CISN label
CGS | USGS | Caltech | CalEMA | UCB

You are viewing an archived web page that is no longer maintained. View current CISN web pages

2003 M6.5 Earthquake near San Simeon, CA

Details | Ground motions | Maps | Waveforms | Emergency response | Damage & Loss | Related links

Information from the CISN
Date & Time (Local): 2003/12/22
11:15:56 (PST)
Date & Time (UTC): 2003/12/22
19:15:56 (UTC)
Location: 6 miles NE of San Simeon, CA
35.706 121.102W
Depth (km): 7.5
Magnitude: 6.5 Mw


Central California was shaken by a M6.5 earthquake on December 22, 2003. This event was located 6 miles NE of San Simeon, CA, and has a reverse mechanism.

This event is being followed by an active aftershock sequence. As of March 18, 2003 there have been 28 events over magnitude 4, and 230 events of magnitude 3.0 and higher as determined by the automatic systems. We have put together a figure illustrating the distribution of aftershocks with time, comparing the decay to the 1983 Coalinga and 1989 Loma Prieta earthquakes. The San Simeon sequence appears to be behaving more like Coalinga than Loma Prieta, as the Coalinga sequence also had a vigorous aftershock sequence with a number of larger events.

Several people in the Cambria area have reported "shaking" or "rumbling" around 10:40 AM on Dec 22, prior to the M6.5. Analysis of the seismic data indicates that this is most likely a sonic boom, and not an earthquake. This figure shows a portion of an "electronic helicorder" for the period 10AM-11AM 12/22 PST from station PCB (near Cambria) which shows a small signal at 2003/12/22 10:38 PST. The impulse-response signal at 18:46 is a daily calibration signal. A blow up of the trace at that time shows the detail of the signal.

The M6.5 earthquake is the largest earthquake in California since the M7.1 1999 Hector Mine earthquake. In 1952, an M6 earthquake occurred in this general area.

UC Berkeley Seismological Lab, USGS/Menlo Park, LLNL, SCEC, State of CA

Return to the top

Ground Motions

The CISN Northern California Management Center produces ShakeMaps for events of M3.5 and higher. ShakeMaps are based on the observed ground motions from seismic instruments combined with predicted motions in areas without sensors. In this sequence ShakeMaps have been produced for several events.

March 24, 2004 The CISN has updated the ShakeMap for the M6.5 San Simeon earthquake. The updated map reflects several changes. First, the map was updated using the new version of the ShakeMap software - version 3.0. This new version introduces some minor changes in appearence of the map as well as a number of "under the hood" changes that improve the speed and distribution of the maps. Second, we corrected a problem in the code used to compute distances to a rupture segment. As a result, previous maps underestimated ground motions near the fault trace. The new map shows the corrected estimates of ground motion.

The CISN Engineering Data Center produces reports showing details of ground motions for events of interest.

The M6.5 earthquake was widely felt, from San Francisco and Santa Rosa to Los Angeles and Oceanside. Many of the aftershocks have been widely felt as well. People with Internet access can report their observations through the Did You Feel It? Web site. In the link below, you can see the map illustrating the reported intensities for the M6.5 event. Unlike the ShakeMaps - which are based on data from seismic instruments - these maps are based on human observations.

Return to the top


Return to the top


These links will take you to seismocams showing current earthquake activity.

Below are links to waveforms for the 6.5 Mw event.

Return to the top

Information from the Office of Emergency Services

Please visit the OES Webpage on the San Simeon earthquake to see these press releases:

  • 01/21/2004 - Disaster Recovery Centers to Open
  • 01/13/2004 - Governor Schwarzenegger announces federal aid for San Simeon earthquake victims
  • 01/07/2004 - Governor Schwarzenegger requests federal aid for San Simeon earthquake damage
  • 12/31/2003 - OES director urges San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara county residents and business owners to report "major" damage to local officials
  • 12/24/2003 - OES dispatches additional safety inspectors to San Luis Obispo county
  • 12/23/2003 - Governor Schwarzenegger tours Paso Robles, declares state of emergency in San Luis Obispo county
  • 12/22/2003 - OES activates State Operations Center 24/7, dispatches firefighters, aftershock advisory issued

Return to the top

Information on damage and loss

Return to the top

Related Links

CISN Earthquake Reports

California Integrated Seismic Network

CGS USGS OES Caltech UC Berkeley