Under California: An ancient tectonic plate

Mostly gone, not forgotten

The Isabella anomaly (IA, above), is at the same depth (ca. 100 km) as other fragments of the Farallon plate under Oregon and Washington, is on a line with fragments off the California coast, and has a similar seismic tomography signature. Credit: Forsyth lab/Brown University

The Isabella anomaly — indications of a large mass of cool, dehydrated material about 100 kilometers beneath central California — is in fact a surviving slab of the Farallon oceanic plate. Most of the Farallon plate was driven deep into the Earth’s mantle as the Pacific and North American plates began converging about 100 million years ago, eventually coming together to form the San Andreas fault.