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What You’re Not Being Told About Those Oklahoma Earthquakes

oklahoma earthquake warning

Image source: Geer Association

Residents of Oklahoma should prepare themselves for a major earthquake in the near future, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) has warned, and the rest of the country should take notice.

The survey’s scientists say that a dramatic increase in the number of smaller quakes in the state could be a sign that a damaging earthquake is imminent. All of it could be due to fracking — and roughly half the states allow such drilling.

“The rate of earthquakes increased dramatically in March and April,” USGS research geophysicist Robert Williams told the website Live Science. “That alerted us to examine this further and put out this advisory statement.”

There have been more than 140 earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or greater in the first four months this year. For all 12 months last year, there were 109 similar ones.

USGS experts are so concerned about the seismic activity in Oklahoma that they issued May 5 their first-ever earthquake advisory warning for a state east of the Rocky. Scientists say that an earthquake with a force of magnitude 5.0 or greater could be imminent.

Almost as Many Earthquakes in Oklahoma as in California

There have been almost as many earthquakes in Central Oklahoma as in California this year, Live Science said. Such increases in seismic activity often precede major earthquakes.

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“We haven’t seen this before in Oklahoma, so we had some concerns about putting a specific number on the chances of it,” Williams noted. “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.”

Geophysicists are unable to predict the exact time of a major earthquake and instead can only guess when and where it will be.

Could be a Major Disaster

The results of a major earthquake in Central Oklahoma could be catastrophic because a major metropolis, Oklahoma City, is located in the area. One of the nation’s busiest and most important highways, Interstate 40, also runs through that region, as do major railroad lines and pipelines.

Persons who live in the area should be concerned particularly if they live or work in an older structure. Such buildings are more likely to collapse.

oklahoma earthquake“Building owners and government officials should have a special concern for older, unreinforced brick structures, which are vulnerable to serious damage during sufficient shaking,” USGS Science adviser Bill Leith said.

There are no nuclear power plants in Central Oklahoma but there are some in nearby states, according to CNN.

Related to Fracking?

There has been some speculation that the increased seismic activity in Oklahoma could be the result of fracking — the use of injection wells to extract oil and gas from the ground. Last year, Austin Holland, a seismologist with the Oklahoma Geological Survey, published a study that indicated there might be a link between fracking and earthquakes in Oklahoma.

Another recent study showed that fracking can trigger earthquakes up to 30 miles away from drilling sights. Oklahoma is one of the most heavily fracked regions in the country with thousands of oil and gas wells.

“Even though only a small fraction of injection wells do induce damaging earthquakes, there are so many injection operations that these operations have materially contributed to the seismic hazard in the U.S.,” USGS Geophysicist Art McGarr told Live Science. “In states like Oklahoma, where wastewater continues to be injected, I think it’s highly likely we will continue to see larger earthquakes there.”

Research indicates that tremors in Ohio, Colorado, Arkansas and Texas also might have been caused by fracking.

“We can’t guarantee the earthquakes aren’t a coincidence,” Holland said. “But it would be a pretty remarkable coincidence.”

Holland is not the only scientist who believes fracking might be causing quakes.

“I’d say it certainly looks very possible that the earthquakes are related to injection wells,” Cliff Frolich, an earthquake researcher at the University of Texas, told TV station KHOU. Most fracking techniques involve the injection of liquids into wells.

Recent seismic activity in areas with lots of fracking includes:

  • 109 earthquakes that struck the region around Youngstown, Ohio, starting in December 2010. No earthquakes had ever been reported in Youngstown even though settlers have lived in the area since 1776. The quakes began when companies started fracking for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale. Shortly after work began Youngstown was struck by a 3.9 magnitude earthquake on Dec. 31, 2011. “Earthquakes were triggered by fluid injection,” Columbia University seismologist Won-Young Kim told NBC News. Kim noted that the earthquakes began less than two weeks after fracking started near Youngstown. Fracking-related earthquakes got so bad in Ohio that in January, 2012, the state’s legislature put a temporary ban on the practice.
  • The town of Azle, Texas, near Fort Worth was struck by 16 earthquakes in the first three weeks of November. The US Geological Survey recorded at least one earthquake of 3.6 on the Richter scale. The quakes have gotten so frequent that local residents are now worried about them. “What if a 5.0 (magnitude earthquake) happens and people’s houses start falling down on them,” Azle’s mayor Alan Brundrett asked a reporter. Keith Krayer, a resident of Briar, near Azle, said his wife was having panic attacks because of the quakes. Krayer described one quake as sounding like a sonic boom.

The number of magnitude 3 earthquakes in central North America increased from 29 in 2008 to 134 in 2012, the United States Geological Survey reported.

Do you believe fracking causes earthquakes? Let us know in the comments below.

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  1. I think we need to look deeper than just the fracking issue which I do not believe the data is there to confirm this. We have done everything we can in this country to move away from the principals that this nation was founded on. We are being warned that this nation is under condemnation. Read your scriptures you so called scientists!

    • AintThatAmerica

      Holy Christ Amighty !!!

    • Alan, I agree!

    • My goodness. I hope you haven’t already bred. You are what is wrong with Oklahoma. You need to look at the evidence, and ignore your bible when it comes to learning about earthquakes.

    • The fossil fuel industry is counting on people being anti-scientist for biblical reasons. They and many conservative think tanks are spending millions of dollars a day to make sure that as much propaganda as possible is spread so that they can continue to make the profits that they make and to keep their investors happy. It is good to hear this first-hand from someone. I believe there is also a lot in the Bible about greed and being deceptive.

  2. Tucker McCullough

    What does scripture have anything to do with the topic of this article?
    You/we should be looking for information based on truth and facts… not mythical stories and fantasy!
    Maybe you can find a better response for you topic on
    good luck… 🙂

    • I think Alan may be referring to the scripture stating ” earthquakes in diverse places” often quoted from Matthew 24 and Luke 21 for end time prophecy.

      • That is such a vague prediction. “Oh my gosh, there was an earthquake in a random place. Guess Jesus is coming back!”. Do you see yourselves??

    • Or maybe God is causing the earthquakes. If he is, I doubt it’s because he loves America and hates what the country has become. If earthquakes are an act of your god, then he’s probably pissed about the fraking!

  3. Fracking? The entire ring of fire is showing increased activity including some quakes over 8.0 and you blame this on fracking?
    Mexico, Chile, Japan, Philippines, California, the Aleutian Islands, etc… have all had major quakes within the last year.

    As the Pacific plate shifts, the surrounding plates will also shift and Oklahoma has some major faults through it.
    After shifts in the middle of North America, expect quakes to spread to the Eastern US.

  4. much ado about nothing

    He did cite them even providing a link-underlined. I’m guessing you didn’t read the article very well which involves comprehension

  5. Fracking has been going on in Oklahoma since at least the 1940’s I don’t think it has anything to do with the earthquakes going on now

    • Vertical fracking has been in Oklahoma since 1949, but horizontal fracking is fairly new (1990s) as is the introduction of slickwater. When you go down 5,000-20,000 feet (1-4 miles), drill horizontally another 2,000-10,000 feet, pulverize all of the rock around the bore hole, and then fill it back with fluid when you are done, you are going to get some settling of the rock formations. Time will tell if it generates a large earthquake or not, but Oklahoma residents are going to have to live with earthquakes as long as they allow fracking. These earthquakes should not be surprising; we have known that fracking generates earthquakes for some time now, and Ohio has banned fracking as a result.

      The big concern is whether these earthquakes will cause fractures in the rock that allow all that toxic fluid they pumped into the wells to leak into the water table and permanently poison the groundwater.

      • Where do you get your info? They don’t use fluid to fill the formation! They use propant or man made sand. It is pumped down in a fluid that by the way is not toxic. Then said fluid is flowed back right after the well is complete, but before it is put into production. And you’re not talking about that big of an area around the well bore. I don’t see anyway that that small of a area can cause a quake that is felt for miles around. I think they need to talk to some real experts and get educated on the process here.

        • Exactly, Willie. It’s also worth mentioning that I feel there is a misunderstanding in how this entire drilling process works. The hydrocarbons are stored in the ground in small pore spaces. Fracking increases the connectivity and subsequently flow of the fluids, out of the source rock. I get that some people know this part…

          What I don’t think people understand is that hydrocarbon extraction isn’t really ‘removing’ any large amounts of subsurface volume.
          I think there is some assumption that there are large pits down in the ground where oil and gas are being removed (like mining) but what people fail to realize is that the over change in volume is relatively small. Its more or less a change in overall density. Rocks are not really being taken out, they are just being re-arranged to release fluid filled in the pores.

          So it’s not like there are subsurface formations collapsing because they can now no longer handle the lithostatic force above them anymore. There is just a huge amount of assumption and misinformation that creates so much fear something that should really be more of an intriguing situation. I wish this inspired people to learn more about the way the Earth works instead of falling prey to fear mongering.

          (I am a geologist.)

          • I’m asking simply because I don’t know, but with the change in density, and a porous subsurface, does that not effect the entire profile from top soil down to the bedrock?

          • As an yet to finish geology major. Some principles of rock mechanism comes to mind. First you would need to know the saturation of the fracking zone, I what was and if their is a change in the rock fluid porosity. And if the increase in the fluid creates unstable structure in the matrix. I know through overhearing civil engineering majors that shale is about the worst foundation to build on. Does the research deserve funding. Yes, is the current perception of economical gain out weighing current perception of geological risk, of course it is. Thats why I think the Oklahoma legislation should place a small per standard tax of extraction on current processes, postpone further development of new fields and expansion of current fields. Because to loose the foot of the American Sheild I belive would be a geological disaster. Please note I always seek the guidence of my elders.

        • The article we are commenting on sites a seismologist from the University of Texas, one of the preeminent fossil fuel extraction programs in the world. You don’t think the geo guys and the mine guys interact? I would posit that there is a much greater chance that your understanding of fluid dynamics, “mud” mass, and the potential effects horizontal fracking is the weakness here. And they remove the “mud” or slickwater, but the hole is definitely back filled. These are 3 and 4 mile long holes. You can’t just walk away.

        • Explorer652015

          You are exactly right. I grew up in the business. What we do around a well bore ( even horizantal ) is so very miniscual to the relation of volumn of material in a subject area it’s hardly measurable. Oklahoma is littered with fault. Those faults are created by a spliting ( actually do to shear force ) of a geological layer. This has gone on for millions of years before fracking started. It is so sad how easily people are baffled by BS.

      • I am just curious why the other 20 states that allow fracking, and it is going stronger in Wyoming than here are not having the same earthquakes? Surely they have injection wells too

    • Fracking that was done in the 1940s is nothing like the fracking going on now. In 2012, the number of horizontally drilled wells in Oklahoma surpassed for the first time the number of older-style vertically drilled wells. When a vertical well is fracked, it is usually 10-30′ of pipe that is perforated and fracked. In horizontal wells, that area fracked goes from 150′ to almost 2 miles in length…and usually 25,000+ horsepower forces up to a million gallons or more of fluid into those perforations to create large, porous fractures in the shale. So despite what you say, fracking as we know it today wasn’t around a decade ago, much less in the 1940s, at least in Oklahoma. As for disposal wells, which were earlier linked to quakes, Oklahoma has more than 11,000 non-commercial disposal wells in operation.

      • I challenge you to name just 200 waste water wells in Oklahoma…you see I used to haul waste water and it takes a special type of well to actually be a good disposal well…..all the time I hauled waste water in western and northern Oklahoma I only used 4 regular wastewater wells…..and we all know that waste water injection has to be regulated by the state….so please list just 200 of them out of the 11, 000 you claim are in use.

  6. Michael Keigan

    James, thanks for that comment. I, too, agree with your line of thought. The ‘Ring of Fire’/Pacific Rim has been rolling and quaking with more frequency and more ferocity over the last couple of years. I am not the most expert on fracking; but, I doubt that the fracking operations are anywhere close to the zone that most quakes come from. Quakes originate 10’s of miles below the surface. Does fracking go that far down? If people want to get all wound up on something from a geological standpoint – with all of the small quakes occurring in the mid-continent, shouldn’t more attention be paid to the New Madrid Fault or how about that super volcano in northwest Wyoming. If one of those lets go – it will be a bad day for everyone.

  7. fracking should be called hydralic jacking thats just what it is

  8. My first clue that fracking is not the cause of the earthquakes was the misleading picture of the destroyed road. The caption does not say that the picture was taken in Oklahoma. Enviromental extremists use this method a great deal. It gives the impression that there is wide spread damage by presenting a misleading picture.
    Any time the green movement wants to attack mining, the public is shown the 100 year old mining site at Butte, Montana. They never show the reclaimed land at the Usbelii coal mine in Alaska which sits next to Denali Park.
    Probably should take this article with several grains of salt.

    • No that was not Oklahoma. If it was we would have seen it on local news. Yes I am in the earthquake zone yes hey have increased. Yes I’m concerned. But no, there haven’t been damage near that. There was a light pole that had broke. That’s it.

  9. I need to learn a lot more about this fracking debate. I have trouble understanding how an activity (fracking) conducted 1 mile under the surface can cause crustal movements (earthquakes) 10 to 20 miles down, just as I have trouble with the same activity causing problems (contamination) with water wells that are only 100 to 200 feet deep.
    I can’t find any logical way to tie these things together.

    • The Oklahoma quakes are occurring at a depth of about 5-6km deep, which is the depth of the wells.

      If the cement around the bore hole is not properly done (as with the BP spill in the Gulf), or ground movements (earthquakes, heat/cold expansion, gravity-driven earth movements in clay) crack the seal, or any cracks exist in the bedrock between the water table and the horizontally drilled path, then either fracking fluid or methane gas can rise to the surface over time and pollute the groundwater.

    • It can’t!!

  10. They are using HARRP to cause the quakes, hoping to discourage our producing more gas and oil.

  11. I live in west Texas where we have tens of thousands of oil and gas wells of various depths, from 2000 feet to over 30,000 feet. ALL of which have been fracked and acidized to stimulate production. We’ve been fracking wells here in the Permian Basin since the late 1930s… least 75 years.

    We have NEVER had swarms of earthquakes in the Permian Basin where all these wells are located. And we have tens of thousands of saltwater injection wells in the area….I even have one on my small farm that injects 350,000 barrels of saltwater per month at a depth of 7000 feet.

    So, NO, I don’t believe fracking causes earthquakes….nor do saltwater injection wells.

    Get a life, people!

    • Or perhaps if you read the other comments, you would have differentiated vertical fracking from horizontal fracking. Horizontal is the new style that is causing quakes.

      “get a life”

  12. Fracking is simply the latest Environmentalist Wackoes’ whipping boy. They KNOW we’ve been fracking and acidizing wells to stimulate production for over 75 years. Their own statistics don’t support their allegations.

    It’s all hype to keep you too occupied to watch the GLAZIS (Global Socialists) turn the world into a dictatorship with freedom for no one but the Elite.

    They’ll fudge the results and pay off ‘experts’ to publish the wrong conclusions. Just beware. You can’t maintain our level of technological society without fossil fuels…..natural gas and oil. But, the GLAZIS don’t
    care about you and your family’s well being….you are just a peasant/servant. All the wealth and opulence
    is for them alone. You will starve.

    • I imagine you typing your comments in your mothers basement with a tin foil hat on your head, so the “predatory Scientists” don’t steal your mind grapes and melt your thought sicles. The scary shit is that I bet you vote.

    • Yea, Science is where ALL the money is. I see those wealthy scientists with their opulence everyday, while the poor destitute oil men have to walk to work. Those science guys get everything they want and the fossil fuel people have to beg for grant money or go out of business! It’s really really sad!!

    • Who the real environmental wackos are, are the science illiterate people who defend fracking and deregulation for the safety and profit of corporations. They’re the idiots who prefer money and jobs over health and safety. They’re like a monkey in a monkey trap… They won’t let go of that morsel of banana to save their own lives. For the first time, the life spans of middle-class, white Americans is shorting. It may not be from the poisoning of the water by fracking, but it’s from stupid thinking, like that of the fracking lovers.

  13. I live in an area of Colorado with more than 10,000 fractured or “fracked” wells all around me. (I can see several from my house). With all that, we haven’t had earthquakes, dead cattle, poisoned water wells or any other threatened effects. Geologists will tell you how there are many “undiscovered” faults which lay unknown until they suddenly become active. Example? Google “New Madrid Fault” and be prepared for a terrifying lesson. When (not if) the New Madrid ruptures again, we’ll see the midwest torn apart and our national infrastructure damaged on a level we’ve never seen. Oklahoma may be experiencing the awakening of one of these previously “undiscovered” faults.

    • The wells in Colorado are vertically fractured. Very different process from the horizontal fracturing which utilizes fracking mud, or slickwater (the nearly exclusive cause of fracking related groundwater contamination).

      Vertical fracking is a long used process that has varying levels of effectiveness to depths around 1 mile subterranean. Horizontal fracking is effective to much deeper (nearly 4 miles sub).

      Horizontal fracking is also effective at exacerbating seismic activity. There are many people who politicize this.

      If you push the doorbell, and hear the chimes, the argument could be made that the two things are not related, but I don’t think you’d be flooded with followers. This isn’t different. I am not naive enough to assume that any effect is beholden to a single cause, so your interest in super-seismic activity isn’t in conflict to with these realities.

  14. I was Kinda thinking it was because how Dry its been over the past few years.. and maybe the Water Tables are Collapsing? I Dunno. I dont think its Fracking though.

  15. There were a series of earthquakes in Poland township, Ohio that were proven to be from fracking in the Utica. What is it going to take to put 2+2 together and come up with 4!?!

    • Show us an article that proves that somehow! I don’t believe it. Do you even know about fracing operations? It’s to shallow, and to small of an area!

  16. I’m sure that no earthquakes occurred when the mountain range near Lawton was formed

    • Hahahaa. Mountain range near Lawton. I’ve been to Medicine park there, and climbed the ‘mountains’. Travel to Colorado or Montana and then back to Lawton and tell me if you still believe they’re mountains.

  17. So what you’re saying is you have no idea of what’s causing them and you just want to scare the shit out of people and blame the oil industry? Seems legit. Very scientific. Might, maybe, possibly, could…that’s all I’m getting from this. You need to be quiet.

  18. AintThatAmerica

    Haven’t we released massive amounts of pressure from mainly natural gas wells for decades? Wouldn’t this environmental change be enough to cause the quakes?

  19. I don’t believe fracking is in any way causing these earthquakes. As several people here have pointed out earthquake activity is increasing worldwide and if fracking did cause earthquakes it should cause them anywhere there is fracking. I think we are seeing a natural cycle and the article is correct that it could really affect metropolitan areas. So do tornadoes that hit metropolitan areas. People just hate not being in control and we can’t control natural disasters. Everyone wants to scream climate change or man made causes like fracking. Face it some things we are just not in control of.

  20. Yes, I live here & we had none of this until the oil/gas industry started the fracking…it did take a while but once they had permeated the the earth with their greed we are experiencing the same as those other communities have! It’s got to stopped!

  21. They have been fracking for over 50 years. Now all of a sudden its frackings fault. Sheeesh. Anyone ever stop to think that the Sauds and middle eastern countries that donate millions to hollywood might be putting millions into the US NOT drilling? You do know its in their best interest right for us to not drill. Way back when during the Oil Embargo of the early 70’s, Bush Sr went to SA and struck a deal with the Sauds. They would sell us all the oil we need in return we would sell them military equipment and make sure that the royal family stays in power. If we didnt need that oil from them, do you think they would be worried about that? Of course………..Remove urselves from the MSM propaganda.

  22. causing earthquakes, NOT FRACCING.

    The reporter has conflated the two in various parts of the article and confused a lot of people on this thread. Fraccing itself is of too short a duration to produce sizeable earthquakes; say above about 3.5

    However, when there is a lot of oil and gas drillling and production in an area, there are often deep water injection wells used to dispose of fluids. These wells result in increased pore pressures over significant periods of time and they can lubricate faults which can lead to increased seisimicity.

    The rocks have to be stressed beforehand. While most would think Oklahoma as seismically inactive because it contains the Ouachita (sp?) suture, it has some seismicity.

    Dams and geothermal drilling have also generated mostly small earthquakes. This all falls under a phenomenon known as injection induced seismicity.

  23. Deep well injections (of waste) were known to cause earthquakes in the 1980s, so that practice was stopped. I can’t help thinking it shouldn’t be a big surprise that deep well injections of fracking chemicals also cause earthquakes.

  24. First thought that you have no idea what you’re talking about… Fracking isn’t a drilling technique. It’s a completions technique you idiot. Read up a bit and then come back with a real argument.

  25. It’s the fault of the underground ET’s

  26. The Oklahoma Goverment has known all along that Oil companies have caused damage to tax payees houses all over the state, however they have their hands into big oil pockets no matter the cost. To blame the water table as the cause please explain the dust bowl area. When the bridges start collapsing then and only then will Government pull their hands out and do a class action lawsuit…. Once again, leaving the taxpayer to repair his own properties. Really? And we will go for it !

  27. Beware of misinformation!

    We have been cracking since the 50s.

    Frac’ing is not new, the earthquakes are.

    The cause is something else.

    Liberal Democrats are just trying to tax us with carbon tax

    Remember the lying bad yards promised you cheaper healthcare premiums, but we saw a 48 % increase national average!

  28. Beware of misinformation!

    We have been fracking since the 50s.

    Frac’ing is not new, the earthquakes are.

    The cause is something else.

    Liberal Democrats are just trying to tax us with carbon tax

    Remember the lying jerks promised you cheaper healthcare premiums, but we saw a 48 % increase national average!

  29. The author confuses hydraulic fracturing with fluid injection wells. Hydraulic fracturing for hydrocarbons only induces microseismic events that are only picked up by specialized devices. Injection wells have been linked to seismic activity manifested as earthquakes. These injection wells are different than fracking in that they are not drilled for oil or gas, but rather as a way to store wastewater underground. They are often drilled deeper than most oil wells and when drilled into a fault zone they have the ability to lubricate the fault by pumping the injected fluid. Waste fluid injected is often hydraulic fracture fluid so it is related to the hydraulic fracturing process, but not actually from the process of pumping fluid into a formation to break the rock and release hydrocarbons. Formations targeted for deep injection are more permeable (sand instead of shale) in order for there to be space to easily store waste fluid.

  30. Curious where the picture of the road was taken at. Certainly has no resemblance of the area around these earthquakes and almost looks like it was used to make the story look more alarming (why not go ahead and use the bridge collapse photo from the San Francisco earthquake?). Lots of unanswered questions that we need to find out to determine if this is man made or not, unfortunately most opinions are coming from unscientific views of both the oil companies and people who simply hate oil companies (but yet have done very little to make their lives less dependent on them).

  31. Why have all the seismic testing areas not been taken into consideration?? In these areas they are exploding things and Lord only knows what else. Blame it all on oil and gas. It can’t possibly be that we have two major fault lines under Oklahoma can it? The Earth is constantly shifting and changing but we have to place the blame somewhere right. Just so everyone has someone else they can go after. I am not saying fracking may or may not contribute. It may or may not be Biblical. It may or may not be just natural shifting in the tectonic plates. Seriously get a grip. Let’s just all have a reason to panic and sue someone. If it wasn’t earthquakes it would be something else. Let’s blame tornadoes on planes for moving through the air. Enough already!

  32. Harold Adkisson

    The earth is always moving and about 98% of all earthquakes are not reported in the media, however they are recorded. Most of the quakes are very small in nature and do not show any damage.

  33. Donna Clifford-Jones

    I am also astounded that the bible is brought into this discussion, like the scientists are inventing the earthquakes so industry can’t make money from oil and gas “fracking” in Oklahoma.

  34. I am probably younger than most of you at 25 years old but has anyone else noticed the biggest quakes here in oklahoma take place at odd times of the night? 1-5 am? That makes me think the quakes may not be caused by man but they are induced by man. Ultimately I think all of you are right in some way or another.

  35. You’re going to sit there and tell me that these earthquakes are a sign of the end of times, and not a direct result of horizontal drilling? Go back to Westboro, you uneducated sheep.

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