Fake Quake! False Alarm Earthquake

On June 21st, the USGS mistakenly announced the occurrence of a 6.8 magnitude earthquake 10 miles west of Santa Barbara. This announcement wasn’t a total fluke, rather it was a blast from the past because this quake did in fact occur- just roughly 92 years earlier. The automated announcement went out as a result of an attempted correction to the aforementioned earthquake’s location via the USGS earthquake database (LA Times 2017). The year was accidentally changed from 1925 to 2025 and an automated system alerted the public of the “strong” earthquake. Upon receiving the false announcement, there was confusion among recipients who certainly did not feel an earthquake of such magnitude.

Earthquakes of 6.1 and above have been commonly known to cause extensive damage, especially in populated areas. Thankfully, no such shake or damage was experienced. Had an earthquake of this magnitude actually occurred, it would have been felt as far as Downtown Los Angeles according to a seismologist from Caltech (LA Times 2017). Prominent seismologist Lucy Jones responded to this false alert via twitter and stated “A software glitch turned an update of the magnitude of 1925 Santa Barbara quake M6.8 into a 2025 quake. New method for predicting quakes?”. In this somewhat sarcastic tweet, Dr. Jones seems to be suggesting that solid methods for predicting quakes are quite tenuous presently. This story might seem slightly irrelevant because this earthquake did not actually occur, so what is the harm? What one must take from this is that an earthquake of this size or larger eventually will occur. With this in mind, it is important to be prepared in the case of an actual earthquake and take the precautions necessary to protect yourself and your loved ones.

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