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6.0 Northern California earthquake (usgs.gov)
169 points by cpg on Aug 24, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 188 comments

Please take a moment to fill out the USGS "I felt it" form:


Especially if you don't live in the Bay Area, since they'll want to know the falloff curves for it.

(You can fill out the form even if you didn't feel it. They need that data too.)

thanks just did, hope they use data wisely and share the stats later.

The USGS has (for at least 10 years, maybe longer) provided real-time updates on peoples DYFI (Did you feel it data) on the web.

Here are the responses for the 6.0:

http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/dyfi/events/nc/722827... (Click on "Responses")

Here is the Map:


There's nothing quite like an earthquake to make you feel mortal.

Growing up in Wellington NZ we were always taught to expect and prepare for the 'big one', it was just part of life. Sometimes they completely come out of nowhere though, hitting places that are unprepared and often unaware that they are susceptible to seismic risk. This happened in Christchurch NZ in 2011 [1]. I'm not sure about the Valley, but there is nothing scarier than a new fault opening up.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_Christchurch_earthquake

Yep, I can definitely reiterate this experience.

Grew up in Christchurch, lived through the quakes (was in the central city for the more devastating Feb quake).

I recently moved to Wellington, and it got me thinking for a few. I realized exactly what we lost in the Christchurch earthquake. There is a vibrance and sense of community in Wellington that was blown to the to the four corners of Christchurch when the quakes hit.

That said, Christchurch is currently one of the most interesting blank canvases in the world. There are opportunities for entrepreneurship and development that will never exist again (at least until the city is next laid to waste).

The same forces that made New Zealand are those that might destroy what we have built. The fault giveth and the fault taketh away.

My partner grew up in the Midwest. Even having gone through a 6.5 earthquake, she says that she still prefers earthquakes to tornadoes, although her first few earthquakes scared the bejesus out of her. Now, just like all Californians, the first thing she wants to know is what the USGS says the magnitude is.

How wonderful it must have felt to always be preparing for "the big one." Are you ready for it now? Best wishes.

Disaster preparedness in the general sense is actually a pretty good idea.

The basics in any situation are largely the same. A supply of water, and/or water purification means. A food supply. Shelter, such as a tent or sleeping bag. Sturdy clothes and boots. Flashlights. A radio that doesn't require mains power to operate.

Inventorying your possessions, knowing what community resources exist, and having proper insurance also helps.

Bdale Garbee made a pretty heart-wrenching presentation (though uplifting overall) of his family's experience with utter devastation which arrived on a few moments' notice. Not an earthquake, but a wildfire, which reduced his Colorado home and possessions to ashes and puddles of molten metal.

It's instructive.

In other areas, hazards include tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, landslides, fire, tsunami, and civil unrest or war. In pretty much all of these cases, a basic "earthquake kit" is a pretty good start on being prepared and increasing your odds of survival and/or comfort should circumstances turn south.

Such strange down-voting. What did you not understand?

I'm curious about possible coupling between the ongoing drought in the western US and seismic activity.

There is published work indicating correlations between rainfall and seismicity (1) and rainfall and volcanic activity (2). There's other work relating seismicity to fracking, filling the Oroville reservoir, etc.

A study (3) this week indicated a median land uplift of 4mm ranging up to 15mm uplift in some California mountains due to a mass deficit of 240Gt of missing rainfall since 2013.

I wonder if the drought-related uplift could alter underground strain patterns enough to influence earthquake frequencies or magnitudes? Any geophysicists wanna weigh in?

(1) http://www.geophysik.uni-muenchen.de/~igel/PDF/hainzletal_gr... (2) http://envam1.env.uea.ac.uk/matthewsetal2009.pdf (3) http://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/2014/08/20/science.1...

According to this article, the influence of the drought on seismic activity is very small: http://gizmodo.com/californias-drought-is-so-bad-the-mountai...

See this post from a few days ago: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8210235 "Epic Drought in West Is Literally Moving Mountains "

Suggesting this is caused or correlated with drought is not supported by any data.

This is a non-sequitur comment. The very comment you replied to provides sources.

I wonder if x is correlated with y. Here are some citations on z and y. If that's what you mean, sure. You win.

Here's some more data:




Big quakes are at once relatively rare and over time quite common. The last one happened under the ocean...

0.652°N, 124.692°W

18.2 miles below the surface.

in 2010

And this shows us why it is a bad idea to have a large portion of the worlds digital infrastructure in a place which will destroy it sometime in the next century.

Put it in the middle of the Australian outback, nothing's happened there for a billion years, nearly literally.

To the people down voting me: please explain why you think it's a good idea to put our digital infrastructure in a place which might well be destroyed in an afternoon when it can be put quite literally anywhere.

Yes, this point was also raised by Maciej Ceglowski (hn: idlewords) in the talk that keeps circulating in HN comments:


"And speaking of California, let me try another tack.

This festive map shows seismic hazard in Northern California, where pretty much all the large Internet companies are based, along with a zillion startups. The ones that aren't here have their headquarters in an even deadlier zone up in Cascadia.

Now of course, each company has four zillion datacenters, backed up across the world. But how much will that matter when there's a major quake, and Silicon Valley can't get to work for a month? All of these headquarters are going to be shut down for a long time when the Big One comes. You're going to notice it.

So even if you don't agree with my politics, maybe you'll agree with my geology. Let's not build a vast, distributed global network only to put everything in one place!"

Pretty confident if there were a 1989-level earthquake, most startups and tech companies would just decamp to somewhere else for the recovery period. The easiest is when you already have an office somewhere else (we have London and soon Asia, although SF is still far larger); I'd probably pick Hawaii or Seattle personally.

It's easy enough to find an off-season vacation destination and move everyone there; essentially anywhere is cheaper than SF, so that's easy. Not every company has to move to the same place.

It'd suck to be a service-industry worker in SFBA after an earthquake, but tech employers can just move, and hire service-industry people to fix up their offices for a few months before returning (or not).

(this might not be necessary after a 7, but after something insane like a 9, would definitely happen)

I've noticed a lack of of human planning in most DR plans. In some industries it's called business continuance. Our company has focused mainly on the technical side of the business: backups, DR, offsite access.

Depending on the situation, earthquakes can bring fires and tsunamis. So what do you tell the network engineer that had their house burn to the ground? "Sorry for your lose; we're decamping for Las Vegas. Wheels up in 8 hours"?

If the big one does hit there is a lot more at stake than just your precious data.

Google has a program called DiRT (Disaster Recovery Testing)[0], when in a certain week of the year, some major exercises that simulating the loss of headquarters are carried out, including the (simulated) loss of some teams, some network connections in the headquarter and/or the physical access to the headquarters buildings. That makes a lot of sense when you place your headquarters at a place that can be demolished by an earthquake.

[0]: http://queue.acm.org/detail.cfm?id=2371516

That is actually an excellent idea. Loss of manpower is something that is overlooked in a lot of companies. I believe part of it is job security (make yourself invaluable). And part of it is HR optimisation. Why pay for 2 people to do the same job when 1 will do? The same reason you pay for 2 servers, 2 backup processes, etc.

I imagine for a large tech company, it would go something like this:

1. Immediately call extra hands in other locations (datacenters, customer service, etc); begin over-time scheduling to alleviate need for workers in disaster zone. Doesn't require any coordination of disaster zone, just remaining executives located outside.

2. Offer two special payments to workers in the impacted zone: 1. Disaster recovery assistance, to help them cushion emergency needs and get their family/belongings/etc recovered faster; 2. Relocation bonus, to create an incentive for quick relocation to temporary (or new) office.

3. Spend as much as you to have to get extra emergency services in to the area, and generally assist in government/regional recovery area. This will free up the last of your staff for temporary relocation.

I doubt that a large company (we're talking Google, Microsoft, Facebook, etc) would take more than a couple days to have other sites working overtime to cover the load, less than a week to have already transported some of their staff to a new site, and less than a month to have brought almost all of the office back online.

This timeline, of course, assumes that the problem wasn't that their office fell on all their employees, killing them or something of that nature.

Likely, we'd see a hiccup in the development cycle, but in terms of keeping infrastructure online, emergency bug fixes, etc, we'd probably see relatively little damage.

Disasters tend to have a knock on effect that can ripple for years. 2 that come to mind were the floods in Thailand and the 9-11 terrorist act. The floods temporarily knocked out the supply chain of HDD components, which had the knock on of system builders not having enough components. And eventually, technicians not having enough spare replacements for current systems.

1. In most businesses these other locations are supplementary to HQ. Typically there is no one at the datacenter and CS centers rely on guidance from HQ. They are not in the position to make decisions and drive the company.

2. Growing up and working in Florida you natural disasters are like clockwork. I can say for sure that 1 is covered by insurance and the gov't and 2 is going to be hard to pull off without looking like a complete dick. Also, you have other constraints. Airports may be closed and driving can be dangerous. Plus cars need fuel which is typically in short supply and expensive.

3. If you have a company of a few thousand I would say a few hundred are essential. Where are you going to find a place to house a few hundred people at once? Remember that other companies are thinking the same as well.

I also believe the most essential employees are that way for a reason. If they have the same preparedness in the company they also have the same mentality in their community. It would not be illogical to imagine the person in charge of DR for the company is also a member of the volunteer fire department.

Microsoft would be able to recover, then they find out the caterers don't have food to serve the cafeteria, employees can't come to work because there is no fuel, etc. These are the soft issues that most DR plans don't account for.

Used to work in Florida, and it's a pretty noticeable difference in DR/Continuity strategy to what I work with now out here (SF). For the first 24 hours after Hurricane Ivan it was completely focused on: Are our employees safe; do they have water/food; what medical aid is needed; how can we get blankets and cots into our office so our employees have a place to sleep tonight? All the roads are washed out, there was no real in/out of town for a week, no power to our main DC for 3. Having redundancy in Chicago and Virginia didn't really mean shit when we couldn't get key people to those data centers to run them full steam.

The end result was a high reliance on contract employees at the fail-overs, and a real appreciation for the human element.

Not a case of "if" but when.

In 1989, most of SF was back up and working by the next Monday. Of course, that was a different era without much telecommuting, and many people suffered tragic losses, but it wasn't bad enough to "decamp" anywhere. The oldtimers seem to complain more about the world series than the quake.

1989 was also only a 7.1. Go up almost an order of magnitude to a 7.9 or 8.0 and it might look a bit different.

That wasn't a particularly large earthquake.

Yea. In real life it doesn't quite work that way. You would be pulling families apart ("Honey, you stay at home in Palo Alto, fix the house, make sure everything is okay with the kids while I go to Hawaii for 2 months") isn't gonna fly.

But then again, I keep forgetting that the 'real' valley is just for early 20s-fresh-out-of-school-startup-single-guy-whizz-kids apparently.

Do you run periodic disaster recovery tests including simulating one of your location being offline (including employees being unreachable) for e.g. one day? This is a good test to check whether the know how is well balanced geographically.

All of the companies that don't already have away-from-the-Bay data centers will be begging for hardware. And if your name isn't Microsoft or Oracle or some other big ams, you'll be on the end of a product delivery pipeline measured in months. Hardware is going to be fought over.

If all your data is in your own building, you might be okay (assuming you can get at it, stuff it into a truck and move it out). Otherwise you're going to be waiting for a while.

No one really has servers In the Bay Area anymore, in my experience. A few startups with legitimately special security needs and competence (Stripe), but mostly people either use the cloud (not in the bay) or colo/managed hosting (also not in the bay, usually).

There might be a run on laptops, monitors, chairs, etc which overwhelm the Hawaii and Las Vegas retailers for a while, but basically California's high energy costs, low power circuit availability, high sales/use tax on servers, etc have solved this problem already.

There are plenty of servers in the Bay Area. There are several large colos in the South Bay (Equinix has several facilities in San Jose), San Francisco has a large colo at 200 Paul Ave, there's a bunch of stuff in the East Bay as well. Amazon has a nothern california region, not sure exactly where those servers are, etc.

Sure, I have equipment in several of those, but it isn't a sole hosting location for most large tech companies. Really big companies tend to be multi site. Smaller ones use cheaper clouds or managed hosting generally outside the area. A lot of the bay area gear is enterprise for local companies which would already be screwed by an earthquake, or network, etc to support people who live in the Bay Area.

SFBA is critical for personnel, not so much manufacturing or hosting.

There is about 3mm square feet of datacenter space here. There are very few large companies which have servers only here and not somewhere outside the area but which would be reasonably expected to continue operating if their servers were somehow unaffected.

Okay, but you started by saying "no one really has datacenters in the Bay Area anymore", and now you're talking about sole hosting, which is a completely different assertion.

True. (You may also note the time of my initial post; I was still awake at 0320, and this was shortly after the quake...); I wasn't being particularly precise.

However, SFBA isn't even the first location for most companies I see. They go either into the cheaper AWS cloud regions (us east or the Oregon), or managed hosting somewhere (rarely SFBA).

Bay Area companies which directly get colo early on are fairly rare: stripe, square, etc. I fully support it as a strategy, but it is statistically insignificant.

Aside from price, east coast single location also gives you a lot better latency to Europe. Asia is usually screwed anyway, but the extra 80ms makes a big difference.

It wouldn't be Hawai'i (as much as I'd love that). It'd almost certainly be LA or Vegas. Maybe Phoenix.

It need not be a 1989 level earthquake. That's the biggest worry here.

> But how much will that matter when there's a major quake, and Silicon Valley can't get to work for a month?

Well, putting everything in the Australian outback doesn't help that much, because there are good reasons why thousands of tech workers can't work there. This is essentially an argument against having any population centers in earthquake zones.

> This is essentially an argument against having any population centers in earthquake zones.

Which is an interesting point in and of itself.

Is it? What American city is not in an earthquake zone, or a tornado zone, or a hurricane zone, or a blizzard zone?

Indeed. In fact, it seems like the Pacific Northwest is a pretty solid choice, as is the Bay Area, although maybe the NY Times isn't properly weighting the relative risk of very bad earthquakes:


While I don't remember the relative probabilities, the next big earthquake in the Pacific Northwest and Northern California region is expected to be much more intense: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Megathrust_earthquake#The_Big_...

In the list of worst predictable natural disasters in the Continental US, it rates one above the expected earthquakes to the south, the result of two plates mostly sliding past each other: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Andreas_fault

Worse, in part because we aren't at all prepared for it (aside from I hope more serious buildings) would be a return of major earthquakes in mid-West: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Madrid_Seismic_Zone (something I pay attention to since that's on the other side of Missouri from me).

I forget one of them, and the worst, which few in the US would survive, and where being in Australia might not be a bad idea at all, would be a return of the Yellowstone Supervolcano: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellowstone_Caldera

Supposedly that is why AWS located their infrastructure in Oregon, after starting in NoVa. They optimize for "lowest probability of disaster" before considering other options like cost (primarily power) and connectivity.

Phoenix. Sure they have drought, but not much other weather or natural catastrophes to speak of.

The problem with Phoenix is that it already has a larger population than its water supply can support.

Okay, that's one. Where do we put the other 300 million people?

Atlanta is right on the edge of all of these, but it's rare that they come this far with enough force to matter.

> You're going to notice it.

If the whole of the Americas was wiped off the Internet tomorrow then, for those of us in The Rest of The World (TM), life would go on. I think the only web property that would be annoying to not have would be Wikipedia. Second to that is the Google search engine but I take it as a given that they could cope just fine if America just mysteriously vanished one day.

I think that there are some that think that Silicon Valley is the centre of the universe, some indispensable magic place where all of the innovation happens. If there was The Big One (for the valley) we would soon find out exactly how important things like social networks and iphone apps really are. Life would go on. If anything, a big earthquake in Caliphonea is far preferable to a big eathquake in Japan. In Japan they make stuff the world needs.

  If the whole of the Americas was wiped off the Internet 
  tomorrow then, for those of us in The Rest of The World 
  (TM), life would go on.

What about the DNS roots, all the sites running on AWS, any site using Cloudflare or the JQuery/code.google.com CDN, etc

can't tell if sarcasm or not, so here you go.

>DNS roots






>code.google.com CDN

https://developers.google.com/speed/libraries/devguide#Intro... - no location list though, only "globally available"

We would certainly not cope "just fine". Sure we'd get over it, but there's plenty of stuff depending on American services. The whole .com/.net/.org registry is just a small example.

... seismic hazard in Northern California, where pretty much all the large Internet companies are based, along with a zillion startups. [..] All of these headquarters are going to be shut down for a long time when the Big One comes. You're going to notice it.

What we'll notice is not having filters for the pictures of our Starbucks cups. The demographic of teenage girls in malls will be devastated.

Silicon Valley is no longer the epicenter of technology; it's the epicenter of the fashion of technology.

Could you explain the phrase "fashion of technology" more?

It sounds like you're making an over-generalization based on the last few years of "social" while overlooking many of the largest tech companies in the world. Apple, Oracle, HP, Cisco, Google, Intel, the list goes on, are all headquartered here. http://www.siliconvalley.com/SV150/ci_25548370/

What made SV great was that it was, up to the 80's, the place where the foundations of technology were created. We've been building on those foundations since then and we've come to the point now where it's clear how frivolous it's become. We can't take it any further so we're adding pastel colors and glitter. It's become a series of fads. The 'great' tech companies of today's SV are no different than the 'great' lines coming out of Milan this season. Both will be gone when winter arrives having added nothing.

It was a poor place to make the comment; it wasn't on topic. My apologies. But when the comment was made that zillions of startups would be wiped out, and that we would notice, I wanted to clarify that we might notice but only in the most superficial way possible. Yes, it's a generalization -- there are always exceptions, and there are large tech companies there, but there are large companies in every major metropolitan area. If HP can't brand laptops for a year, I think we'll somehow manage to all survive.

I made the comment because I wanted to correct what I saw as an antiquated notion: that SV was different from Houston or Singapore. It used to be. It's not anymore.

Your comment is both incorrect and childish and this is actually an important and interesting topic, please don't participate on HN discussions with comments like this.

Comparing the startup scene in silicon valley to fashion is actually very apt. The loss of life and pain would be devastating, but lets not think that a few billion dollars worth of hardware would be anything other than a tax write-off and some middle managers pain to deal with for the next year.

If you want to look at devastating datacenter loss, if anything happened to Northern NJ the markets would go into a tailspin.

your comment is no better than op's. you could provide some examples why his opinion is wrong, because i believe quite a lot of people (myself included) think that most of companies that only exist in silicon valley are about extracting money from markets that are essentially driven by fashion.

You are right, I should have made a better comment or no comment at all.

I'm just tired of the obviously incorrect proposition that Bay Area is producing just frivolous photo sharing and social communication tools (which both has a huge value for humanity, but that's a different story) and I seriously find it an interesting thought experiment what would happen on a global scale if the Bay Area would be devastated by a big earthquake.

The obvious tech giants like Google, Apple, Oracle and Cisco are arguably supporting a huge number of businesses and organizations around the world. But a glance through a list of just publicly traded US SaaS companies reveals that about 40% are from the Bay Area. These offer SaaS-based solutions ranging from HR tools (Workday), IT service monitoring (Splunk), ITMS (ServiceNow), CRMs (SalesForce), ERPs (NetSuite), Insurance backends (Guidewire) to supply chain management (e2open), to just name a few.

If Bay Area suffered anything resembling 2008 Sichuan earthquake, it would halt a good part of the economy for a while.

>To the people down voting me: please explain why you think it's a good idea to put our digital infrastructure in a place which might well be destroyed in an afternoon when it can be put quite literally anywhere.

For one, insensitivity. There could be some victims even today, and you're talking casually about an event that will wipe out the Valley and S.F.

Second, most data centers are in tons of places for redundancy. Google, Microsoft, Amazon, etc etc. Even low cost providers like Linode And Digital Cloud have redundant data centers in 3-4 locations around the wolds.

Third, ever done a ping to Australia? When most of your users are in the US, it's not really a good idea to have data travel halfway around the world and back. Even if anything else improves, the speed of light will remain constant.

Fourth, you think Valley based datacenters are not built to endure earthquakes? That they are just some dumb houses or something with racks inside?

>For one, insensitivity. There could be some victims even today, and you're talking casually about an event that will wipe out the Valley and S.F.

I don't see why tragedy should stop us from thinking rationally about the situation.

>Second, most data centers are in tons of places for redundancy. Google, Microsoft, Amazon, etc etc. Even low cost providers like Linode And Digital Cloud have redundant data centers in 3-4 locations around the wolds.

The problem is that something between 1/3 to 1/2 of all connections to Asia pass through California[1].

>Third, ever done a ping to Australia? When most of your users are in the US, it's not really a good idea to have data travel halfway around the world and back. Even if anything else improves, the speed of light will remain constant.

The machine I have in Sydney pings 60ms to MIT on average. Caltech, UWS and UCLA are all down from there which probably has something to do with the Earthquake.

>Fourth, you think Valley based datacenters are not built to endure earthquakes? That they are just some dumb houses or something with racks inside?

Are the cables made of magic unicorn hair that doesn't break? Because if [2] or [3] happens I don't care how much like a bunker your data center is, it's not talking to anyone. Which also leads back to the problems in number 2, namely, far too much bandwidth passes through California for how dangerous it is.

[1] https://www.technocrates.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/subm...

[2] http://www.geerassociation.org/GEER_Post%20EQ%20Reports/Ital...

[3] http://www.cloacina.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/crac...

I'm curious how your pings are basically as fast as the speed of light. Do you have a direct fiber cable between sydney and MIT with no repeaters or intermediate switching equipment, and photons that travel at twice the speed of light? Because nobody does.

Ping measures round trip time, not point to point.

Distance from Sydney NSW to Boston, MA: 16,230 km

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Optical_fiber: "From this information, a simple rule of thumb is that a signal using optical fiber for communication will travel at around 200,000 kilometers per second. "

Some basic math: (16 230 km) / (200 000 (kilometers per second)) = 81.15 milliseconds

that's one way. You should be seeing no bnetter than 160ms, and even that is idealized because there is switching equipment that induces delays.

$ sudo ping -f www.mit.edu

PING e9566.b.akamaiedge.net ( 56(84) bytes of data.


--- e9566.b.akamaiedge.net ping statistics ---

728 packets transmitted, 724 received, 0% packet loss, time 10177ms

rtt min/avg/max/mdev = 25.935/38.167/131.406/16.421 ms, pipe 11, ipg/ewma 13.999/35.015 ms


My the server I'm testing this on is in Sydney, the server info on the geoip says I'm pinging somewhere in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

There are many explanations which are simpler, that don't require faster than light photons.

In particular, your network path is sending you to a server which is in australia.

$ host domain name pointer a184-24-249-86.deploy.static.akamaitechnologies.com.

trimmed mtr output:

19. sun1-ge5-0.gw.optusnet.com.au 57.1% 8 186.4 184.9 182.1 186.4 2.3 20. 42.9% 8 186.9 182.6 180.3 186.9 2.9 21. sun1-ge12-0-0-500.gw.optusnet.com.au 0.0% 7 179.7 180.3 179.5 182.3 0.8 a184-24-249-86.deploy.static.akamaitechnologies.com 22. 0.0% 7 185.6 184.6 179.5 194.2 4.9 a184-24-249-86.deploy.static.akamaitechnologies.com 23. a184-24-249-86.deploy.static.akamaitechnologies.com 0.0% 7 185.1 184.0 178.8 187.8 2.8

that's a cache of MIT's web site hosted in Australia (Akamai edge cache)


geoip is worthless in many situations, this being one of them.

Also, most routers implement ICMP on a slow path (not on the data plane) so the reported latency can be higher than the path latency.

The real wtf is that you need root to ping.

Sending ICMP traffic requires a raw socket which needs root to open. To that end, the ping command is normally installed suid root, though these days there are ways to selectively give programs extended privileges like that. Sometimes people do system hardening which removes the setuid bit on ping, requiring sudo to make it work.

What do you know... TIL.

The -f (flood) option requires that you be root, even when the binary is setuid root.

Check your local linux box with:

  file /bin/ping
and you will see that it is setuid to root.

I think it depends on the distribution: https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Capabilities seems to imply that ping could be used with CAP_NET_RAW capability instead of setuid root. http://blog.siphos.be/2013/05/capabilities-a-short-intro/ suggests that as well.

>I don't see why tragedy should stop us from thinking rationally about the situation.

I don't see why thinking rationally would entail talking without any sensitivity and humanity -- which is what I complained about, not the "thinking rationally" part itself.

>The machine I have in Sydney pings 60ms to MIT on average.

Doesn't 60ms sound quite bad as the optimal average one can have?

>Are the cables made of magic unicorn hair that doesn't break?

No, just that buildings are make of scientific structural construction that endures and absorbs earthquake pressure.

As for the cables, that's an easier problem to solve, and it will be more localized.

The main digital infrastructure that matters is people. The USGS estimates [1]:

"A repeat of the 1906 magnitude 7.9 earthquake, the worst case scenario for the Bay Area, is estimated to result in about 5800 fatalities if it strikes during working hours. Most scenarios, however, have maximum projected fatalities on the order of several hundred, reflecting the success of earthquake-resistant design and construction practices in California, particularly in residences. The loss of life is predicted to be highest if an earthquake occurs in the early afternoon when people are working in commercial buildings with varying vulnerability to quakes These predicted mid-afternoon fatalities are generally about 5 times higher than values predicted at 2:00 AM when the population is assumed to be in wood frame residential units."

[1] http://earthquake.usgs.gov/regional/nca/wg02/losses.php

Latency and Bandwidth. You want your Data Centers to be close to improve performance. You also want to have massive amounts of bandwidth - Australia is particularly bad for both.

Also - there are a ton of data centers out in Nevada, Oregon, DC, etc...

You're going to have to deal with the latency anyway. I'm not suggesting Australia (might be great for archiving stuff), but getting 20ms away from the Bay would be good for you, and if you're algorithmically tied to a close geography, better for your product.

Nielsen's law means that we have to build half the pipes we have every year. It doesn't have to be Australia, just some place where natural disasters don't happen. The places you mention don't warrant much more optimism than California:




Could you explain Nielsens law ? Build half the pipes to keep growing - is this like Moores law? Nielsen just triggers UI design in my synapses you see

Pretty much[1], but the growth is at 50% a year as opposed to 60% so networks get slower compared to processors from the same generation, combine this with Kryder's Law[2] which states that magnetic storage grows at something like 100% a year and we have the fact that the internet is most likely a fad which will pass once we can store essentially all the information we could possibly need in a convenient physical package.

It will be literally cheaper and faster to send homing pigeons with hard drives around their necks than to have to wait for the same amount of data to be downloaded [3] and [4] will become a viable way of implementing ip.

Probably the first industry to be hit by this new disruption will be music or books when every song/book in the world could be stored on a phone. For example the spotify library at 320kbps would take up something like 250 Terabytes, which will be the size of a laptop hard drive in 8 years give or take.

The upside to this is that movie studios will probably push 16k screens and extremely high frame rates to keep files big enough that you can't just have one drive with a few thousand movies on it.

[1] http://www.nngroup.com/articles/law-of-bandwidth/

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Kryder

[3] http://www.smh.com.au/technology/technology-news/carrier-pig...

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IP_over_Avian_Carriers

The Internet is not a fad.

You can easily store all of Hacker News locally, at our computer, so why do you come here? For news, obviously. You can't have news pre-saved at your computer by definition, and you simply won't accept (nobody does) the few-hours ping time of the sneakernet.

By the way, carrying media around was always faster and cheaper than delivering the data through the Internet. The trend we are getting is exactly the opposite of what you described; more people are choosing the net option, because although it gets relatively more expensive all the time, in absolute terms it's getting good enough.

Australia isn't an ideal location for keeping data center cool either.

If you splash out for enough PV, you can quite likely generate enough electricity to power a DC, cool it, and have some left over. That's before trying fancier stuff like solar chimneys and the like.

The infrastructure of many companies is not located here or may be distributed geographically. Its in each company's self interest to plan for disaster. And if they don't, their competition stands ready to fill the gap.

Of course, things like the power grid and water systems where there are no competing providers, those are more likely to leave people completely without service.

Even the incentives to be robust or even safe are greatly reduced. A company with a legally protected monopoly can even blow up half the houses on a street (as PG&E did in San Bruno) and all the rebuilt houses are guaranteed customers.

Systemic effects like prolonged loss of power or water have the greatest impact, and are also the hardest to plan for. It's really hard to work out all the consequences of unplugging the electric grid in Mountain View for a week, let alone when there's multiple other emergencies happening in parallel.

Maybe it's not a great idea, but it wasn't someone's "idea" or conscious decision, so there's not much you can do about it. Good luck convincing millions of people in the Bay Area to relocate to the Australian outback.

Try rebranding it as a year long Burning Man and see how they flock by the thousands.

I'm pretty sure one of the big enjoyments of such outings as Burning Man is an ability to come back to civilization as soon as it's done.

Does anyone have data centers in Silicon Valley? Real-estate (and electricity and cooling) costs are amazingly high, so it's not that good a place for a datacenter.


There's 34 listed just for San Jose and Santa Clara...

There are tons all around the South Bay. And of course corporate HQs.

"Destroyed" is an overly dramatic word, and wrong.

Earthquakes don't destroy digital infrastructure. At most they might dislodge a few things temporarily.

Historically you might note that fires have sometimes occurred as a result of earthquakes, but then it's unlikely those fires were in data centers.

Stuff does sway around a bit, but it's not a huge deal for the digital infrastructure.

Earthquakes destroy water and power grids, and transmission lines, which is a big deal for the digital infrastructure.

It's one reason (the other being cost) we moved out of a datacenter located in San Francisco's SoMa district.

Your better off spreading the risk all over the place. If all the places go down at the same time, I think you have bigger problems. Besides, I think most of the large institutions have accounted for this already.

I think the real risk here is the loss of life (bus factor).

Here are some useful maps:



Which portion of the world's digital infrastructure is in the bay area? Where the companies are located doesn't really have that much to do with where their servers are. Maybe to some extent, but less than you might think.

Also, if it helps you sleep better at night, none of the root dns servers are in the bay area: http://public-root.com/root-server-locations.htm

Agreeing with you on not putting everything in the same place. In general you'd be ill advised to put anything in one place. Hedging is the way to go. There is no reason why centers of the digital age couldn't be around the world in say SF, New York, Beijing, London, Berlin, Singapore, Sydney or so. Not sure I'd still put everything in one place like the outback, far away from civilisation.

Perhaps the people down-voting you might like to share _why_ they think you said something wrong.

FWIW, I would tend to agree - in general terms.

I didn't downvote, but it seems that all these companies would(should) have backups outside of the bay area. I can't imagine major services going down for an extended period of time. I do foresee a significant drop in overall productivity in the area for a longer period though.

> I do foresee a significant drop in overall productivity in the area for a longer period though.

True, though there are a lot of people working in that area. Deaths at the wrong time could be catastrophic.

For one thing Australia is pretty far from everybody.

Also, while a lot of companies are in the SV, I don't think many servers are actually there. Google wouldn't disappear from an earthquake.

An earthquake is not an endgame either. Sendai and Kobe are still on the map. Though I don't know how prepared SF is for this.

I'd say it's a lot less bad than putting a nuclear power plant square on top of a fault line. Yes, cooling water is nice, but they build diablo canyon in a when-not-if there's an earthquake area, and then discovered it was smack on tip of a fault later.

Because you'll be swapping the issue of death-by-earthquake with death-by-enough-heat-to-melt-silicon-PCBs.

Why not build it in some frozen area instead? All the same advantages and your cooling costs are ridiculously cheaper.

Put it next to the Svalbard seed vault in Norway, http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/svalbard-seed-bank ?

Ok for the general area (Alaska, north of Scandinavia, etc) for stuff that needs chilling and stable geology/politics.

But don't put anything close to the seed bank, which a crazy with a nuke (IS, Putin, Iranian ayatollahs, etc) might want to target...

Edit: Maybe not Alaska for geological stability.

To what infrastructure do you refer, besides people?

Each individual company can probably use the time and money to mitigate against much largar risks to its individual business.

(I did not downvote, btw)

Even more reason for a distibuted workforce that can work from home.

plus, if in the middle of the Australian outback, the datacenters can serve as the plot device for a 5th Mad Max film.

No one put it there. It evolved there.

Your point was diluted, the conversation misdirected, when you used Australia as the alternative. Of course there are countless options that remain in the continental United States and have far less of a risk profile. Nevada, for instance.

Ultimately the coast of California is getting set up to be the biggest case of hubris and short-term thinking in human history: Where we knew for decades what the significant risks were, with ever increasing accuracy and sureness, but kept going ahead anyways. If such a major event eventually happens, as every seismic model predicts, I don't think people will say "Well, we knew this was coming.", but instead will point fingers, question why the government didn't prohibit building up there, etc.

According to my wife, she woke me up and kept shouting "earthquake!" I was rolling around on the bed. I just grabbed her pillow, covered my head and muttered, "OK. Let's go back to sleep".

Out of interest, does anyone know what kind of disaster recovery plans big IT companies in Silicon Valley have if a really big one happens? The kind of earthquake where they lose both key staff members and core infrastructure?

Every company that I have worked at has had disaster plans for things like that. My current company's plan is basically: redundant data centers in geographically dispersed areas and a transportation plan to get critical staff members to a location where they can keep our services running.

Earthquakes really do scare me.

They are expecting a huge earthquake in my city and a recent analysis I read said if it happens (and happens in the magnitudes they are expecting) millions would die (not from the quake itself, but from not being able to get help, cold etc.). I believe in a case like that entire economy (and everything, really) of the country would fall irrecoverably for at least a 50 years.

Well, if it happens in the night, at least I won't be alive to see the effects of it. (My apartment is old and I live very near to the sea, so there is also the risk of tsunamis. YAY!)

Title should say "Wine Country" or "North Bay". Silicon Valley was not the center.

Is the Valley ready for bigger earthquakes? Serious question

California's been getting ready for earthquakes for a long time.

I've been wondering this too. Could become a S.P.O.F. for the web's future if there's a big one.

When I see some of the really old simple wooden housing stock I'd venture a guess and say no.

Better sticks than bricks.

Ha. Good point. ;)

Still I wouldn't call a lot of the 1900-1970s housing stock prevalent across SF and the Bay particularly earthquake ready.

It's mostly garbage. SF and California generally were supposed to be disposable. People didn't think beyond the bonanzas.

Given that when I pointed out we shouldn't be building all our infrastructure in once place I got downvoted to the bottom of this thread (currently at -4) I'd imagine the answer is a big NO and most people are hoping that if they pretend hard enough it can't happen it won't.

You were downvoted by a lot of people because you showed a serious ignorance of the area. A major earthquake is not going to "destroy" the area. It's a pretty standard part of business continuity plans around here to have measures in place for when a quake hits, and there's enough redundant infrastructure to ensure that any problems are pretty localized. It's drilled into peoples' heads around here that a quake is going to happen, and as such, nearly everyone has plans for how to ride things out.

Everyone has plans, but it's not possible to guess the systemic effects of everyone trying to implement their plans at once. We're just going to have to see. We work in a new industry that has never had to deal with a major earthquake, and for some reason we've concentrated it all in a place where there's bound to be one.

You were down voted because what you said made no sense. All of the infrastructure isn't concentrated here. You are confusing tech workers with data centers.

Apart from the fact that until today every traceroute I've done from Asia/Australia has ended up in California.

However today, after the earthquake everything is redirecting to New York and glitching out like hell (apart from facebook which now likes Moscow for some reason).

California is a big place and Silicon Valley occupies a very small portion of it. Today's earthquake has had very little, if any, effect here; so that's not the reason your traffic is being rerouted. I didn't even feel the quake, trains are still running, it's life as normal unless you live in Napa Valley (north of Silicon Valley).

and I'm in northern Virginia near DC and a huge chunk of my Internet traffic goes to the Ashburn area, which is about 30 miles to the west of me. there are massive data centers all over the world, almost never at the premises of the Internet companies themselves.

you seem to have a fundamental misunderstanding of the Internet, my friend.

Indeed, woke me and my family up. Only lasted a few seconds and was a big side to side movement but very gentle rocking motion overall.

You can read about the implications of a harder Cascadian earthquake on SF here: http://crew.org/products-programs/cascadia-subduction-zone-e....

And that isn't including the possibility that rainier will blow its top.

I lived through the Loma Prieta earthquake 6.9 and the San Simeon earthquake 6.5. Both times my house was about a dozen miles from the epicenter. We suffered no damage at all, not even things falling off the shelves. At the time of the Loma Prieta earthquake we lived in a forest of 100 foot pine trees. The ground and streets were covered with the tips of the branches of the pine trees.

The moral of the story is, if you are going to live in earthquake country, live in a well constructed wooden house on top of a mountain, or at least solid rock.

Probability Report by the Northern California Seismic System (NCSS) [Operated by UC Berkeley and USGS]


It will likely be updated in the coming hours/days. Also note these aftershock probabilities are quite crudely modeled anyway. Permalink:

[1] http://www.ncedc.org/recenteqs/QuakeAddons/NC72282711.html

This is a silly question but as someone who lives in a place that will never experience an earthquake can someone explain to me why they are so dangerous? I get that things can fall over/collapse but in areas such as CA aren't buildings structured to survive an earthquake? Don't you secure large objects (cabinets etc.) to the walls?

You can go 10+ years without a big earth quake in CA, so people get lazy, stop strapping their hot water tanks to walls, stop nailing bookshelves against walls, etc...

Also - not all buildings are earthquake proof - only modern ones. Older ones can still fall down fairly easily.

Finally - when push comes to shove (pun intended), a 6.0+ is just going to do a lot of damage regardless of your precautions - particularly around store shelves, roads, etc...

The other thing I think people don't often understand (or appreciate, or respect) is that the richter scale is logarithmic.

A 7.0 isn't just a little bit worse than a 6.0. It's 10 times worse. And an 8.0 is 100 times more powerful than a 6.0.

So we're not too terribly concerned with these smaller quakes, even if 6.0 is still pretty big. The one we worry about is hundreds of times more powerful. There are some levels of energy you simply can't prepare for.

Don't mean to fear-monger, but that is the truth.

Just to put the 6.0 in context, from the NYT today: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/25/us/strong-earthquake-shake...

"The temblor struck about six miles south of Napa around 3:20 a.m., according to the United States Geological Survey. It was the most powerful earthquake to hit the Bay Area since the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989, which collapsed a section of the Bay Bridge. The shaking was felt over an area that encompassed hundreds of miles.

The earthquake threw much of the Napa Valley — normally an edenic retreat famed for its wine and fine dining — into chaos of falling glass and collapsing bricks. Dozens of water and gas mains were ruptured, and at least six fires broke out, including one in a mobile home park that destroyed four homes and damaged two others. Thousands remained without power."

Now, can you imagine what a 10x more powerful earthquake at 7.0 would do? (Roads, Bridges, and Buildings collapsed).

An 8.0 would be so catastrophic that deaths would be in the hundreds, and damage would be horrific.

It's not just the buildings themselves but the ground they're built on. Many areas in the Bay Area are built on land fill (like areas of SF) or bay bottom soils. When a big earthquake hits, this kind of soil liquifies, amplifying the motions caused by the quake, destroying anything build on top of it if not anchored into bedrock.

A Magnitude 6 earthquake hit during golden week this year in downtown Tokyo, last I checked there was a couple of injuries but that's it.

Granted a lot of infrastructure is equipped for this (gas was shut off in my apartment for example), but it's possible to be prepared for this.

I totally agree it's possible to be prepared, but if you're talking about the earthquake I'm thinking about from May - http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/shakemap/global/shake... - I don't think it's a great example, since the epicenter was pretty far from central Tokyo and also quite deep (153km) so at the surface it wasn't particularly strong.

Apart from being centered very close to Napa this earthquake was also fairly shallow (10km) so it was significantly more intense (albeit in a small, not heavily populated area) even though it was of the same magnitude. http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/shakemap/nc/shake/722...

(I say that based on the numbers, not having first-hand experience with either quake)

I'm not arguing that you can't prepare for this - but a 6.0+ is just going to do a lot of damage, regardless of how much you prepare. Roads will be torn apart, older buildings will shatter, fires will be started, etc...

Preliminary reports put the damage to in California in the neighborhood of $1 Billion.

It's important to repeat that this was the biggest earthquake the Bay Area (an area that certainly gets its share of earthquakes) has seen in 25 years.

It helped that my TV included a little kit (containing cords, brackets, and screws) and instructions for securing it. It felt like just another step in the physical setup of the TV, not something I had to do "eventually."

Good points, thanks.

In this case, a picture is worth a 1000 words:


That was from Napa this morning. Imagine if someone were standing under that? Now multiply by tens of thousands of homes and businesses.

The buildings themselves are designed to survive, but many are old and not up to code, because you only have to make a building earthquake safe when you sell it or renovate it.

Also, many people do not secure large objects to the wall. And sometimes it is the small objects that are the problem. Wine bottles, mirrors, anything that can shatter and fling glass everywhere.

Just wondering, what is this place?


this can be interesting: http://earthquaketrack.com/p/ireland/recent

I myself leaved in place, where I thought never can have earthquake, but at some point was woke up but 1.5 magnitude. I think almost every place on Earth can have earthquake at some point.

You would be the first person in the history of mankind to wake up to a 1.5 magnitude earthquake :)

I believe up to 2.0 they are not felt by humans, only recorded by seismographs.


Thanks, didn't know ) Don't remember magnitude exactly, long time ago. Just was trying to say that it was low

I should clarify. Every few years there are reports of an earthquake somewhere in Ireland but it's always such a minor quake (usually less than 2.0) that nobody notices.

Welp, I'm sure glad that I actually bothered to anchor all my cabinets/shelves to the walls right now.

As I understand it the most dangerous fault in the area is the Hayward-Rogers which is historically due for a major quake. So the question is did this quake add or release pressure on that fault as it sits around 7 miles away (the epicenter).

It would have released pressure. Every quake near the Hayward releases pressure on it, which is a good thing.

Interesting, thanks.

Sad Truth: No local channel has woken up to it, only 1 Breaking news banner in KPIX Channel 5 but others are busy playing late night informercials. How do people using no HN, twitter, facebook etc get updates?

Quake.usgs.gov has accurate data within seconds of quakes. Back in the day you could get latest quake info on their finger server.

I set up a geofence on the USGS web site so that I get notified of earthquakes over a certain magnitude. USGS will send you emails and/or text you.

Back when I was a kid (when there was no internet) we'd turn on an all news AM station until they mentioned it.

breakingnews.com was on it within minutes: https://twitter.com/BreakingNews/status/503489912528969728

I wouldn't imagine many people watch TV at 3:30am anyway. And why people wouldn't use twitter and other social media to look for updates on breaking news?

Definitely felt it. Thousands of people without power in the North Bay:


At iOSDevCamp working on a hack in San Jose. Turned my coworker and said "Huh. That's a weird vibration."

Curious what the experience was like for anyone living on a high floor of a tall apartment building in SF, like nema.

I'm on the 8th floor near Hayes Valley and my experience was a slow wobble to the entire building, and my pedestal lights would bang against the walls, but nothing else is out of place and (for me) it wasn't a scary experience as much as "curious."

I'm on 4th floor (not that high) in SOMA in SF. Felt the building shake for ~30 seconds. Heard it too (maybe dishware rattling in cupboards). Definitely biggest quake in SF in the last 5 years, but no damage.

I was on 11th floor in downtown. Felt the whole building wobbling, squeaking and paint rattling. Nothing felt over or broke in my apt though.

It didn't feel big North of Berkeley but it seemed longer than others I've experienced

It was definitely one of the more gentle big quakes I felt. I remember the Whittier Narrows quake down in socal, and that one felt more violent, but this one lasted a lot longer than that one.

I think I slept though it this morning. I always seems to miss earthquakes.

Just woke up to it in city, felt a strong termor. Hope no Tsunami follows

Why (and where) would you get a tsunami from this quake?

Probably he did not know yet what the epicenter was.

Nor the type of fault.

This was the Earth's crusts doing a 'pivot'. Probably quite disruptive.

maybe if we're lucky the entire bay area will break off and form a new continent.

face it, that's the only way you're gonna get your Silicon Valley state, Draper!

Talk about disruptive events!

Could this havê been triggered by the drought? Just a couple days back it was mentioned the loss of groundwater has made the crust rise a couple inches.

No. This earthquake was 11km below the surface.

All it says is the most fragile point was 11 km down. The vertical load could be stabilizing whatever originated the quake.

There is a comment about it at http://gizmodo.com/californias-drought-is-so-bad-the-mountai...

Compared to the other loads at the faults, water is relatively minor.

What is going on with all this geologic activity?? SESH!! first iceland, then chile, and now the bay area?? This has gotten me a little shaken up, I won't lie.

Hope everyone is okay. Be sure to have an evacuation plan with your significant others and expect aftershocks.

Earthquakes are not that rare, really.

Here is a live map: http://quakes.globalincidentmap.com/ Though I'm not sure how accurate it is, it only shows two earthquakes in Iceland in the last two days for example.

And this page shows some estimates for number of earthquakes of a certain magnitude per year: http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eqarchives/year/eqsta...

Magnitude 6-6.9 earthquakes occur about 130 times per year.

I felt it I was awake listening to music on my phone and I felt my bed shaking and I paused then looked at my baby's crib and it was moving side to side since we have tile floor it made the crib literally move and our bed was moving the key hanger were the keys are hanging were moving hard hitting against the wall I've never felt anything before like that this was my first time feeling this and it sucked a lot because I was the only one awake at home my husband and baby were asleep 💔😲😨

Sorry to change the subject.

Does HN now have image emoticons, or is my phone's browser swapping out the last bit of text here? If it's the latter, this is unwanted behavior.

I believe it's your phone. The emojis are unicode after all. 😁

Felt it here in lower Nob Hill! Lying half asleep wondering why my blinds were clacking against each other, then felt the entire room start to shake, very surreal.

I actually got up and walked around this time. Last time I felt an earth quake was 3 years ago in NJ and that was super weird.

Feeling a little spoiled with these Earthquakes! Only moved here a few weeks ago.

Feeling spoiled with earthquakes? Shut up.

Please don't make these posts on HN. They do not contribute anything to the dialogue. If anything, they discourage further postings.

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