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Oklahoma Geological Survey, ThinkProgress.org

Swarm of 20 earthquakes shake Oklahoma in one day

John Deede | Shale Plays Media Google+

The state of Oklahoma recorded a stunning 20 earthquakes on Tuesday. The quakes went mostly unnoticed due to their low magnitude. Emily Atkin from ThinkProgress.org reports:

Oklahoma’s Geology Survey recorded an unprecedented 20 small earthquakes across the state on Tuesday, highlighting the dramatic increase of seismic activity that has occurred there as the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing — otherwise known as fracking — has spread across the state.

Though 18 out of the 20 earthquakes that occurred Tuesday were below Magnitude 3, rendering them mostly imperceptible, the largest one registered as a 4.3 near Guthrie, a city of more than 10,000 residents. And while U.S. Geological Survey scientists have said that Oklahoma is historically known as “earthquake country,” they also warn that quakes have been steadily on the rise; from 1978 until 2008, the average rate of earthquakes registering a magnitude of 3.0 or more was only two per year.

“No documented cases of induced seismicity have ever come close to the current earthquake rates or the area over which the earthquakes are occurring,” the Oklahoma Geology Survey said in a recent presentation addressing the alarming increase in quakes. By “induced seismicity,” the OGS is referring to minor earthquakes that are caused by human activity, whether that be fracking, mass removal mining, reservoir impoundment, or geothermal production — anything that could disrupt existing fault lines.

Oklahoma has been the subject of the debate on human-induced earthquakes following the recent uptick of small earthquakes in the area. The U.S. Geological Survey announced in May that the state has become significantly more prone to earthquakes, likely due to hydraulic fracturing activity. The earthquakes are blamed not on the fracking itself, but on the underground wastewater injection wells where vast quantities of liquid waste are deposited.

A recent U.S. Geological Survey study found that earthquakes linked to hydraulic fracturing are 16 times weaker than natural earthquakes of the same magnitude. While no sizable earthquake has been attributed to man-made causes, the rise in occurrences has concerned some residents who fear that the string of small earthquakes throughout the area may be a precursor to a more significant seismic event.

Read Atkin’s full report here: Oklahoma Gets Hit With 20 Earthquakes In One Day

Related: Oil and natural gas activity is a “likely contributing factor” to Oklahoma earthquakes

5 comments

  1. For 50 years geologists have understood the mechanism that connects induced (human made) earthquakes with deep-well wastewater injection, which is currently the disposal method utilized for 95% of all fracking wastewater throughout the United States.
    In fact, this mechanism is so well understood that in 1976 two geologists published a study that demonstrated that they could both turn on and turn off earthquakes at will by manipulating the fluid pressure that the deep-injection wells were placing on nearby faults.
    The last 50 years of geological science surrounding this phenomenon, along with the precise mechanism governing this relationship, are explicated in the paper “Fracking Industrialization & Induced Earthquakes” located at http://www.FrackingEarthquakes.com.

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