Really shaky ground.
It turns out there were more earthquakes in Oklahoma than California during the first three months of 2014!
That has never happened until now.
Take a look at this bar chart created by the agency that tracks earthquakes, the USGS. The graphic shows an unprecedented explosion in the number of quakes magnitude 3.0 and higher in Oklahoma.
And now for the first time ever, the USGS has issued an earthquake warning for Oklahoma. This is the first warning ever issued for a state east of the Rockies. Here’s why the USGS decided to issue the warning and what it signals:
“Important to people living in central and north-central Oklahoma is that the likelihood of future, damaging earthquakes has increased as a result of the increased number of small and moderate shocks.”
And it appears increasingly likely these quakes are related to fracking–a way of breaking rocks by injecting liquids and other things into the earth–to get at oil and gas deposits. Fracking is taking many of our states by storm because there is so much money to be made. The practice has greatly increased the supply of natural gas and prices for that gas have fallen fast and saved lots of us money on winter heating bills.
But what the USGS says about the Oklahoma earthquake cause is downright chilling:
“The analysis suggests that a likely contributing factor to the increase in earthquakes is triggering by wastewater injected into deep geologic formations. This phenomenon is known as injection-induced seismicity, which has been documented for nearly half a century, with new cases identified recently in Arkansas, Ohio, Texas and Colorado. A recent publication by the USGS suggests that a magnitude 5.0 foreshock to the 2011 Prague, Okla., earthquake was human-induced by fluid injection; that earthquake may have then triggered the mainshock and its aftershocks.”
We’re going to hear a lot more about this topic in the coming months and years. Especially because fears that fracking can cause damaging earthquakes may actually be justified.
If you want to read an interesting article that gives more details, I really liked this article on the Oklahoma earthquakes from Live Science. And here is the USGS statement on the Oklahoma Earthquake Warning that was issued on May 5, 2014.