TIME natural disaster

7 Quakes Hit Oklahoma in Less Than a Day

Oil Drilling Earthquakes
Computer screens displaying data of real-time monitoring of seismic activity throughout the state of Oklahoma are pictured at the Oklahoma Geological Survey at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, Okla., Thursday, June 26, 2014. Earthquakes that have shaken Oklahoma communities in recent months have damaged homes, alarmed residents and prompted lawmakers and regulators to investigate what's behind the temblors — and what can be done to stop them. Sue Ogrocki—AP

The biggest temblor clocked in at 4.3 on the Richter scale

Oklahoma was rocked by seven small earthquakes in a span of about 14 hours over the weekend, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

Three quakes hit between Saturday evening and Sunday morning, centered in the areas of Guthrie, Jones and Langston, and ranging between 2.6 and 2.9 in magnitude. They followed four larger temblors earlier on Saturday, including one near Langston shortly after noon that clocked in at 4.3 on the Richter scale.

TIME Alaska

Tsunami Warning Issued After 7.1 Earthquake Off Alaska

(ANCHORAGE) — Tsunami warning issued for part of Aleutian Islands after 7.1 earthquake off Alaska.

TIME

The Seismic Link Between Fracking and Earthquakes

Environmentalists fear that fracking could cause more quakes if it expands to California Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

New research indicates that wastewater disposal wells—and sometimes fracking itself—can induce earthquakes

Ohio regulators did something last month that had never been done before: they drew a tentative link between shale gas fracking and an increase in local earthquakes. As fracking has grown in the U.S., so have the number of earthquakes—there were more than 100 recorded quakes of magnitude 3.0 or larger each year between 2010 and 2013, compared to an average of 21 per year over the preceding three decades. That includes a sudden increase in seismic activity in usually calm states like Kansas, Oklahoma and Ohio—states that have also seen a rapid increase in oil and gas development. Shale gas and oil development is still growing rapidly—more than eightfold between 2007 and 2o12—but if fracking and drilling can lead to dangerous quakes, America’s homegrown energy revolution might be in for an early end.

But seismologists are only now beginning to grapple with the connection between oil and gas development and earthquakes. New research being presented at the annual meeting of the Seismological Society of America this week shows that wastewater disposal wells—deep holes drilled to hold hundreds of millions of gallons of fluid produced by oil and gas wells—may be changing the stress on existing faults, inducing earthquakes that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. Those quakes can occur tens of miles away from the wells themselves, further than scientists had previously believed. And they can be large as well—researchers have now linked two quakes in 2011 with a magnitude greater than 5.0 to wastewater wells.

“This demonstrates there is a significant hazard,” said Justin Rubinstein, a research geophysicist at the U.S. Geological Survey. “We need to address ongoing seismicity.”

Rubinstein was speaking on a teleconference call with three other seismologists who have been researching how oil and gas development might be able to induce quakes. All of them noted that the vast majority of wastewater disposal sites and oil and gas wells weren’t connected to increased quake activity—which is a good thing, since there are more than 30,000 disposal wells alone scattered around the country. But scientists are still trying to figure out which wells might be capable of inducing strong quakes, though the sheer volume of fluid injected into the ground seems to be the driving factor (that’s one reason why hydraulic fracturing itself rarely seems to induce quakes—around 5 million gallons, or 18.9 million L, of fluid is used in fracking, far less than the amount of fluid that ends up in a disposal well).

“There are so many injection operations throughout much of the U.S. now that even though a small fraction might induce quakes, those quakes have contributed dramatically to the seismic hazard, especially east of the Rockies,” said Arthur McGarr, a USGS scientist working on the subject.

What scientists need to do is understand that seismic hazard—especially if oil and gas development in one area might be capable of inducing quakes that could overwhelm structures that were built for a lower quake risk. That’s especially important given that fracking is taking place in many parts of the country—like Oklahoma or Ohio—that haven’t had much experience with earthquakes, and where both buildings and people likely have a low tolerance to temblors. Right now there’s very little regulation regarding how oil and gas development activities should be adjusted to reduce quake risk—and too little data on the danger altogether.

“There’s a very large gap on policy here,” says Gail Atkinson, a seismologist at the University of Western Ontario. “We need extensive databases on the wells that induce seismicity and the ones that don’t.”

So far the quakes that seem to have been induced by oil and gas activity have shaken up people who live near wells, but haven’t yet caused a lot of damage. But that could change if fracking and drilling move to a part of the country that already has clear existing seismic risks—like California, which has an estimated 15 billion barrels of oil in the Monterey Shale formation that could only be accessed through fracking (limited fracking has been done in California, but only in the lightly populated center of the state). Environmentalists who seek to block shale oil development in the Golden State have seized on fears of fracking-induced quakes, and a bill in the state legislature would establish a moratorium on fracking until research shows it can be done safely.

Regulation is slowly beginning to catch up. In Ohio, officials this month established new guidelines that would allow regulators to halt active hydraulic fracturing if seismic monitors detect a quake with a magnitude of 1.0 or higher. But it will ultimately be up to the oil and gas industry to figure out a way to carry out development without making the earth shake.

“I am confident that it is only a matter of time before we figure out how to exercise these technologies in a way that avoids significant quakes,” says Atkinson. Otherwise the fracking revolution may turn out to be short-lived.

TIME Earthquake

Tsunami Warning Issued After Solomon Islands Quake

The 7.5 earthquake occurred 69 miles south of Kirakira on the Solomon Islands Sunday morning, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The tremors could lead to a violent tsunami, warned the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center has issued a tsunami warning for the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Papa New Guinea after a magnitude 7.5 earthquake shook the Pacific.

The earthquake occurred 69 miles south of Kirakira on the Solomon Islands Sunday morning, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. It was initially categorized a magnitude 7.7 before being revised down to a 7.5.

The tremors could lead to a violent tsunami, warned the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. Authorities in the region were advised to take action.

“An earthquake of this size has the potential to generate a destructive tsunami that can strike coastlines in the region near the epicenter within minutes to hours,” warned the PTWC.

An 8.0 magnitude earthquake in February 2013 set off a tsunami that killed at least five people in a remote part of the Solomon Islands, Al Jazeera reported at the time.

TIME Nicaragua

Nicaragua on Red Alert as Aftershocks Follow 6.1 Magnitude Quake

An earthquake earlier Friday injured 200 and was linked to one death.

The president of Nicaragua issued the country’s highest earthquake alert level Friday as ongoing aftershocks rock the area after a 6.1 magnitude earthquake struck the country earlier in the day, the Associated Press reports.

The alert forced some schools to close and 155 people in at-risk areas to be evacuated.

The government said 200 people were injured and one 23-year-old woman died of a heart attack after the initial earthquake. It also said 800 homes were damaged in the town of Nagarote, about 30 miles northwest of the capital, Managua.

[AP]

TIME

Rahul Singh: First Responder for the World

+ READ ARTICLE

Toronto paramedic Rahul Singh made the TIME 100 list in 2010 for his work saving lives in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake. Now, his global team of first responders at GlobalMedic treat thousands in Syria, the Philippines and other disaster zones.

TIME society

Hear the Los Angeles Philharmonic Play Through a 5.1 Earthquake

Now this is dedication to art

+ READ ARTICLE

The Los Angeles Philharmonic was six minutes into a performance of Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe on March 28 when a 5.1 earthquake shook Southern California. While lights flickered and patrons ran for the exits inside Walt Disney Concert Hall, the musicians played on.

(h/t: @JimmyOrr)

TIME South America

Powerful Aftershock Rocks Chile a Day After Massive Earthquake

A resident walks along a damaged road after an earthquake and tsunami hit the northern port of Iquique
A resident walks along a damaged road to Alto Hospicio commune after an earthquake and tsunami hit the northern port of Iquique April 2, 2014. Ivan Alvarado - Reuters

A 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit northern Chile late on Wednesday night, shaking the same area where a more powerful earthquake hit just a day before and caused some damage and six deaths

A massive aftershock struck northern Chile on Wednesday night, just a day after an earthquake prompted evacuations of cities along the coast, generated a 7-ft tsunami that crashed into the country’s northern coast, and set off tsunami warnings across the Pacific.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center posted a regional tsunami warning after Wednesday’s aftershock, but said there were no indications of a substantial threat to communities elsewhere in the Pacific.

Wednesday night’s 7.8 magnitude quake was the largest of myriad aftershocks in the past 24 hours and struck about 14 miles south of Iquique, setting off evacuations in northern Chile, where six people were killed by the quake on Tuesday.

 

TIME natural disaster

5 Dead After Huge Quake Hits off Coast of Chile

An 8.2-magnitude earthquake off the Chilean coast sparked tsunami warnings along Peru and Ecuador and throughout the Pacific as far as Hawaii. President Michelle Bachelet declared the Arica, Parinacota and Tarapacá regions as disaster zones

Updated 5:25 a.m. E.T. on Wednesday

At least five people died and three were injured after a massive earthquake struck off of Chile late Tuesday, officials said, sending waves crashing into coastal towns in the country, prompting evacuations across Latin America’s Pacific coast and tsunami warnings as far away as Hawaii.

During a news conference late on Tuesday, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet declared the Arica, Parinacota and Tarapacá regions as disaster zones, but reported that the evacuation of communities along the country’s Pacific coast was proceeding in an orderly fashion.

Officials rescinded their initial blanket warnings late on Tuesday after fears of a potential tsunami had sparked alerts throughout countries across the Pacific coastline and put officials thousands of miles away in Hawaii on standby. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center had initially extended tsunami warnings to five countries following the quake, but as of late Tuesday night, only Chile and Peru remained on the list.

Warnings of a tsunami began circulating after the 8.2-magnitude earthquake struck 61 miles off the port city of Iquique in Chile’s northern mining region. The U.S. Geological Survey recorded the earthquake at 8:46 p.m. local time some 12 miles below the seabed. Waves as high as 7 ft. reportedly hit Iquique in the quake’s wake.

Chile’s Interior Minister Rodrigo Peñailillo said a tsunami warning would remain in place in the country for the next six hours. Peñailillo said 300 inmates had escaped from a women’s prison in Iquique after the facility was damaged. Security officials were later deployed to the city and at least 26 of the inmates had been recaptured.

As areas in coastal Chile were evacuated and residents relocated to higher ground, there were early reports that landslides were blocking roads and making it harder for residents to evacuate. However, there were no reports of major damage or serious injuries caused by the quake.

The Iquique area of Chile experienced numerous tremors last month following a relatively powerful 6.7-magnitude quake that hit on March 16, heightening fears that a larger earthquake might strike, Reuters reports.

Chile was devastated by an 8.8-magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami in 2010.

Magnitude eight earthquake off the coast of Chile
USGS/EPA
NOAA
NOAA
TIME Natural Disasters

Magnitude 5.1 Earthquake Strikes Los Angeles

California Earthquake
A car sits overturned on a highway in the Carbon Canyon area of Brea, Calif., March 28, 2014, after hitting a rock slide caused by an earthquake. Kevin Warn—AP

The magnitude-5.1 quake, which occurred Friday at around 9:09 p.m. Pacific Time, burst water mains and caused Disneyland to halt rides as a precaution. It was followed by a 4.1-magnitude aftershock on Saturday afternoon

Updated 6:08 PM ET

A magnitude 5.1 earthquake struck Los Angeles Friday evening, breaking water mains in a local community and rattling neighborhoods in Southern California.

The earthquake struck at 9:09 p.m. Pacific Time on Friday, centering about 20 miles east of downtown Los Angeles near La Habra, Reuters reports. No injuries or substantial structural damage were reported.

A 4.1-magnitude aftershock was reported Saturday afternoon, according to the AP.

The quake was felt between Palm Springs in the east and Ventura County to the north, prompting Disneyland to halt park rides as a precaution. Several water mains in Fullerton ruptured, spilling water into the streets.

Friday night’s earthquake is the second major tremor to hit the area in two weeks, after a recent magnitude 4.4 quake hit north of Los Angeles.

[Reuters]

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