Remember Y2K, that hyped computer bug and harbinger of digital apocalypse that never happened when the year 2000 arrived?

Well, 17 years later, it appears something like a Y2K bug played a role in a mistaken alert for a 6.8 earthquake sent out Wednesday about an earthquake off the Santa Barbara coast — back in 1925.

The error happened when someone at Caltech tried to correct the exact location of the Prohibition-era Santa Barbara earthquake, which happened 92 years ago.

From the Archives — June 1925: Earthquake devastates Santa Barbara »

The erroneous report went out by email around 4:51 p.m. A closer look at the alert, however, would have shown that something was amiss. The time of the alert was dated June 29, 2025, at 7:42 a.m. But it corresponds with a real earthquake that occurred a century earlier.

The false alert also did not show up on the U.S. Geological Survey’s website that maps new earthquakes.

“That’s a mistake. It’s not real,” said Caltech seismologist Egill Hauksson.

He said that a seismologist at UC Santa Barbara had recently complained to the USGS’ National Earthquake Information Center that the precise location of Santa Barbara’s 1925 earthquake was not correct, and about 6 miles off from where records actually indicated.

Hauksson’s team was asked by the National Earthquake Information Center to update the location of the historic event in the Advanced National Seismic System database. Someone on Hauksson’s team did so. If everything had gone right, almost no one should have noticed the change.

The USGS Web pages were updated correctly. But the USGS’ email notification system changed the year from 1925 to 2025, which caused an email to be sent from the email server that typically sends alerts of new earthquakes.

“Apparently, there is a software bug around somewhere,” according to a summary of the incident provided by Hauksson.

In a statement posted on Twitter, the USGS said the revision of the 1925 earthquake was “misinterpreted by software as a current event. We are working to resolve the issue.”

As to whether an earthquake off the Santa Barbara coast, of that magnitude, would have been felt in downtown L.A., Hauksson said:

“Yes, it would have been very lightly felt. Particularly, people in high-rises would have felt swaying back and forth for a while.”

https://twitter.com/USGS/status/877685556003692545

A 6.8 earthquake hit Santa Barbara on June 1925. This is what the disaster looked like »

https://twitter.com/alxxdes/status/877677727301554176

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UPDATES:

10:10 a.m., June 22: This article was updated with more information about the origin of the error, involving USGS email notification.

7:35 p.m.: This article was updated with information on what showed up on the USGS website.

5:55 p.m.: This article was updated with a statement from the USGS.

4:55 p.m.: This article was updated with information that the report was erroneous.

This article was originally published at 4:52 p.m. June 21.



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A staffer at Caltech mistakenly sent out an alert for a large magnitude-6.8 earthquake off the Santa Barbara coast — from 1925.

The error happened when someone tried to correct the exact location of the Prohibition-era Santa Barbara earthquake, which happened 92 years ago.

The erroneous report went out at around 4:51 p.m. A closer look at the alert, however, would have shown that something was amiss. The time of the alert was dated June 29, 2025 at 7:42 a.m. But it corresponds with a real earthquake that occurred a century earlier.

“That’s a mistake. It’s not real,” said Caltech seismologist Egill Hauksson. He said that scientists at UC Santa Barbara had recently complained that earthquakes from the region were actually located about 6 miles from where records indicated.

Someone on Hauksson’s team made a change, which inadvertently sent out an email out on the U.S. Geological Survey’s email server that typically sends out alerts of new earthquakes.

Read more about Southern California earthquakes.

https://twitter.com/alxxdes/status/877677727301554176


UPDATES:

4:55 p.m.: This article was updated with information that the report was erroneous.

This article was originally published at 4:35 p.m.



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A shallow magnitude 6.8 earthquake was reported Sunday morning nine miles from Isla Vista, Calif., according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The temblor occurred at 7:42 a.m. Pacific time at a depth of 6.2 miles.


According to the USGS, the epicenter was 10 miles from Goleta, Calif., 10 miles from downtown Santa Barbara, Calif. and 90 miles from Los Angeles Civic Center, Calif.



In the last 10 days, there have been no earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or greater centered nearby.

This information comes from the USGS Earthquake Notification Service and this post was created by an algorithm written by the author.

Read more about Southern California earthquakes.



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A shallow magnitude 3.5 earthquake was reported Sunday morning five miles from Idyllwild, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The temblor occurred at 8:14 a.m. PDT at a depth of 9.3 miles.

According to the USGS, the epicenter was 10 miles from Valle Vista, 10 miles from Anza, 16 miles from Palm Springs and 66 miles from San Diego.

In the past 10 days, there has been one earthquake of magnitude 3.0 or greater centered nearby.

This information comes from the USGS Earthquake Notification Service and this post was created by an algorithm written by the author.

Read more about Southern California earthquakes.



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A shallow magnitude 3.0 earthquake was reported Saturday evening 14 miles from Lake Isabella, Calif., according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The temblor occurred at 11:11 p.m. Pacific time at a depth of 0 miles.

According to the USGS, the epicenter was 14 miles from Weldon, Calif., 17 miles from Keene, Calif., 36 miles from Bakersfield, Calif., and 96 miles from the Los Angeles Civic Center.

In the past 10 days, there have been two earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or greater centered nearby.

This information comes from the USGS Earthquake Notification Service and this post was created by an algorithm written by the author.

Read more about Southern California earthquakes.



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A shallow magnitude 3.4 earthquake was reported Friday morning 16 miles from Westmorland, Calif., according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The temblor occurred at 7:14 a.m. PDT at a depth of 6.2 miles.

According to the USGS, the epicenter was 16 miles from Seeley, 17 miles from Ocotillo and 22 miles from El Centro.

In the last 10 days, there have been three earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or greater centered nearby.

This information comes from the USGS Earthquake Notification Service and this post was created by an algorithm.

Read more about Southern California earthquakes.



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A shallow magnitude 2.7 earthquake was reported Wednesday afternoon 18 miles from the Santa Catalina Island city of Avalon, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The temblor occurred at 3:19 p.m. Pacific time at a depth of 0.6 miles.

According to the USGS, the epicenter was 18 miles from Newport Beach, 18 miles from Laguna Beach, 21 miles from Costa Mesa and 48 miles from the Los Angeles Civic Center.

In the past 10 days, there have been two earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or greater centered nearby.

This information comes from the USGS Earthquake Notification Service and this post was created by an algorithm written by the author.

Read more about Southern California earthquakes.



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