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Rare Earthquake Warning Issued for Oklahoma
Mile for mile, there are almost as many earthquakes rattling Oklahoma as California this year. This major increase in seismic shaking led to a rare earthquake warning today (May 5) from the U.S. Geological Survey and the Oklahoma Geological Survey. In a joint statement, the agencies said the risk of a damaging earthquake — one larger than magnitude 5.0 — has significantly increased in central Oklahoma. Geologists don't know when or where the state's next big earthquake will strike, nor will they put a number on the increased risk. "We haven't seen this before in Oklahoma, so we had some concerns about putting a specific number on the chances of it," Robert Williams, a research geophysicist with the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program in Golden, Colorado, told Live Science. "But we know from other cases around the world that if you have an increasing number of small earthquakes, the chances of a larger one will go up."
The state agency responsible for regulating the oil and gas industry in Texas has requested that fracking companies report data related to wastewater disposal wells daily — instead of yearly — after hundreds of earthquakes hit an area with no history of seismic activity, said the mayor of a small Texas town on Tuesday. At least 300 small earthquakes have hit North Texas — home to the heavily drilled Barnett Shale region — since January, according to United States Geological Survey (USGS) data. Critics say the state has acted too slowly in investigating the unusual seismic activity and its possible links to fracking activities. “The Texas Railroad Commission has sent a letter requesting that companies voluntarily give that information,” said Alan Brundrett, mayor of Azle, a town of about 11,000 in North Texas that has experienced unusual earthquakes.
A new study explains how just four wells forcing massive amounts of drilling wastewater into the ground are probably shaking up Oklahoma. Those wells seem to have triggered more than 100 small-to-medium earthquakes in the past five years, according to a study published Thursday by the journal Science. Many of the quakes were much farther away from the wells than expected.