Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Earthquakes in North Texas in late September were just flukes
You can stop collecting canned goods and bottled water now.
North Texas is not on any major fault lines, and area residents are likely more familiar with tornadoes than other violent natural disruptions, but the two earthquakes that struck West Dallas and Irving on September 29 registered a 3.4 and 3.1 on the Richter scale, respectively. A third quake in Irving the next day registered at 2.1.
The quakes were strong enough to be felt, but there have been no reports of the seismic shifts causing any damages or injuries.
“Anything that can be felt is a noticeable earthquake in Texas,” geography professor Reid Ferring said.
North Texas does not have the geological conditions necessary to create large earthquakes, and historical data indicates that the recent seismic activity is not necessarily indicative of future earthquakes, Ferring said.
Environmental activists questioned whether there was a connection between the quakes and gas drilling at the Barnett Shale in North Texas.
A recent study conducted by Cliff Frohlich, a senior research scientist at the University of Texas’ Institute for Geophysics, found a connection between injection wells used to dispose of fracking wastewater – a byproduct of a drilling method used frequently in North Texas – and small quakes in North Texas.
The study found that most earthquakes in the Barnett Shale region occur within a few miles of one or more injection wells used to dispose of wastes associated with petroleum production, according to a University of Texas press release. The study indicates that fracking itself does not lead to an increase in earthquakes, but that there is some correlation between disposal of fracking wastewater and tiny quakes.
Other experts have said there is little connection between gas drilling in North Texas and these recent earthquakes.
Seismologist and SMU professor Brian Stump told NBC News that he does not believe fracking or gas drilling was a cause for the earthquakes, and Ferring said last month’s tremors were likely just fluke occurrences.
“It could just be a really natural rare event and very difficult to relate to any human activity,” Ferring said.
According to the United States Geological Survey, the largest earthquake ever recorded in Texas was a 5.8 in 1931 near Valentine, Texas.
“They may be alarming to some people. We don’t like to hear our houses shake,” Ferring said. “But I don’t think there’s any real threat to property, to buildings, to people or to water that we drink.”
Pegasus News Content partner - North Texas Daily