groupings comprising the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area are listed below with 2012 U.S. Bureau of the Census estimates of their populations.

Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area (12,828,837)

  • Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA Metropolitan Division (9,818,605)
  • Anaheim-Santa Ana-Irvine, CA Metropolitan Division (3,010,232)

Major divisions of the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area

In addition to the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area, the following Metropolitan Statistical Areas are also included in the Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA Combined Statistical Area (total pop. 18,238,998):

  • Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area (835,981)
  • Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area (4,350,096)

Urban areas of the region

Metropolitan Los Angeles as viewed from the Getty Center. Skyline of Downtown Los Angeles in the background, Century City and Westwood in the foreground.

The Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA CSA is a multicore metropolitan region containing several urban areas.

Urban areas

The combined statistical area is a multicore metropolitan region containing several urban areas.

Population
Rank
Urbanized Area 2010
Population
2 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim 12,150,996
22 Riverside-San Bernardino 1,932,666
69 Mission Viejo-Lake Forest-San Clemente 583,681
87 Murrieta-Temecula-Menifee 441,546
103 Oxnard 367,260
111 Indio-Cathedral City 345,580
112 Lancaster-Palmdale 341,219
114 Victorville-Hesperia 328,454
146 Santa Clarita 258,653
168 Thousand Oaks 214,811
205 Hemet 163,379
254 Simi Valley 125,206
386 Camarillo 71,772

Cities

Principal cities

Downtown Long Beach
View of downtown Long Beach.

The following is a list of cities with populations over 50,000 in the Los Angeles metropolitan area with 2011 United States Census Bureau estimates of their population. Cities in bold are considered principal cities of the metropolitan area by the Census Bureau, which represent significant employment centers:

Demographics

Historical population
Census Pop.
1890 115,043
1900 189,994 65.2%
1910 538,567 183.5%
1920 997,830 85.3%
1930 2,327,166 133.2%
1940 2,916,403 25.3%
1950 4,367,911 49.8%
1960 6,742,696 54.4%
1970 8,463,213 25.5%
1980 9,410,159 11.2%
1990 11,273,720 19.8%
2000 12,365,627 9.7%
2010 12,828,837 3.7%
State Census data

According to the 2009 American Community Survey, the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area had a population of 12,874,797, of which 6,402,498 (49.7% of the population) were male and 6,472,299 (50.3% of the population) were female.

The age composition was the following:

  • Under 5 years: 7.3%
  • 5 to 9 years: 6.6%
  • 10 to 14 years: 7.0%
  • 15 to 19 years: 7.2%
  • 20 to 24 years: 7.0%
  • 25 to 34 years: 15.5%
  • 35 to 44 years: 14.8%
  • 45 to 54 years: 13.9%
  • 55 to 59 years: 5.5%
  • 60 to 64 years: 4.4%
  • 65 to 74 years: 5.6%
  • 75 to 84 years: 3.6%
  • 85 years and over: 1.6%

Median age: 34.6 years

According to the survey, the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area was 54.6% White (32.2% non-Hispanic White alone), 7.0% Black or African American, 0.5% American Indian and Alaska Native, 13.9% Asian, 0.3% Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander, 20.6% from Some other race, and 3.2% from Two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race made up 44.8% of the population.

Whites are the racial majority; whites of both Hispanic and non-Hispanic origin make up 54.6% of the population. Non-Hispanic whites make up under one-third (32.2%) of the population. Approximately 7,028,533 residents are white, of which 4,150,426 are non-Hispanic whites.

The top five European ancestries are the following:

  • German: 6.9% (883,124)
  • Irish: 5.3% (786,541)
  • English: 4.8% (619,364)
  • Italian: 3.3% (425,056)
  • French: 1.6% (204,635)

Blacks are a sizable minority; blacks of both Hispanic and non-Hispanic origin make up 7.0% of the population. Non-Hispanic blacks make up 6.7% of the population. Approximately 895,931 residents are black, of which 864,737 are non-Hispanic blacks. In the survey, 136,024 people identified their ancestry as "Sub-Saharan African", equal to 1.1% of the population.

American Indians are a small minority; American Indians of both Hispanic and non-Hispanic origin make up 0.5% of the population. American Indians of non-Hispanic origin make up 0.2% of the populace. Approximately 68,822 residents are American Indian, of which 26,134 are American Indians of non-Hispanic origin. Approximately 3,872 Cherokee, 1,679 Navajo, 1,000 Chippewa, and 965 Sioux reside in the area.

Asians are a large minority; Asians of both Hispanic and non-Hispanic origin make up 13.9% of the population. Asians of non-Hispanic origin make up 13.7% of the population. Approximately 1,790,140 residents are Asian, of which 1,770,225 are Asians of non-Hispanic origin.

The six Asian ancestries mentioned are the following:

  • Chinese: 3.5% (454,086)
  • Filipino: 3.0% (390,192)
  • Korean: 2.1% (274,288)
  • Vietnamese: 2.0% (254,353)
  • Japanese: 1.0% (134,466)
  • Indian: 0.9% (116,090)

"Other Asian" is an additional category that includes people who did not identify themselves as any of the groups above. This group includes people of Cambodian, Laotian, Pakistani, Burmese, Taiwanese, and Thai descent, among others. Approximately 166,665 people are in this category, and they make up 1.3% of the population.

Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders are a very small minority; Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders make up 0.3% of the population. Approximately 37,719 residents are Native Hawaiian or of other Pacific Islander ancestries, of which 33,982 are of non-Hispanic origin.

The three Pacific Islander ancestries mentioned are the following:

  • Samoan: 0.1% (13,519)
  • Native Hawaiian: 0.1% (6,855)
  • Guamanian or Chamorro: <0.1% (4,581)

"Other Pacific Islander" is an additional category that includes people who did not identify themselves as any of the groups above. This group includes people of Fijian and Tongan descent, among others. Approximately 12,764 people are in this category, and they make up 0.1% of the population.

Multiracial individuals are a sizable minority; multiracial people of both Hispanic and non-Hispanic origin make up 3.2% of the population, of which 1.8% were of non-Hispanic origin. Approximately 405,568 people are multiracial, of which 228,238 are of non-Hispanic origin.

The four multiracial ancestries mentioned are the following:

  • White and Asian: 0.8% (107,585)
  • White and American Indian: 0.4% (55,960)
  • White and Black or African American: 0.4% (53,476)
  • Black or African American and American Indian: 0.1% (12,661)

Hispanic or Latinos, are, by far, the largest minority group; Hispanics or Latinos make up 44.8% of the population. They do not make up a majority, but they make up a plurality, outnumbering every other individual racial group. Approximately 5,763,181 residents are Hispanic or Latino.

The three Hispanic or Latino ancestries mentioned are the following:

  • Mexican: 35.5% (4,570,776)
  • Puerto Rican: 0.4% (48,780)
  • Cuban: 0.4% (47,056)

"Other Hispanic or Latino" is an additional category that includes people who did not identify themselves as any of the groups above. This group include people of Costa Rican, Salvadoran, and Colombian descent, among others. Approximately 1,096,569 people are in this category, and they make up 8.5% of the population.

Source 1:

Source 2:

Tourism

Due to L.A.'s stance as The Entertainment Capital of the World, there are an abundance of tourist attractions in the area. Consequently, the metropolitan L.A. is one of the most visited areas in the world. Here is a breakdown of some of its major attractions:

Theme parks

Castillo de Disneyland
Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland Park

Beaches

Laguna Beach condos
Laguna Beach coastline is popular for sunbathers

Shopping

Two Rodeo1
Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills
  • Americana at Brand
  • Anaheim GardenWalk
  • Bella Terra
  • Beverly Center
  • Brea Mall
  • Burbank Town Center
  • Cerritos Auto Square
  • Cerritos Towne Center
  • Citadel Outlets
  • Del Amo Fashion Center
  • Downtown Disney
  • Eastland Center
  • Fashion Island
  • Glendale Galleria
  • Hollywood and Highland
  • Irvine Spectrum Center
  • Lakewood Center
  • Laguna Hills Mall
  • Los Cerritos Center
  • Montclair Plaza
  • Montebello Town Center
  • Northridge Fashion Center
  • Old Pasadena
  • Ontario Mills
  • Panorama Mall
  • Paseo Colorado
  • Plaza México
  • Plaza West Covina
  • Puente Hills Mall
  • Rodeo Drive
  • The Grove at Farmer's Market
  • The Market Place
  • The Outlets at Orange
  • The Shops at Mission Viejo
  • The Shops at Montebello
  • The Village at Orange
  • Third Street Promenade
  • Sherman Oaks Galleria
  • South Coast Plaza
  • Stonewood Center
  • Universal CityWalk
  • Valencia Town Center
  • Victoria Gardens
  • Westfield Century City
  • Westfield Fashion Square
  • Westfield MainPlace
  • Westfield Santa Anita
  • Westfield Topanga
  • Westfield West Covina
  • Westminster Mall
  • Westside Pavilion

Motion picture studios

WarnerStudio
Warner Brothers Studios in the San Fernando Valley
  • 20th Century Fox
  • Cartoon Network Studios
  • CBS Television City
  • CBS Studio Center
  • CBS Columbia Square
  • Charlie Chaplin Studios
  • Downey Studios
  • Fox Television Center
  • Golden Oak Ranch
  • Hollywood Center Studios
  • Metromedia Square
  • NBC Studios (Burbank)
  • Nestor Studios
  • Nickelodeon Animation Studios
  • Nickelodeon on Sunset
  • Old Warner Brothers Studio
  • Paramount Studios
  • Ren-Mar Studios
  • Santa Clarita Studios
  • Sony Pictures Entertainment
  • Sunset Gower Studios
  • The Prospect Studios
  • Universal Studios
  • Walt Disney Studios
  • Warner Brothers Studios

Waterparks

Zoos and aquariums

LAzoo
Los Angeles Zoo
  • Aquarium of the Pacific
  • Griffith Park Zoo (Defunct)
  • Los Angeles Zoo
  • Ocean Institute
  • Orange County Zoo
  • Santa Ana Zoo

Night life

Museums

See also, Los Angeles City Museums

  • A. S. Bradford House
  • Anaheim Carnegie Library
  • Banning House
  • Balboa Pavilion
  • Bowers Museum
  • California African American Museum
  • California Science Center
  • Catalina Casino
  • Diego Sepúlveda Adobe
  • Discovery Cube Los Angeles
  • Discovery Cube Orange County
  • Drum Barracks
  • Flight Path Learning Center & Museum
  • Fullerton Arboretum
  • Getty Center
  • Getty Villa
  • George Key Ranch
  • Griffith Observatory
  • Heritage Square Museum
  • Huntington Library
  • Hollywood Wax Museum
  • Howe-Waffle House and Carriage House
  • International Surfing Museum
  • Japanese American National Museum
  • Jose Serrano Adobe
  • Kidspace Children's Museum
  • La Brea Tar Pits
  • Laguna Art Museum
  • Lewis Ainsworth House
  • Lomita Railroad Museum
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art
  • Los Angeles Maritime Museum
  • Lyon Air Museum
  • Mission San Buenaventura
  • Mission San Fernando Rey de España
  • Mission San Gabriel Arcángel
  • Mission San Juan Capistrano
  • Modjeska House
  • Movieland Wax Museum
  • Muckenthaler House
  • Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
  • Museum of Latin American Art
  • Museum of Tolerance
  • Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
  • Newport Sports Museum
  • Norton Simon Museum
  • Ocean Institute
  • Orange County Museum of Art
  • Old Orange County Courthouse
  • Pacific Asia Museum
  • Pasadena Museum of California Art
  • Pasadena Museum of History
  • Petersen Automotive Museum
  • Pretend City Children's Museum
  • Psychiatry: An Industry of Death
  • Richard Nixon Birthplace
  • Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum
  • Queen Mary
  • Ronald Reagan Presidential Library
  • Simi Adobe-Strathearn House
  • Skatelab
  • Southwest Museum of the American Indian
  • Toyota USA Automobile Museum
  • USS Iowa Museum

Presidential museums

Convention Centers

  • Anaheim Convention Center
  • Los Angeles Convention Center
  • Pasadena Convention Center
  • Long Beach Convention Center

State parks & beaches

  • Antelope Valley California Poppy State Reserve
  • Antelope Valley Indian Museum State Historic Park
  • Arthur B. Ripley Desert Woodland State Park
  • Bolsa Chica State Beach
  • Castaic Lake State Recreation Area
  • Corona del Mar State Beach
  • Crystal Cove State Park
  • Dockweiler State Beach
  • Doheny State Beach
  • Emma Wood State Beach
  • Huntington State Beach
  • Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area
  • Leo Carrillo State Park
  • Los Angeles State Historic Park
  • Los Encinos State Historic Park
  • Malibu Creek State Park
  • Malibu Lagoon State Beach
  • Mandalay State Beach
  • McGrath State Beach
  • Pescadero State Beach
  • Pío Pico State Historic Park
  • Placerita Canyon State Park
  • Point Dume State Beach
  • Point Mugu State Park
  • Rio de Los Angeles State Park
  • Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach
  • Saddleback Butte State Park
  • San Buenaventura State Beach
  • San Clemente State Beach
  • San Onofre State Beach
  • Santa Monica State Beach
  • Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park
  • Topanga State Park
  • Verdugo Mountains State Recreation Area
  • Watts Towers of Simon Rodia State Historic Park
  • Will Rogers State Historic Park
  • Will Rogers State Beach

National parks, monuments, & refuges

  • Channel Islands National Park
  • Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge
  • Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail
  • Old Spanish National Historic Trail
  • Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area
  • Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge

Other

  • Balboa Fun Zone
  • Balboa Inn
  • Balboa Island
  • Balboa Pier
  • Balboa Peninsula
  • Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels
  • Korean Bell of Friendship
  • Hollywood Sign
  • Huntington Beach Pier
  • Newport Pier
  • Santa Monica Pier
  • Mission Inn

Transportation

Commercial airports

Lax sign
LAX sign.
Airport IATA code County Enplanements (2013)
Los Angeles International Airport LAX Los Angeles 32,425,892
John Wayne Airport SNA Orange 4,540,628
Ontario International Airport ONT San Bernardino 1,970,538
Bob Hope Airport BUR Los Angeles 1,918,011
Long Beach Airport LGB Los Angeles 1,438,756

The primary airport serving the LA metro area is Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), one of the busiest airports in the United States. LAX is located in southwestern Los Angeles, 16 miles (26 km) from Downtown Los Angeles. LAX is the only airport to serve as a hub for all three U.S. legacy airlines —American, Delta and United.

In addition to LAX, other airports, including Bob Hope Airport, John Wayne Airport, Long Beach Airport, and LA/Ontario International Airport, also serve the region.

Interstates

  • I-5 (CA).svg Golden State Freeway/Santa Ana Freeway/San Diego Freeway/Montgomery Freeway (Interstate 5)
  • I-10 (CA).svg Santa Monica Freeway/Rosa Parks Freeway/Golden State Freeway (Interstate 10)
  • I-15 (CA).svg Veteran's Memorial Highway (Interstate 15)
  • I-105 (CA).svg Glenn Anderson Freeway/Century Freeway (Interstate 105)
  • I-110 (CA).svg Harbor Freeway (Interstate 110)
  • I-210 (CA).svg Foothill Freeway (Interstate 210)
  • I-405 (CA).svg San Diego Freeway (Interstate 405)
  • I-605 (CA).svg San Gabriel River Freeway (Interstate 605)
  • I-710 (CA).svg Long Beach Freeway (Interstate 710)

U.S. highways

California state highways

  • State Route 1
  • State Route 2
  • State Route 14
  • State Route 18
  • State Route 19
  • State Route 22
  • State Route 23
  • State Route 27
  • State Route 33
  • State Route 34
  • State Route 39
  • State Route 47
  • State Route 55
  • State Route 57
  • State Route 60
  • State Route 71
  • State Route 72
  • State Route 73
  • State Route 74
  • State Route 83
  • State Route 90
  • State Route 91
  • State Route 107
  • State Route 110
  • State Route 118
  • State Route 126
  • State Route 133
  • State Route 134
  • State Route 138
  • State Route 142
  • State Route 170
  • State Route 187
  • State Route 210
  • State Route 213
  • State Route 241
  • State Route 261

Los Angeles County Metro

Los Angeles County Metro Rail and Metro Liner map
Map of LA County Metro

The Metro Rail is the mass transit rail system of Los Angeles County. It is run by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and its system runs five rail lines throughout Los Angeles County. Metro Rail currently operates four light rail lines and two rapid transit subway lines, altogether totaling 87.7 miles (141.1 km) of rail, 101 stations, and over 360,000 daily weekday boardings as of December 2012.

  • The Blue Line – light rail
  • The Red Line – subway
  • The Green Line – light rail
  • The Gold Line – light rail
  • The Purple Line – subway
  • The Expo Line – light rail

The systems light rail system is the second busiest LRT system in the United States, after Boston, by number of riders, with 200,300 average weekday boardings during the third quarter of 2012.

Since the region of the city is in close proximity to a major fault area the tunnels were built to resist earthquakes of up to magnitude 7.5. Both subway lines use an electrified third rail to provide power to the trains, rendering these lines unusable on the other three. The Blue and Gold Lines run mostly at grade, with some street-running, elevated, and underground stretches in the more densely populated areas of Los Angeles. The Green Line is entirely grade separated, running in the median of I-105 and then turning southward along an elevated route.

The rail lines run regularly on a 5 am and midnight schedule, seven days a week. Limited service on particular segments is provided after midnight and before 5 am There is no rail service between 2 and 3:30 am Exact times vary from route to route; see individual route articles for more information.

Regional and commuter rail

There are two providers of heavy rail transportation in the region, Amtrak and Metrolink. Amtrak provides service to San Diego, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and points in between on the Pacific Surfliner. It also provides long-distance routes, including the Coast Starlight which goes to the San Francisco Bay Area, Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington; the Southwest Chief which goes to Flagstaff, Arizona, Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Chicago; and the Sunset Limited which provides limited service (three days a week) to Tucson, El Paso, Houston, and New Orleans.

Metrolink provides service to numerous places within Southern California, including all counties in the region. Metrolink operates to 55 stations on seven lines within Southern California which mostly (except for the Inland Empire-Orange County Line) radiate from Los Angeles Union Station.

Codes of metropolitan Los Angeles

Area codes

ZIP codes

The following is the list of ZIP codes for select areas within the metropolitan area.

Orange County

  • 92704 in Santa Ana • 91,106
  • 92804 in Anaheim • 81,362
  • 90631 in La Habra • 67,164
  • 92677 in Laguna Niguel • 62,329
  • 92627 in Costa Mesa • 62,275
  • 92630 in Lake Forest • 59,157
  • 92647 in Huntington Beach • 58,874
  • 92780 in Tustin • 55,092
  • 92708 in Fountain Valley • 54,588
  • 92840 in Garden Grove • 50,702
  • 92870 in Placentia • 48,670
  • 92653 in Laguna Hills • 48,024
  • 90630 in Cypress • 47,617
  • 92691 in Mission Viejo • 46,463
  • 92833 in Fullerton • 46,263
  • 90620 in Buena Park • 44,535
  • 92705 in North Tustin • 43,913
  • 92843 in Garden Grove • 43,788
  • 92688 in Rancho Santa Margarita • 42,491
  • 92656 in Aliso Viejo • 41,551
  • 92612 in Irvine • 41,101
  • 92867 in Orange • 40,648
  • 92807 in (Anaheim • 6,076) and (Anaheim Hills • 34,384) • 40,460
  • 92886 in Yorba Linda • 39,242
  • 92672 in San Clemente • 34,869
  • 92675 in San Juan Capistrano • 34,409
  • 92821 in Brea • 34,122
  • 90621 in Buena Park • 33,556
  • 92679 in Coto de Caza • 32,205
  • 92841 in Garden Grove • 31,586
  • 90680 in Stanton • 29,522
  • 92660 in Newport Beach • 28,755
  • 92604 in Irvine • 27,452
  • 92629 in Dana Point • 27,441
  • 92651 in Laguna Beach • 24,968
  • 90740 in Seal Beach • 24,308
  • 92844 in Garden Grove • 23,510
  • 90720 in Los Alamitos • 21,004
  • 92808 in Anaheim Hills • 19,613
  • 92610 in Foothill Ranch • 10,940
  • 92861 in Villa Park • 6,002
  • 92657 in Newport Coast • 5,752
  • 92694 in Las Flores • 433

Los Angeles County

Geology

San Andreas Fault Sequential Diagrams
Beginnings of the San Andreas Fault

Much of the west coast of North America used to be part of a large convergent plate boundary between the Farallon Plate and North American Plate from 165 to 55 million years ago. Here, the Farallon Plate subducted under the North American Plate creating volcanoes about 100 miles east of this boundary which can still be seen today as the Sierra Nevada which it has its southern border about 30 miles east of Grapevine, California in the Tejon Pass. The Farallon Plate was subjected to high temperatures and pressures as it subducted under the North American Plate. This led to the formation of molten plutons which rose because they were else dense then the surrounding magma. When they rose, they cooled and some formed enormous granite monoliths. Only less than 1% of these plutons ever made it to the surface out of a volcano or fissure vent. The 1% that did make it all the way to the surface erupted in andesitic lava which would pile on top of each previous flow. This would create steep volcanoes with extremely high elevations. Most of the ejecta that came out of a volcano is gas. About 60% is just carbon (C) and water vapor (H2O). About 30% is sulfur (S). The sulfur mixes with the water vapor to form sulfuric acid which is notorious for eating away at almost anything from plants to rocks.

For the 99% percent of plutons that didn't make it to the surface they cooled to form granite monoliths under these volcanoes. When subduction activities ceased about 55 million years ago, these volcanoes were subject to erosion due to their steep slopes. Because granite is classified as a hard igneous rock, it is the only remnant of the volcanic chain from this subduction zone. These enormous granite monoliths can still be seen in Yosemite National Park as Half Dome and El Capitan about 300 miles from Los Angeles. Please refer to the Geologic History of Yosemite page to learn more specifically of the local geology of that area.

Tunnel View, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite NP - Diliff
Granite Monoliths formed as a result of the subduction zone

When the subduction zone ceased about 55 million years ago, the Farallon Plate was split into two distinctive plates which can still be observed today as the Juan de Fuca Plate and the Cocos Plate. Both were part of the same plate, but were discovered independently before this connection was made. At the time of this break off, the Pacific Plate had a general north west movement while the North American Plate had a general south east movement. This created a new fault zone when a weak point gave way between these two plates. This is the beginnings of the infamous San Andreas Fault. The San Andreas Fault is a right-lateral strike strip transverse fault. When this fault was just created, a volcano from the ancient subduction zone was situated about 3/4th on the Pacific Plate and 1/4th on the North American plate somewhere in what is today Central California. Nearly 55 million years later, this volcano was offset by about 250 miles. It is the largest known offset of the San Andreas Fault and it help geologist determine important information such as average slip movement and the age of the fault. The northern part of this offset is now called Pinnacles National Park near Soledad, California. The other half of Pinnacles is located in Three Points, California which is in Los Angeles County.

The Pacific Plate is the largest known plate on Earth. It is considered an oceanic plate because it is much more dense than a continental plate. That is the reason why oceanic plates always subduct under another plate. There are only a few places where the Pacific Plate is actually above the ocean. Most of the coastline of the state, below Eureka, California is part of the Pacific plate. The thickest part on land in California can be observed as far inland as the Salton Sea. To the south of the Salon Sea, there is a gap between plate boundaries. This gap acts like a divergent plate boundary where the land is being pulled apart. Mud volcanoes can be observed just at the southern edge of the sea as well as hot springs. Geothermal energy plants are abundant in the area, which power much of the local rural communities.

Kluft-photo-Carrizo-Plain-Nov-2007-Img 0327
Aerial photo of the San Andreas Fault in the Carrizo Plain just north of Los Angeles County

When the San Andreas Fault originally formed, tension on the North American Plate grew. The plate buckled and began uplifting similar to swelling in nearly all portions of the west. Numerous faults were created as a result; geologic blocks that rose and fell over and over again in patterns and in sequences. The extension of surface led to cracks which formed many independent faults. This is the creation of the Basin and Range Province. Sometimes these faults created a pathway, which molten rock could flow up to the surface creating cinder cone volcanoes. The Los Angeles Area has a few volcanoes that formed. Along Route 66 in Amboy, California is the extinct volcano Amboy Crater called that is estimated to be aged at 80,000 years. It's a relatively new speaking in geologic terms, but heavily eroded by wind. While driving along Interstate 40, lava fields are seen that can stretch for miles. Within Death Valley National Park another, much larger cinder cone volcano called Ubehebe Crater. It is extremely young, although many geologist dispute the numbers with some estimates as old as 10,000 years with recent ages such as 800 years. One thing is for sure, that this volcano is still very active and can erupt. Luckily, because of its location, will likely not effect many people. Within Orange County, lava flows and dikes can be seen in El Modena, California although no actual crater can be seen. Likely because either it has been totally eroded or it was formed in a small fissure, which would explain why it's so localized.

Ubehebe Crater, Death Valley, CA
Ubehebe Crater in Death Valley National Park

The land with which the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area sits is among the newest rocks in the continental United States. It is estimated to be about 20 million years old. Most of the rocks in this area are part of the larger Monterey Formation which covers most of the California coastal ranges. The Monterey Formation consists of shale rocks, which were created from the accumulation calcium rich shells of dead marine life of millions of years. Before then, it was submerged and was part a shallow ocean floor. It has since been uplifted due to pressures between the many different fault zones at an average rate of 2 millimeters per year.

The Los Angeles Metropolitan is known to be geologically active. The San Andreas Fault is located about 40 miles north east of Downtown Los Angeles. The closest towns and cites which contain the San Andreas Fault to Los Angeles are Gorman, California and Palmdale, California. Historically, major earthquakes have occurred along the fault, large enough to cause fatalities and millions of dollars in damages. A major earthquake hasn't happened in the southern section of the San Andreas Fault in over 150 years and geologist have determined a 50% probability of a 7.0 earthquake, registered on the moment magnitude scale within the years 2010 to 2040. Some geologist say that this probably is over speculated. There is currently no way to accurately predict an earthquake anywhere on any specific fault. On the contrary, major efforts have been made to fund a practical earthquake warning system, similar to what Japan used in Tokyo during the 2011 Japan earthquake, in Southern California. Today, the area gets hits with many earthquakes per day, most reregistering below a 2.5 on the moment magnitude scale, too insignificant to feel any shaking on the surface.

List of major fault zones

Note: Plate boundary faults are indicated with a (#) symbol.

  • Brawley Seismic Zone
  • Chino Fault
  • Elsinore Fault Zone
  • Elysian Park Fault
  • Garlock Fault
  • Hosgri Fault
  • Imperial Fault Zone
  • Laguna Salada Fault
  • Newport–Inglewood Fault
  • Peninsular Ranges
  • Puente Hills Fault
  • Raymond Fault
  • Rose Canyon Fault
  • Salton Trough
  • Salinian Block
  • San Andreas Fault #
  • San Cayetano Fault
  • San Felipe Fault Zone
  • San Gabriel Fault
  • San Jacinto Fault Zone
  • Santa Maria River Fault
  • Santa Ynez Fault
  • Shoreline Fault
  • Ventura Fault
  • White Wolf Fault
  • Whittier Fault
  • Yorba Linda Fault

Significant earthquakes

Note: Earthquakes with epicenters in the Los Angeles Metro Area are marked with the (#) symbol. Other earthquakes mentioned means shaking was felt.

  • 1812 Wrightwood earthquake #
  • 1857 Fort Tejon earthquake
  • 1892 Laguna Salada earthquake
  • 1899 San Jacinto earthquake
  • 1918 San Jacinto earthquake
  • 1933 Long Beach earthquake #
  • 1940 El Centro earthquake
  • 1948 Desert Hot Springs earthquake
  • 1971 San Fernando earthquake #
  • 1979 Imperial Valley earthquake
  • 1968 Borrego Mountain earthquake
  • 1986 North Palm Springs earthquake
  • 1987 Superstition Hills and Elmore Ranch earthquakes
  • 1987 Whittier Narrows earthquake #
  • 1991 Sierra Madre earthquake #
  • 1992 Big Bear earthquake #
  • 1992 Landers earthquake
  • 1994 Northridge earthquake #
  • 2008 Chino Hills earthquake #
  • 2010 Baja California earthquake

Images for kids


Los Angeles metropolitan area Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.