The Oklahoma Earthquakes

Starting in 2009 the state of Oklahoma has seen a dramatic increase in seismic activity. According to Wikipedia, it has gone from an average of less than two 3.0+ Mw earthquakes per year to hundreds in 2014 and 2015. This has been caused by increased drilling for oil and the subsequent pumping of waste water into disposal wells deep underground. Read more here. As a result of the increased seismic activity, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has released a new ‘damage map’ showing the risk of damage due to earthquakes significantly increased for the region. Read more about it here and find the map here.

Google Earth has a built in ‘Earthquakes’ layer found in the ‘Gallery’ layer. It only shows earthquakes over 3.0 Mw and as you zoom out it filters out the smaller ones. The result is that when looking at the whole of the continental U.S., Oklahoma doesn’t stand out as being particularly unusual.

However, the ‘Earthquakes’ layer is provided by the USGS and it is possible to obtain more detailed layers directly from them. Go here for automatic live feeds that show recent earthquakes, or here for more advanced queries.

If we choose the “Past 30 Days, M2.5+ Earthquakes” and “Colored by age”, the cluster in Oklahoma immediately becomes apparent:

We can also use the more advanced queries to compare 2008 and 2015:


Earthquakes 2.5+ Mw during 2008.


Earthquakes 2.5+ Mw during 2015.

To see the above in Google Earth download this KML file. The 2008 and 2015 datasets only cover the region around Oklahoma as the USGS website has a limit on the number of quakes allowed in a single query.

About Timothy Whitehead

Timothy has been using Google Earth since 2004 when it was still called Keyhole before it was renamed Google Earth in 2005 and has been a huge fan ever since. He is a programmer working for Red Wing Aerobatx and lives in Cape Town, South Africa.






PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.

Comments

  1. David Newton says

    The issue is that although these earthquakes are pretty much certainly being caused by fracking, they are tiny, tiny earthquakes that do not cause damage and are barely felt. If fracking causes an increase in damaging earthquakes, that would indeed be a real problem, but I’ve never seen that demonstrated. Until evidence of damaging earthquakes caused by fracking is provided this particular consequence of the process, whilst scientifically interesting is irrelevant from a policy point of view when deciding whether to grant the go-ahead for a fracking project.

    On the other hand there is a very real potential problem with fracking projects which is contamination of aquifers. That should very much be taken into account and should be a show-stopper for any fracking projects if shown to be a non-mitigatable risk.



PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.