11% percent of the worlds seismic activity originates in Oklahoma
From 1972 to 2008, Oklahoma recorded two to six earthquakes a year. In the past month there have been 157 earthquakes larger than magnitude 2.5 in Oklahoma. (1)
What is a magnitude?
Some people have taken to social media and other public forums contending that hydraulic fracturing also known as fracking could be causing the uptick. The February 2014 Oklahoma Geological Survey (OGS) report has not ruled out that some earthquakes may have a relationship to oil and gas activities such as water disposal/injection, and examining these issues remains a major focus of ongoing research.(1)
The Government says fracking is not the cause of the 2011 Oklahoma Quake
The Oklahoma Geological Survey reported that a minor earthquake swarm which occurred in January 2011 could possibly have been due to hydraulic fracturing, which is a process used to extract oil from oil wells. In November 2011 several geologists with the USGS that were contacted by Huffington Post said that the 5.6 magnitude quake was not due to the mechanical process of hydraulic fracturing itself, which they said causes tremors on a much smaller scale.
In March 2013, an article published in the scientific journal Geology concluded that the earthquake could have been triggered by the cumulative effects of injecting oil drilling waste water under high pressure into the underground. However, Oklahoma state seismologists disagreed, saying the quake was natural.(3)
Dallas/Fort Worth Shuts down well after Quakes
In 2008, the DFW airport had leases with the Chesapeake Energy company for two such wells. One of them was near an old inactive fault line. The wells became active in September 2008 and the first earthquake came in October of that year. Brian Stump, a seismologist at Southern Methodist University, was part of a team that studied what was going on.
“Based on the timing and the location of the earthquakes, there was a plausible linkage,” said Stump. heart.
“The airport asked Chesapeake to close the well, and they did,” The earthquakes stopped. The well in question has remained inactive, although a second well on airport land continues to operate. Fracking and its environmental impacts are a contentious issue. A study from the National Academy of Sciences did not find that getting natural gas this way led to “induced seismic activity.” However, it did conclude that disposal of waste water “does pose some risks.” (4)
Fresh from Ohio
Geologists in Ohio have for the first time linked earthquakes in a geologic formation deep under the Appalachians to hydraulic fracturing, leading the state to issue new permit conditions Friday in certain areas that are among the nation’s strictest.
A state investigation of five small tremors last month in the Youngstown area, in the Appalachian foothills, found the injection of sand and water that accompanies hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the Utica Shale may have increased pressure on a small, unknown fault, State Oil & Gas Chief Rick Simmers told the Associated Press. He called the link “probable.”
Under new permit conditions from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, all new drilling sites within 3 miles of a known fault or seismic activity of 2.0 magnitude or higher will be conditioned on the installation of sensitive seismic-monitoring equipment. Results will be directly available to regulators, Simmers said, so the state isn’t reliant on drilling operators providing the data voluntarily.
If seismic activity of 1.0 magnitude or greater is felt, drilling will be paused for evaluation. If a link is found, the operation will be halted.
Glenda Besana-Ostman, a former seismologist with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, confirmed the finding is the first in the area to suggest a connection between the quakes and fracking. A deep-injection waste water well in the same region of Ohio was found to be the likely cause of a series of quakes in 2012.
“While we can never be 100 percent sure that drilling activities are connected to a seismic event, caution dictates that we take these new steps to protect human health, safety and the environment,” said James Zehringer, director of Ohio’s natural resources department.
Ohio has also imposed an indefinite drilling moratorium at the site of the March quakes. The state is allowing oil and gas extraction to continue at five existing wells at the site.
Such events linked to fracking are “extremely rare,” said Shawn Bennett, a spokesman for the industry group Energy In Depth, who described the new rules as safeguards that will prevent similar future quakes in Ohio.(5)
What if the Big One Hits Outside of California?
California has long had strict earthquake building codes in place for decade. Because of these codes the buildings can withstand moderate earthquakes. The same earthquake striking east of Nevada could be devastating.
Last December, Adam Kept of the Oklahoman,said :
On its list of disaster priorities, Oklahoma ranks earthquakes at No. 11, behind tornadoes, winter storms, sink holes, flooding, wildfires, high winds, drought, thunderstorms, lightning and extreme heat.
At magnitude 6.6 or greater, the state plan anticipates widespread destruction and panic. Should there be a breach of the 70-year-old Lake Hefner dam, water would flow northeast, flooding homes, commercial buildings and Mercy Hospital Oklahoma City before reaching the Cimarron River on the north side of Guthrie. Even a small earthquake in the right location could cause a dam to begin leaking and eventually fail, according to the state plan.
Such an earthquake also could cause extensive damage and possibly injuries and death from falling debris. Traffic would probably be disrupted not only for day-to-day needs but also for critical emergency services like police, fire and ambulances. School bus and mail routes also would be affected. Power and water outages could occur, causing food to spoil. Broken sewer lines could create sanitation problems. Schools, hospitals, grocery stores and other economically important facilities likely would be damaged and closed for extended periods. Employment would be affected because of businesses being closed due to the damage and loss of business.
Despite the potential for chaos, emergency response officials acknowledge the state is woefully unprepared.
What Oklahoman’s can learn from Californians
When it comes to earthquakes its not a matter of if? Its a matter of when. The ultimate Californian, has batteries, flashlights and water and cash on hand. In a resent survey “The Ultimate’s represented less than 10% of the population.
Brace tall furniture ( Bookcases-Entertainment Centers and Curio cabinets to studs in the wall. Brace water heaters, propane tanks . Keep Bottled water. During an earthquake, doorways are the safest place. Next would be underneath a strong table or desk.
6 things I learned after the Loma Prieta Quake
Do not throw away old school. My home was a few block from the devastating fire in the Marina District. We were without power for nearly two weeks.
1 You need a landline and corded phone. (Yes they still sell them) Some cell towers fell,others were without power rendering the phones useless. Like the cellphone, my cordless phone didn’t operate because there wasn’t power to drive them. My old school push button corded phones worked two hours after the quake .
2. You need a portable battery operated Am/FM radio; (Again, the stores still sell them) Your cable/dish may be out. Most of the Emergency Stations are on Am . Keeping you and your family in-touch with the world
3. Even if your a renter. Learn where the emergency water, gas shut off valves are. If they require a wrench, keep the tool on a easy accessible hook.
4. Candles are not your friends after a quake (see 3) Most flashlights and radios require D cell batteries . After the 89 quake, there where available flashlights and radios at hardware stores. But no D cell batteries. Today my home is filled with a collection of C and AA flashlights.
5. Keep at least $50 in singles and fives at home. Most of us rely on ATM’s no power equal no cash.
6. Can food and fruit. and old fashion can openers.
Homeowners guide to Earthquake Safety
Sources: (1) April 13,2014 USA Today” Oklahoma rattled by an uptick in earthquakes” (2) Wikipedia 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake (3) Wikipedia 2011 Oklahoma Earthquake (4) February 14,2014 politifact.com rachel-maddow/msnbcs-maddow-earthquakes-led-texas-airport-close (5) http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/4/12/fracking-linked-toearthquakesohiouticashale.html (6)http://newsok.com/is-oklahoma-ready-for-a-major-earthquake/article/3918200