CAN WE STOP THE SURGE OF MAN-MADE EARTHQUAKES?

THERE’S A WHOLE LOT MORE SHAKING GOING ON IN THE MIDWEST LATELY—AND HUMANS ARE CAUSING IT.

map showing locations of earthquakes east of the rockies from 1973 to 2014, with a noticeable cluster of quakes in Oklahoma

Katie Peek / Popular Science / Source: M. Weingarten et al., Science, 19 June 2015

Earthquakes East Of the Rockies, 1973-2014.

In a recent study, published in Science, geophysicists analyzed earthquakes east of the Rockies and found a strong link to injection sites. Those colored in red were near active wells. Those in gray were not.

Mark Crismon and I were sitting outside his Oklahoma house, looking at the day lilies that lined his pond, when our conversation was interrupted by a distant boom. “Did you feel that?” Crismon asked. “Just be quiet. Sit still.” He’s a lanky 76-year-old, retired from an electronics career, with gray hair combed straight back from his ruddy face. The booms continued, once or twice per minute; I felt them under my skin. “That’s a small earthquake,” he said, seconds before the sound recurred. “There it was again. We’ll go and look on the seismometer—I’ll show you what it looks like.”

 

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