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kottke.org posts about earthquakes

A timeline map of the massive increase in human-caused earthquakes in Oklahoma

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 24, 2017

In just the past 10 years, the number of earthquakes in the central US (and particularly Oklahoma) has risen dramatically. In the 7-year period ending in 2016, there were more than three times the number of magnitude 3.0+ earthquakes than in the previous 36 years. Above is a video timeline of Oklahoma earthquakes from 2004-2016. At around the midpoint of the video, you’ll probably say, “wow, that’s crazy”. Keep watching.

These earthquakes are induced earthquakes, i.e. they are caused by humans. Fracking can cause induced earthquakes but the primary cause is pumping wastewater back into the ground. From the United States Geological Survey’s page on induced earthquake myths & misconceptions (a summarized version of this paper):

Wastewater disposal wells typically operate for longer durations and inject much more fluid than hydraulic fracturing, making them more likely to induce earthquakes. Enhanced oil recovery injects fluid into rock layers where oil and gas have already been extracted, while wastewater injection often occurs in never-before-touched rocks. Therefore, wastewater injection can raise pressure levels more than enhanced oil recovery, and thus increases the likelihood of induced earthquakes.

Of course, this wastewater is a byproduct of any oil & gas production, including fracking. But specifically in Oklahoma’s case, the induced earthquakes have relatively little to do with fracking:

In contrast, in Oklahoma spent hydraulic fracturing fluid represents 10% or less of the fluids disposed of in salt-water disposal wells in Oklahoma (Murray, 2013). The vast majority of the fluid that is disposed of in disposal wells in Oklahoma is produced water. Produced water is the salty brine from ancient oceans that was entrapped in the rocks when the sediments were deposited. This water is trapped in the same pore space as oil and gas, and as oil and gas is extracted, the produced water is extracted with it. Produced water often must be disposed in injection wells because it is frequently laden with dissolved salts, minerals, and occasionally other materials that make it unsuitable for other uses.

Photos of the San Francisco earthquake 110 years ago

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 12, 2016

The San Francisco earthquake of 1906 and the resulting fires destroyed 500 blocks, 25,000 buildings, killed more than 3000 people, and left more than half the city homeless. Alan Taylor curated a selection of photos of the earthquake and aftermath. The most striking ones are those taken from an airship that show how complete and extensive the destruction was. I mean:

SF earthquake

Old Katmandu

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 30, 2015

From Kevin Kelly, a collection of photos he took of Katmandu, Nepal in 1976.

Katmandu

Katmandu

Katmandu

Nepal was recently affected by a 7.8 earthquake, which resulted in the deaths of more than 6000 people and much property damage.

Katmandu was an intensely ornate city that is easily damaged. The carvings, details, public spaces were glorious. My heart goes out to its citizens who suffer with their city. As you can see from these images I took in 1976, the medieval town has been delicate for decades. Loosely stacked bricks are everywhere. One can also see what splendid art has been lost. Not all has been destroyed, and I am sure the Nepalis will rebuild as they have in the past. Still, the earthquake shook more than just buildings.

If you look carefully you may notice something unusual about these photos. They show no cars, pedicabs, or even bicycles. At the time I took these images, Katmandu was an entirely pedestrian city. Everyone walked everywhere. Part of why I loved it. That has not been true for decades, so this is something else that was lost long ago. Also missing back then was signage. There are few signs for stores, or the typical wordage you would see in any urban landscape today. Katmandu today is much more modern, much more livable, or at least it was.

Oklahoma: earthquake country

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 09, 2015

The number of earthquakes in Oklahoma has increased dramatically over the past years. There are now more measurable quakes in OK than California or Alaska. Why? Fracking.

Oklahoma recorded more than three times as many earthquakes as California in 2014 and remains well ahead in 2015. Data from the U.S. Geological Survey shows that Oklahoma had 562 earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or greater in 2014; California had 180. As of Jan. 31, Oklahoma recorded 76 earthquakes of that magnitude, compared with California’s 10.

According to the Advanced National Seismic System global catalog, in 2014, Oklahoma even beat Alaska, the nation’s perennial leader in total earthquakes, though many small events in remote areas go unrecorded there.

2011 Virginia earthquake

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 23, 2011

This afternoon, an earthquake hit Virginia between Charlottesville and Richmond. It measured 5.9 on the Richter scale. For an earthquake, that’s in the “moderate” range but for an East Coast earthquake, it’s quite unusual. A look at the historical data for the eastern US states shows that this is the biggest quake to hit this coast since 1897 (a 5.9 in VA) and the second biggest of all time (well, since they started recording such things) after a 7.3 that hit South Carolina in 1886.

Uncovered 1906 San Francisco earthquake footage

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 05, 2010

The video is 17 minutes long; the first 6 minutes is a long drive during which you don’t see a whole lot of intact buildings…and many stretches with no buildings at all. See also a 1905 streetcar trip down Market Street. (via devour)

Five ways to trigger a natural disaster

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 30, 2008

Human activities can trigger natural disasters such as earthquakes and flooding.

“Dams are the most dangerous man-made structure likely to cause quake,” says David Booth of the British Geological Survey. By artificially holding a large volume of water in one place, dams increase pressure on fractures beneath the surface of the earth. What’s more, water has a lubricating effect, making it easier for the fractures — or faults — to slip.

Wedding then earthquake

posted by Jason Kottke   May 21, 2008

Absolutely incredible photos of a wedding and then an earthquake.

Can you imagine what it was like to have been photographing a wedding in Sichuan, China when 7.9 earthquake hit and shakes for three minutes? From what I understand, there were thirty-three missing guests in this church.

Last week’s earthquake in the Solomon Islands

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 10, 2007

Last week’s earthquake in the Solomon Islands raised the island of Ranongga 10 feet, including some previously submerged coral reefs and a sunken boat from WWII.

Satellites measuring the earth’s gravity from orbit

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 10, 2006

Satellites measuring the earth’s gravity from orbit detected a change in gravity from the massive earthquake that caused the tsunami in the Indian Ocean. “The gravity at the earth’s surface decreased by as much as about 0.0000015 percent, meaning that a 150-pound person would experience a weight loss of about one-25,000th of an ounce.”

Is Taipei 101, the world’s tallest building, causing

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 05, 2005

Is Taipei 101, the world’s tallest building, causing earthquakes? “The considerable stress might be transferred into the upper crust due to the extremely soft sedimentary rocks beneath the Taipei basin. Deeper down this may have reopened an old earthquake fault”. (thx, malatron)

Ill-timed Dairy Queen advertisement for their “Earthquake”

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 10, 2005

Ill-timed Dairy Queen advertisement for their “Earthquake” dessert. Officials say that the death toll has reached 22,000 from the eathquake that hit the northern parts of India and Pakistan on Saturday.