Is fracking causing Oklahoma Earthquakes?

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oklahoma earthquakes

O! And WTF?!

Oklahoma has now surpassed California in the number of earthquakes felt this year!

The U.S. Geological Survey has recorded eight small earthquakes shaking central Oklahoma in a span of about 30 hours.

Through May of this year, they experienced 145 with a magnitude of 3.0 or higher. And just last weekend there were four at 3.0 or higher… and around 2a.m. Tuesday morning there was yet another one! Geologists are warning that a big one (bigger than the 5.6 quake in 2011) is on the way. 

Is the steep increase in Oklahoma earthquakes related to fracking? Or is it merely a coincidence?

In this week’s Green Divas myEARTH360 Report, we pondered this somewhat freaky uptick in quakes. Oklahoma is known for its tornado alley location, not its fault lines. Listen here…

The stats…

(includes only 1.5 or greater magnitude Oklahoma earthquakes):

  • 27 earthquakes in the past 7 days
  • 122 earthquakes in the past month
  • 847 earthquakes in the past year

Here’s what makes all this seismic activity a bit suspicious: From two to six normally recorded per year during 1972-2008 and in 2010, 1,047 tremors were recorded with 103 powerful enough to be felt.

The debate about whether all these Oklahoma earthquakes have anything to do with fracking isn’t new. National Geographic’s Joe Eaton wrote this back in March of 2013:

Advanced methods of oil and gas drilling create massive amounts of toxic wastewater. For example, hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, uses high-pressure water to unlock natural gas from shale formations. Drillers also use water to force oil from wells that cannot be captured through traditional methods, part of a practice known as “enhanced oil recovery.” (See related interactive: “Breaking Fuel from the Rock.”)

The use of such methods has exploded in the United States in recent years, contributing to the domestic boom in shale gas and oil production. Much of the wastewater that emerges as a byproduct is pumped into wells beneath the earth’s surface for disposal.

Although the controversial practice of fracking has been directly linked to at least two seismic events (small tremors in Garvin County, Oklahoma and Lancashire, England), the wastewater injection that follows fracking is much more likely to set the earth shaking. That’s because injection wells receive far more water than fracking sites, said Katie Keranen, lead author of the Geology study. And unlike at fracking sites, the water is not removed. As pressure builds in these disposal wells, it pushes up against geological faults, sometimes causing them to rupture, setting off an earthquake. (See related blog post: “Tracing Links Between Fracking and Earthquakes.”)

This June CBS News toured an Oklahoma home and during the visit, a 3.8-magnitude earthquake struck 10 miles away.

Take Action!

Click here to sign the No Fracking Now petition.


Listen to the latest Green Divas Radio Show

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About the author / 

Green Diva Lynn

Lynn Hasselberger is co-founder of GDGD Radio, Managing Editor of The Green Divas blog and Producer of the Green Divas Radio Show. She's also a mom, writer and award-winning cat-herder who lives in Chicagoland. Sunrises, running, yoga, chocolate and comedy are just a few of her fave things. In her rare moments of spare time, she blogs at and She hopes to make the world a better place, have more fun, re-develop her math skills and overcome her fear of public speaking.

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