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Induced earthquakes raise chances of damaging shaking in 2016: USGS

Discussion in 'Commercial Seismic' started by mark handler, Mar 29, 2016.

  1. mark handler

    mark handler Sawhorse

    Oct 25, 2009
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    Induced earthquakes raise chances of damaging shaking in 2016: USGS


    New maps identifying potential ground-shaking hazards from both human-induced and natural earthquakes show there is potential for damaging shaking from induced seismicity for about 7 million who people live and work in areas of central and eastern United States (CEUS), reports the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

    Within a few portions of the CEUS, the chance of damage from all types of earthquakes is similar to that of natural earthquakes in high-hazard areas of California, notes a statement from the USGS, the only federal agency with responsibility for recording and reporting earthquake activity nationwide and assessing seismic hazard, which Monday announced the availability of the maps. (In the west, scientists categorized all earthquakes as natural.)


    The USGS explains that induced earthquakes are triggered by human activities, with wastewater disposal being the primary cause for recent events in many areas of the CEUS. Wastewater from oil and gas production operations can be disposed of by injecting it into deep underground wells, below aquifers that provide drinking water, the statement notes.

    Serving as the USGSs first one-year outlook for the nations earthquake hazards, the new hazard model estimates where, how often and how strongly earthquake ground shaking could occur in the U.S. during 2016. The map uses a 50-year forecast because that is the average lifetime of a building, and such information is essential to engineering design and the development of building codes (building code committees are still determining if it is appropriate to treat induced earthquakes in building code revisions).

    The short one-year timeframe was chosen because induced earthquake activity can increase or decrease with time and is subject to commercial and policy decisions that could change rapidly, the USGS notes.

    Mark Petersen, chief of the USGS National Seismic Hazard Mapping Project, points out that by including human-induced events, our assessment of earthquake hazards has significantly increased in parts of the U.S. In addition, the research shows that much more of the nation faces a significant chance of having damaging earthquakes over the next year, whether natural or human-induced, Peterson continues.

    Overall, USGS scientists identified 21 areas with increased rates of induced seismicity associated with wastewater injection. While most injection wells are not associated with earthquakes, some other wells have been implicated in published scientific studies, and many states are now regulating wastewater injection in order to limit earthquake hazards, the statement notes.


    In the central U.S., the USGS reports there was an average of 24 earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 and larger per year between 1973 and 2008. From 2009 to 2015, the rate steadily increased, averaging 318 per year and peaking in 2015 with 1,010 earthquakes. Through mid-March in 2016, there have been 226 earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 and larger in the central U.S. region, the statement notes, adding the largest earthquake located near several active injection wells was a magnitude 5.6 in 2011 near Prague, Oklahoma.

    The USGS map also shows earthquakes both natural and induced recorded from 1980 to 2015 in CEUS with a magnitude greater than or equal to 2.5.

    The potential to experience damage from a natural or human-induced earthquake in 2016 ranges from less than 1% to 12%, the USGS reports. Listed from highest to lowest potential hazard, the most significant hazards from induced seismicity are in Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico and Arkansas, with Oklahoma and Texas having the largest populations exposed to induced earthquakes.

    Beyond documenting high shaking and damage in areas of the six states over the past five years, mostly from induced earthquakes, Peterson says the USGSs Did You Feel It? website has archived tens of thousands of reports from the public who experienced shaking, including about 1,500 reports of strong shaking or damage.

    While there are some areas of induced earthquakes in the western U.S., they dont significantly change the regional hazard level compared to the much more abundant natural earthquakes, the USGS explains. Therefore, scientists just considered the historical catalog in the western U.S. and did not separate natural from induced earthquakes.

    The USGS reports that current research indicates the maximum magnitudes of induced earthquakes may be lower than for natural earthquakes, but many scientists suggest induced earthquakes can trigger larger earthquakes on known or unknown faults.

    In the CEUS, there may be thousands of faults that could rupture in a large earthquake. Induced earthquakes also tend to exhibit swarm-like behaviour with more numerous and smaller earthquakes at shallower depths. These factors were taken into account in the analysis, the statement adds.

    Testing these maps after a year will be important in validating and improving the models, Petersen suggests in the statement.

    The new report can be used by both government officials to make more informed decisions and by emergency response personnel to assess vulnerability and provide safety information to those who are in potential danger, the USGS suggests. Engineers can use this product to evaluate earthquake safety of buildings, bridges, pipelines and other important structures.
    2 people like this.
  2. ICE

    ICE Moderator

    Jun 23, 2011
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    There is an 88% to 99% chance that nothing will happen

    Ones and twos. That should be exciting for those folks that would rather have tornadoes than earthquakes.

    Those thousands of faults, if they exist, will fall apart in dribs and drabs. The oil companies should be charging by the earthquake for performing a public service. At the least they should be getting carbon credits.
  3. jdfruit

    jdfruit Registered User

    Jan 7, 2015
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    I preferr earthquakes; tornados and hurricanes are terrible weather and environment conditions for days to weeks. When it's nice weather with an earthquake, it still is nice weather..
  4. conarb

    conarb Registered User

    Oct 22, 2009
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    Small earthquakes relieve the stresses in the tectonic plates, what has to be watched is stress areas with no small quakes, they could be building up for the big one, like they tell us about the New Madrid quake that could bring down brick buildings down from St. Louis through Chicago.
  5. Mark K

    Mark K Platinum Member

    May 12, 2010
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    While small earthquakes release energy they have little to no effect on the magnitude or frequency of the major earthquake that you can expect. The relationship between the magnitude of the earthquake and the energy released is not a linear relationship. As I recall the energy released by a Magnitude 7 is probably 100 times that of a Magnitude 5 earthquake or 1000 times that of a Magnitude 4 earthquake.

    Thus if you expected a Magnitude 8 earthquake every 100 years you would need something like 10 Magnitude 5 earthquakes a year to prevent the Magnitude 8 earthquake which is possible in some parts of California. The reality is that this does not happen.

    The bottom line is do not expect small earthquakes to have a meaningful impact on the magnitude or frequency of the major earthquake you can expect.

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