Why do some earthquakes disappear from the map/list?

The USGS and networks contributing to the Advance National Seismic System (ANSS) take great effort to provide accurate and timely earthquake information.  Occasionally our systems produce erroneous information that is released to the public via our web pages or Earthquake Notification System. These mistakes are generally promptly identified by seismologists, removed from our web pages, and “delete” e-mails are sent through ENS.  We also have an Errata page when we correct information that is newsworthy and out of the ordinary.

In the interest of rapidly providing earthquake information to the public, most of the information about earthquakes that occur in the USA is automatically posted to the web and ENS if it meets quality standards. There is a trade off between the speed of our earthquake notifications and number of false alarms in the same way that any kind of "breaking news" story may have substantial changes or corrections as more information is received. The faster we release earthquake locations and magnitudes, the more likely it is that the information may be erroneous. Experience demonstrates that imposing more restrictive quality standards prevents the release of legitimate earthquake information.

There are multiple causes of false alarms. Automatic systems are particularly prone to errors following large earthquake when earthquake location algorithms misidentify reflected and refracted seismic waves created by a single earthquake. In this case, one earthquake can turn into "events" located in areas far from the earthquake. In other cases, noise in legacy analog telephone circuits that bring the data from seismometers to computers can be misidentified as earthquakes. Software optimized to locate local earthquakes by ANSS “regional” seismic networks in the USA occasionally may mislocate a large earthquake occurring on the other side of the Earth (e.g., China) deeply beneath the seismic network. Adding to this complexity, there are multiple seismic monitoring networks that contribute their earthquake locations and magnitudes to the ANSS system. These networks use different data and algorithms to locate the earthquakes, and sometimes the spatial separation of the contributed locations is so large that our systems interpret the independent solutions as distinct earthquakes of similar magnitude and location. In this situation, a delete message will be sent for one of the earthquake solutions but an earthquake did occur.

We are continuously improving our automatic systems and manual procedures to reduce the number of false alarms. However, with the advent of rapid distribution methods like RSS/ATOM feeds and the re-distribution of our alerts through social media sites, our errors are more widely seen and more difficult to retract completely. For these reasons, it is very important to remember that this data is preliminary and users should check our web site for the most recent updates.

Related Content

Filter Total Items: 12

Why don’t you report earthquakes in the local time where the earthquake occurred?

Since we and other seismic network agencies record earthquakes around the globe in all the various time zones, using a single standard time reference is best for record-keeping and exchange of data. Also, we tried converting UTC to the local time zones for epicenters and reporting them that way for a while on our website, and it confused our web...

Why do so many earthquakes occur at a depth of 10km?

10 km is a "fixed depth". Sometimes data are too poor to compute a reliable depth for an earthquake. In such a case, the depth is assigned to be 10 km. In many areas around the world, reliable depths tend to average 10 km or close to it. For example, if we made a histogram of the reliable depths in such an area, we'd expect to see a peak around 10...

How fast does the earthquake information get posted to the web site, get sent out via the Earthquake Notification Service (ENS), ATOM feeds, etc?

First of all, USGS earthquake information mechanisms are all triggered by the same system, so they all receive the information at the same time. The time it takes for the system to receive the information primarily depends on where the earthquake is and how large it is. An Earthquake in California will get processed and posted to the system in 2-1...

Where can I see current or past seismograms?

The Earthquake Hazards Program has helicorders (seismogram displays) available for several areas in the United States and the World.

Why do USGS earthquake magnitudes differ from those published by other agencies?

Summary Magnitude estimates for a given earthquake can vary between reporting agencies due to differences in methodology, data availability, and inherent uncertainties in seismic data. Individual agencies use magnitude estimation procedures designed to meet the agency's specific needs and monitoring capabilities. Even for well recorded events,...

When are tsunami information and links put on the event page?

1. If we get information (alerts) from any of NOAA's Tsunami Warning Centers or 2. For any earthquake, magnitude 5.0 or greater, that occurred in a. the Pacific Ocean, or b. Indonesia, or c. Papua New Guinea, or d. the Caribbean Sea, or e. Hawaii (criteria from David Applegate, 07/20/2005) For More Information, See NOAA's Tsunami Warning Centers:...

Why/When does the USGS update the magnitude of an earthquake?

The USGS often updates an earthquake's magnitude in the hours and sometimes days following the event. Updates occur as more data become available for analysis and more time-intensive analysis is performed. Additional updates are possible as a part of the standard procedure of assembling a final earthquake catalog. There are physical and...

Why isn't the fault on which the earthquake occurred or the distance to the nearest fault provided?

Seismologists evaluate the hypocenter location and the focal mechanism of an earthquake to decide if the earthquake occurs on a named fault. Research shows that many earthquakes occur on small, un-named faults located near well-known faults. For example, most of the aftershocks of the 1989 M6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake occurred on small, subsidiary...

Can I get on a list to receive an email message when there is an earthquake? How do I sign up for earthquake notifications?  Are there any Feeds I can subscribe to?

Yes, please go to Earthquake Notification Services (ENS) to sign up for free emails or text messages to your phone, or check out the many different Feeds .

Did I feel an earthquake? Can I report feeling an earthquake?

Report an earthquake experience or related observation through the Did You Feel It? citizen science webpage. The best way to do this is to click on the earthquake that you think you felt on one of the lists on the Earthquakes webpage, and then select the "Tell Us!" link. If you don't see the earthquake you think you felt, use the green "Report an...

Why is the earthquake that was reported/recorded by network X, or that I felt, not on the map/list?

The maps and lists show events which have been located by the USGS and contributing agencies within the last 30 days. They should not be considered to be complete lists of all events in the US and adjacent areas and especially should not be considered to be complete lists of all events M4.5+ in the world. In most cases, we locate and report on...

Where can I find current earthquake lists and maps for the world or for a specific area?

The Earthquake Hazards Program Latest Earthquakes Map displays earthquakes in near-realtime and up to the past 30 days of earthquakes. The interface includes three panels: a list of earthquakes, a map, and a settings/options panel. You can pan and zoom the map to view specific areas. Click on an event on the list or map for additional information...
Filter Total Items: 4
Date published: May 25, 2017

Updated USGS Earthquake Monitoring Strategy Released

The USGS Earthquake Hazards Program recently released a new strategic plan for earthquake monitoring entitled the “Advanced National Seismic System – Current Status, Development Opportunities, Priorities, 2017-2027.”

Date published: January 23, 2012

A 100-year-long History of Earthquakes and Seismic Monitoring in Hawaii

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory’s 1912–2012 Centennial—100 Years of Tracking Eruptions and Earthquakes

HAWAI‘I ISLAND, Hawaii —The history of earthquakes and seismic monitoring in Hawai‘i during the past century will be the topic of a presentation at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo on Thursday, January 26, at 7:00 p.m. 

Date published: May 3, 2010

Millions Awarded for Earthquake Monitoring in the United States

More than $7 million in cooperative agreements will be awarded for earthquake monitoring by the U.S Geological Survey in 2010. This funding will contribute to the development and operation of the USGS Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS).

Date published: September 24, 2009

Recovery Act Funds Will Upgrade Earthquake Monitoring

USGS will Grant Universities $5 Million to Beef Up Public Safety Grants totaling $5 million under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act are being awarded to 13 universities nationwide to upgrade critical earthquake monitoring networks and increase public safety.

Filter Total Items: 5
HayWIred scenario earthquake map
December 31, 2018

HayWired scenario earthquake map

HayWIred scenario earthquake map.

Attribution: Natural Hazards
Earthquake Catalog Map Results Example
December 31, 2017

Earthquake Catalog Map Results Example

Example of results returned when searching the USGS Earthquake Catalog. The ANSS Comprehensive Earthquake Catalog (ComCat) contains earthquake source parameters (e.g. hypocenters, magnitudes, phase picks and amplitudes) and other products (e.g. moment tensor solutions, macroseismic information, tectonic summaries, maps) produced by contributing seismic

...
Latest Earthquakes
August 31, 2016

Latest Earthquakes

Interactive map showing earthquake scenario data

Scenario Earthquake Map

Interactive map showing earthquake scenario data

Attribution: Natural Hazards
Eastern earthquakes

Eastern Earthquakes

This map shows earthquakes above magnitude 4.0 in the eastern United States since 1973, the first year with a complete catalog. There are 184 earthquakes recorded. An earthquake of magnitude 4.0 or greater can cause minor or more significant damage. The circle sizes correspond to earthquake magnitude, ranging from 4.0 to 5.9 (the largest was in the Gulf of Mexico).

...
Attribution: Natural Hazards