Oklahoma has been rocking and rolling. Since Sunday, Oklahoma has had over 140 earthquakes. 29 of the earthquakes have been 2.5 magnitude or bigger.
In contrast, in 2009 we had 38 2.5 magnitude or greater earthquakes, all year. Last year we had a large spike with 222 in the year. At this rate we could end up with over 700 by the end of the year. Why the increase? Many studies have linked the earthquake swarms to disposal wells used by the oil and gas industry.
Rachel Maddow discussed the earthquake swarm on her show earlier this week.
“It’s totally possible, of course, that it’s all one big coincidence. The earth beneath the Oklahoma City suburbs is just being churned up by some big swing-away ice-crusher or something, right? It’ll all settle down on its own,” said Maddow on her show on Monday. “But I will note, that when the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport needed to stop its earthquake spike a few years ago, they temporarily shut down the wells that were injecting fracking fluid into the ground at high pressure on the airport property, and lo and behold those earthquakes stopped.
The earthquakes are not only at times large enough to be causing damage, they are also very shallow and causing a lot of noise. Barb Stanaland told KWTV her family is finding it hard to sleep.
“Even if you go back to sleep, you don’t sleep sound because you know it’s going to happen again.”
The Oklahoma Geological Survey (OGS) released a statement on Monday to address the earthquake swarm. They said there has been an increase in earthquake activity in Oklahoma since 2009. And went on to talk about the connection between earthquakes and the oil and gas industry.
Fluid injection associated with the oil and gas industry has been in Oklahoma since 1948 and more than 100,000 wells have been hydraulically fractured. Currently there are 4,000 active saltwater disposal wells in Oklahoma.
OGS said recognized occurrences of triggered seismicity related to saltwater disposal wells are rare. And about 80% of the state is within 9 miles of an Underground Injection Control (UIC) Class II water disposal. However, they went on to say that, “it is also important to note that about 99% of the earthquakes that have occurred in Oklahoma over the past few years also lie within 9 miles of a UIC Class II well.”
They also went on to say that they have not ruled out that some of earthquakes may be related to oil and gas activities. And that these issues remain a major focus of ongoing research.
“It has long been recognized by scientists that both fluid injection and withdrawal in the subsurface can trigger earthquakes by altering conditions on naturally occurring faults that are near failure.”
Austin Holland, a research seismologist with the Oklahoma Geologic Survey agreed the swarm is “incredibly unusual.”
“We’ve had swarms that are similar in nature but I don’t think we’ve had one with quite the numbers we’ve had.”
Many Oklahomans remain on edge while scientists continue to look for a cause of the earthquake swarm.
Photo Credit- martinluff