The U.S. Geological Survey sent out an alert Wednesday for a large 6.8-magnitude earthquake off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, but it all turned out to be a false alarm.
Scientists at the University of California Santa Barbara were adjusting records of an earthquake that struck just off the U.S. West Coast in 1925, and when they shifted the precise epicenter of that century-old quake by 10 kilometers, a live alarm inadvertently went out on the USGS email server and was flashed to newsrooms and scientists worldwide.
The alarm had realistic intensity and location estimates, but seismologist Egill Hauksson told the Los Angeles Times: "That's a mistake. It's not real."
Another clue that the earthquake alert was a false alarm came with an advisory that said the "quake" struck at 7:42 a.m. on June 29, 2025 - the correct time, day and month, but off by 100 years.
The earthquake that did hit Santa Barbara in 1925 was a violent jolt that killed 13 people, destroyed the historic center of the city and caused $8 million in damage. Santa Barbara is one of the mission towns along the California coast established by Spanish Franciscan priests beginning in the mid-18th century.