Last night, a magnitude 4.8 Earthquake hit about 8 miles away from Conway Springs, Kansas — and it’s just the latest in a series of earthquakes that are hitting the state well known for Dorthy, Toto, and flying houses in tornadoes.
While it’s unclear at this point if this is the first major frack-quake to hit Kansas, this is one of the most recent major quakes in the region. The last major quake that hammered the state of Kansas was a 5.1 or 5.5 quake that hit in 1876, near Wamego. This particular quake, called the Manhattan Quake, was strong enough to tumble chimneys as far away as Kansas City, and created a two foot wave in a nearby river.
The quake yesterday would be one of the largest quakes in recent memory as far as Kansas is concerned, a state that — aside from the seismic shift away from good sense earlier this month when it elected Brownback again — experiences relatively little in the way of tectonic activity. The closest major fault to Kansas is the New Madrid fault, a well-known fault that unleashed a terrifying, San Andres-sized earthquake on the center of the country back in the 1800s — but that fault’s over 500 miles away.
For people used to living with tornadoes, the sudden uptick in earthquakes — especially in the south-central Kansas area — is a tectonic shift in the old paradigm of natural disasters.
Kansas isn’t alone; nearby Oklahoma has seen an uptick in earthquakes as well, with a study published in the journal Geology noting that the injection of waste water into wells 1-2 miles deep might have caused a 2011 earthquake. The USGS notes that there’s an anecdotal link between the two, suggesting that:
Activities that have induced felt earthquakes in some geologic environments have included impoundment of water behind dams, injection of fluid into the earth’s crust, extraction of fluid or gas, and removal of rock in mining or quarrying operations. In much of eastern and central North America, the number of earthquakes suspected of having been induced is much smaller than the number of natural earthquakes, but in some regions, such as the south-central states of the U.S., a significant majority of recent earthquakes are thought by many seismologists to have been human-induced. Even within areas with many human-induced earthquakes, however, the activity that seems to induce seismicity at one location may be taking place at many other locations without inducing felt earthquakes. In addition, regions with frequent induced earthquakes may also be subject to damaging earthquakes that would have occurred independently of human activity. Making a strong scientific case for a causative link between a particular human activity and a particular sequence of earthquakes typically involves special studies devoted specifically to the question.
Even if they’re not related, there’s definitely evidence connecting fracking to water pollution, and if it is related, I imagine the people of Kansas aren’t going to be too happy when they discover that Earthquake damage isn’t covered under most home owner’s insurance policies in the state.
h/t Zero Hedge