Quakes a reminder of the reach of partial government shutdown

phys.org | 1/18/2019 | Staff
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If the partial shutdown of the U.S. government, doesn't have you quaking, maybe it should.

As part of the shutdown, members of the U.S. Geological Survey had been sidelined. So, when the Hayward Fault let fly with earthquakes that struck the Berkeley/Oakland/Piedmont area in the wee hours the last two days, the USGS wasn't able to respond.

USGS - Partner - Northern - California - Activity

Fortunately, the USGS has a partner in monitoring Northern California seismic activity. UC Berkeley's Seismology Laboratory was on the job, so news about the quakes got out as if nothing was amiss.

But the Seismology Lab is funded, in part, by the USGS, and that funding runs out in two weeks. Once Feb. 1 rolls around, if the shutdown hasn't ended, monitoring of earthquakes will become dicey.

Shutdowns - Richard - Allen - Director - Seismology

"We've had to live through shutdowns before; we're used to it a little," Richard Allen, the director of the Seismology Lab, says. "But this is the longest we've had to do it."

The monitoring systems are jointly run by Berkeley and the USGS, and the State of California kicks in some funding as well. The machines track the information, dump it into computers at the USGS and in Berkeley and the news is disseminated to the public. In the short term, the process can be handled by computers, but humans have to check in to verify the data; the bigger the quake, the more important they do so.

Touch - Machines - Computers - Computers - Course

And the human touch is also needed if one of the machines acts up. And computers being computers, they do act up. Over the course of the four-week (and counting) shutdown, breakdowns have happened. And even if it's something as simple as needing to reboot a computer, there are times when USGS personnel have had to temporarily be put back to work on an emergency basis just to get the system back to where...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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