Very Low Earthquake Potential at AIS San Diego Data Centers
California in general has a reputation for earthquakes, especially Los Angeles and San Francisco. This is because these cities sit on or near the San Andreas Fault which is the source of most seismic activity in California.
As discussed more thoroughly below, however, the city of San Diego does not lie near the San Andres Fault and as a result has much lower seismic activity. Some people would raise concerns that San Diego might not be a suitable location due to the possibility of an earthquake. In actuality, however, San Diego has lower instances of seismic activity than other areas of California and it is far less prone to having a major earthquake.
Furthermore, San Diego does not have hurricanes, tornadoes or floods. In fact, San Diego’s climate is near perfect, and has more days where the temperature is 72 degrees than virtually anywhere else on the planet.
San Diego County Is Large
San Diego County is a very large county that stretches 65 miles from north to south, and 86 miles from east to west, covering 4,261 square miles. The elevation ranges from sea level to 6,500 feet and the AIS data centers are at approximately 500’ above sea level.
San Diego County is approximately the size of the state of Connecticut. It is bordered on the north by Orange and Riverside Counties, on the east by the agricultural communities of Imperial County, on the west by the Pacific Ocean, and on the south by the State of Baja California, Mexico. Geographically, the County is on the same approximate latitude as Dallas, Texas and Charleston, South Carolina.
Hearing reports of earthquakes in the San Diego area can be deceiving as the San Diego area is very large and the county encompasses zones of high seismic activity. However, none of these zones are near the AIS data centers.
The far eastern edge of San Diego County stretches out into the Colorado Desert near the San Andreas Fault, which is roughly 100 miles from San Diego. The San Andreas Fault Region regularly experiences earthquakes that do not affect metropolitan San Diego. This fault region should not be confused with the geographical location of the AIS data centers. Reports of seismic activity in San Diego County should be investigated before an assumption is made that it affects metropolitan San Diego.
Potential for Damage? Very Low
What are the odds of an earthquake damaging a data center in San Diego? It is impossible to determine the exact probability, however scientific historical data indicates that it is directly related to how far the subject location is from an active fault, what the buildings are made of, and the composition of the underlying soil. The worst tragedies have taken place in areas with old masonry buildings built on sandy soil, such as occurred in the devastating earthquake of the Marina district in San Francisco and in Mexico City. San Diego buildings tend to be wood frame and stucco, which is much more resistant to earthquakes than masonry construction.
The soil in San Diego is mostly decomposed granite, which is not like the old lake beds of Mexico City. San Diego is a much younger city than others in California, so it benefits from the stricter building standards that the older cities did not have. Additionally, just recently, the California Department of Transportation has completed improvements to all overpasses to make sure they can withstand a 7.0 earthquake. In summary, AIS data centers are located away from faults, on stable soil and in modern buildings which have been built to California’s earthquake standards.
As discussed above, the zones of high seismic activity do not encompass metropolitan San Diego. There are a few earthquake faults near metropolitan San Diego, but most of these faults are located off the coast of California and at times they produce small quakes that can sometimes be felt in San Diego but they have not had an adverse effect. There is one fault in San Diego that occasionally has seismic activity called the Rose Canyon Fault. This fault is located about 10 miles west of the Kearny Mesa data centers along the coast.
Historical Record Is Safe
Historic documents record that an earthquake struck San Diego on 27 May 1862, damaging buildings in Old Town and opening up cracks in the earth near the San Diego River mouth. This destructive temblor was centered on either the Rose Canyon or Coronado Bank faults. Descriptions of damage suggest that it had a magnitude of about 6.0. This quake and the Rose Canyon Fault are both at least 10 miles from the Kearny Mesa data centers. If that same quake happened today no damage would be experienced at the data centers.
In recent years, there have been several earthquakes recorded within the Rose Canyon Fault Zone as it passes beneath the city in downtown San Diego 12 miles from the Kearny Mesa data centers. Three temblors shook the city on 17 June 1985 (M3.9, 4.0, 3.9) and a stronger quake occurred on 28 October 1986 (M4.7). No damage was reported.
In modern times, the strongest recorded quake (seismographs were not developed until 1934) in coastal San Diego County was the M5.3 temblor that occurred on 13 July 1986 on the Coronado Bank Fault, 25 miles offshore of Solana Beach. This would have placed the epicenter 45 miles from the Kearny Mesa data centers. While offshore quakes can create tsunamis, the data centers are located 10 miles inland and at an elevation of 500 feet, eliminating the possibility of damage from a tsunami or flooding of any kind. Sea cliffs and or mountains along the coast in San Diego are typically a few hundred feet high protecting most of San Diego from this type of damage.
As indicated previously, San Diego is about 100 miles from the San Andreas Fault which is much farther than Los Angeles or San Francisco which both sit on or near it. The San Andreas Fault runs from San Francisco southeast to the Imperial Valley, where it fragments into a number of small faults. Because San Diego is 100 miles from the San Andreas Fault any earthquakes originating from the fault in the Imperial Valley will not transmit their energy to the San Diego area effectively.
There are certain areas of California that have very low instances of Seismic activity. These areas include the Central Valley, the northern border near Oregon, and the San Diego area. High Areas of activity include the Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay Areas which, as discussed above, lie near the San Andreas Fault. Most earthquake activity occurs along or near the San Andres Fault.
Bottom Line: Don’t Worry
The risks to the entire State of California are commonly misjudged with respect to earthquake activity. Not all areas are equally at risk. To be safe, a data center should be located far from faults, the building should be built on solid ground, and should be constructed to zone 4 requirements. This is the case with the Kearny Mesa data centers.
An important part of any decision in which to locate a data center is always the potential for a natural disaster. In the case of the Kearny Mesa data centers, the potential for any type of natural disaster other than an earthquake is extremely unlikely. The chance of an earthquake affecting AIS data centers in San Diego is very remote. All the scientific data indicates that these locations are at a very low risk of an earthquake that would disrupt data center operation.
In fact, the Kearny Mesa location has much less disaster risk than many areas along the east and south coast and the Midwest of the United States. Those areas are subject to hurricanes, tornados, lightning and tsunamis. The Kearny Mesa data centers have only one very remote risk which would be from an earthquake – but in order for an earthquake to create a service disruption at the data center, it would have to be in a fault that does not exist or in an existing fault with a magnitude never before recorded in San Diego’s history.
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