Faulty USGS Sensors Record ‘Ghost’ Earthquakes

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Malfunctions in the United States Geological Survey’s (USGS) earthquake detection system in Northern California resulted in three false earthquake alarms in the past few days.

As a result, the USGS has retracted the stories also forcing the Los Angeles Times to retract their subsequent stories.

“There was a ghost in the machine. There was no earthquake,” a spokesman for the California Geological Survey Don Drysdale said according to the Times.

The first false quake was triggered when a 6.7 magnitude quake struck off the coast of Alaska on Friday after midnight, notes the Times, which was later misinterpreted as a 5.1 magnitude shaker on California’s border near Oregon.

The second error reportedly took place on Saturday morning after the coast of Japan was struck by a 7.8 magnitude quake, which was misinterpreted by the same NorCal sensors as a 4.8 near San Simeon and a 5.5 near Brooktrails.
These reports were retracted by the USGS within 15 minutes, but not before various news reports had gone out on them. The scientists are reportedly working to repair the problems and prevent these false alarms from occurring in the future.

This is not the first time such errors have occurred. In 2011 and 2012 the USGS had three similar false earthquake alarms each year and just two of them in 2010.

Scientists have recently begun speaking of a nightmare double earthquake scenario where two Northern California faults could trigger each other to make for a doomsday scenario shaker which could cost up to $300 billion in damages and end countless lives.

Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter @AdelleNaz.


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