Animated map of VA earthquake tweets, August 23, 2011

Video, from Eric Fischer:

Green dots are tweets about earthquakes. Gray dots are tweets about other topics. Each frame is one second (total of 12 minutes). Thanks to Natural Earth for the land, water, and boundary shape data and the Twitter Streaming API for the tweets.


  1. Have we been able to determine the very first person to tweet about the quake? Seems like we could mine the data and discover this person fairly easily.

    1. The first person on my feed tweeted about the earthquake  from the DC area and was time stamped about 45 seconds after what USGS called as the official event time. Within 30 seconds, there were two more from DC and then another from NYC. These all beat the little red box on by about 3 minutes.

      What? Do other people NOT go immediately to at the first mention of “earthquake?”

  2. Too bad it didn’t zoom out and include West Coast tweets laughing about a 5.8 making world news. 

  3. Coincidentally, this is the same tweet sequence and intensity that erupted when:
    A) It was erroneously reported that Will and Jada Smith had separated.
    B) Amy Winehouse died.
    C) The Casey Anthony verdict was announced.
    D) Muppets Bert & Ernie were rumored to be getting married.

  4. I’m the social media person at my office and have to admit that as I stood in my doorway about 10 seconds into the quake, I wished I had my ipad so I could see the Tweets.  :)

    I’m in Charlottesville, VA, about 35 miles from Mineral.  

    1. That’s where I’m at. It was interesting seeing Richmond and DC light up just incrementally before C’ville and Lynchburg. And I’m betting that has to do more with population than about when the quake was felt.

  5. Kind of neat seeing the Tweets roughly mirror the spread of the earthquake’s shockwaves (probably the P “back and forth” compressive waves as, IIRC from my university days, the S “side to side” or shear waves are slower to propagate).

  6. “Is it true, as XKCD suggested, that the tweets travelled faster than the shock wavefront?”

    Yes.  It has been reported that people in NYC recieved the tweets about the earthquake in DC in advance of the shaking being felt in NYC.

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