New map shows rise in human-caused earthquake risk

This piece appeared on on March 28, 2016:

Most people associate Oklahoma with weather-related disasters: tornado outbreaks, massive wildfiresLawrence of Arabia-style dust stormstumbleweed maelstroms. But thanks to oil and gas wastewater injected deep into the ground, parts of the state can now also claim the dubious distinction of being among the most likely places in the United States to experience a damaging earthquake in 2016.

On Monday, the U.S. Geological Survey unveiled an earthquake hazard forecast for the central and eastern parts of the country that for the first time includes human-caused quakes, referred to in technical parlance as “induced seismicity.” The report suggests that seven million people in parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and Arkansas face increased risks from human-induced earthquakes in the next year.

The risks appear most widespread and significant in north-central Oklahoma and a tiny sliver of southern Kansas, where a large area has a 5 to 12 percent chance per year of an earthquake that can cause buildings to crack and, in rare cases, collapse. That’s comparable to risks in parts of more seismically famous California, USGS scientists said at a press conference on Monday. More…