New earthquake outlook looks at activity caused both by humans and natural forces

GOLDEN, Colo. - For the first time, geologists have created maps that show earthquake activity caused by both humans and natural forces.

The Now's Kristen Skovira spoke to scientists in Golden who say this data will help forecast future quakes and change the way we look at building code and engineering.

According to the United States Geological Survey's newest data, 7-million people in the U.S. live and work in areas with potentially damaging shaking from induced-seismicity or “man-made” earthquakes.  

“We want people to understand that the hazard for earthquakes has increased in some areas in the Central U.S.,” said Robert Williams, a geophysicist at the USGS.

Williams says, they've seen the most significant increase in 6 states; Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico and Arkansas.

"And these earthquakes are caused in large part by the disposal of waste-water fluid from oil and gas production,” Williams said.

He says, do not get “waste-water disposal” confused with fracking.
          
"That's a separate process," Williams stated.

He says, in states like Oklahoma, huge amounts of water are produced with oil and gas.

"And they have to get rid of that water and they inject it back underground," he said.

All of this water can unlock faults which can then generate earthquakes.

Researches like Williams say they hope this information will make it to states regulators, engineers and emergency first responders, so they can be better prepared.

 

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