If you are following Oklahoma fracking earthquake lawsuit news, you may be wondering how man creates earthquakes. Tectonic plates, found in mantle and crust of the Earth, are constantly shifting and bumping. When they try to shift their rough, jagged edges they may get snagged and stuck while the rest of the plate continues to shift. Once it’s gotten so far, the jagged edge breaks free of the snag and an earthquake occurs.
Earthquakes are generally preceded by foreshocks, small earthquakes that happen as the plates shift, followed by the main shock, or large main earthquake, and then the aftershocks. These aftershocks may continue for months after the main shock.
How Humans Cause Earthquakes
Humans can cause earthquakes by significantly changing how much stress is put on the plates. Take for instance the Hoover Dam; as Lake Mead filled behind the dam, the area experienced hundreds of tremblors, and the number of tremors continues to fluctuate with the level of the water. The same thing happened in under the reservoir of Katse Dam in southern Africa in 1997, and in more than 100 other cases, including the Sichuan earthquake in 2008 which killed about 80,000 people and was linked to Zipingpu Dam. This type of earthquake inducement is called Reservoir Induced Seismicity (RIS). That earthquake left a crack in the Earth’s crust more than 180 miles long.
Coal mining may also be connected with human-induced earthquakes, as millions of tons of coal are pulled from the Earth every year, and often, water must be pumped from the mines for extraction to commence. This can create a huge change in mass which can have an impact on local seismic activity as can a mine collapse.
However, one of the most common ways man causes earthquakes today is through one of the processes used in natural gas and oil extraction. Scientists believe that when energy companies dispose of fracking waste by injecting it under high pressure into wells deep into the Earth. The Army learned that this process can cause tremblors after injecting millions of gallons of toxic waste in a deep well in the Rockies. In Uzbekistan, three large tremors shook the Earth near a natural gas extraction field, with the largest registering 7.3 on the Richter scale leading Russian scientists to caution that energy extraction could cause quakes, especially in areas with high seismic activity.
Oklahoma is currently developing wastewater injection rules to help decrease the number of tremblors occurring across the state. This ‘traffic-light’ rules were designed to regulate how much, how often, and how deep, and under what pressure fracking waste is injected into deep wells with the goal of reducing seismic triggers.
Would you believe that tall buildings may also cause quakes? The Taipei 101 tower, one of the tallest buildings in the world, could be putting so much pressure on the rock below that it’s causing quakes. Some geologists believe the extra concrete and steel used to make the tower quake resistant actually lead to the building being the epicenter of several small temblors and at least two large quakes.