It is has long been known that human activity has an impact on the ground, but few as dramatic as an earthquake. An alaming USGS Oklahoma earthquakes fracking study published this week says that the number of earthquakes in Oklahoma has increased dramatically in recent months and officials fear that a catastrophic earthquake is in Oklahoma's near future. As explained in a report from USA Today yesterday, the rate of earthquakes in Oklahoma has increased by about 50% since October 2013 and a likely factor in the increase in earthquakes is fracking, which is the process of extracting natural gas from shale rock layers deep within the earth.
In 2011, the journal Geology linked a 5.7 magnitude earthquake in Oklahoma to fracking. The quake left two injured, destroyed 14 houses and damaged roads. The earthquake was felt in at least 17 states and caused damage in the epicentral region.
The USGS Oklahoma earthquakes fracking study revealed that 183 earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or greater occurred from October 2013 through April 14. This compares with an average of only two magnitude 3.0 or larger earthquakes per year from 1978 to 2008.
RT News reports that the agency also announced that based on a significant rise in small seismic events throughout Oklahoma recently, the state is considered at risk for a rare magnitude-5.0 or higher earthquake.
Furthermore, researchers aren't sure when the big quake could strike or how strong it could be. "We haven't seen this before in Oklahoma, so we had some concerns about putting a specific number on the chances of it," research geophysicist Robert Williams of the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program said. "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.”