Fracking Related Earthquakes Revive “Duck and Cover” in Schools

January 27, 2015

Safety drills for children in areas impacted by swarms of earthquakes, which could be related to fracking for oil and gas, or underground disposal of fracking related wastes.
The images bring up memories of civil defense “duck and cover” drills from the cold war 1950s.

Here, the original 1950’s “Duck and Cover” film.


Senaida Martinez throws her head back and points a finger up.  She makes her way carefully around her kitchen table, eyes fixed above, finger tracing in the air the long winding route of a thin fracture that runs across the ceiling and out into the hallway.

“This one was old. We patched it up. But then it got opened again, so that’s new,” she says.

The new crack doesn’t bother her; the house is old and besides she’s only renting it. But it means there’s been another earthquake, and that’s starting to get on her nerves.

There have been dozens of earthquakes in the past few months. They now average about one a day, although some days bring many more. Martinez says she recently felt 12 earthquakes in one day.  They’ve all been small, usually less than magnitude 3.0, the kind of earthquakes Californians shrug off all the time.But Martinez lives in Irving, Texas, known for floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires, not earthquakes.

So something has changed to suddenly set the ground trembling. Martinez thinks it’s the stepped-up fracking.

Fracking is the hydraulic fracturing of rock and shale with millions of litres of high-pressure water mixed with chemicals to help unlock the oil and gas underground. It has led to an impressively bankable energy boom in Texas and other parts of the United States. The wastewater from fracking is injected into disposal wells. Geophysicists say if that water finds its way into an underground fault it can lead to the fault slipping, possibly resulting in an earthquake.

It’s not clear whether that’s happening in Irving, but the possibility has raised further questions in the Martinez household.

Senaida Martinez says the earthquakes may be a tipoff that underground chemical-laden wastewater from fracking is not only slipping into fault lines but also seeping into the groundwater.

North Texas is in the clutch of a surprising cluster of earthquakes, leaving many searching for a root cause.

In 2008, the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex suffered its first earthquakes in recorded history, and since then, as the Dallas Morning News reports, there have been over 120 minor quakes in the area.

The Dallas Morning News says that the United States Geological Survey (USGS) will most likely ramp up the earthquake risk for Dallas-Fort Worth, according to agency chief Mark Petersen. Petersen heads the USGS National Seismic Hazard Project in Golden, Colorado.

Those living in the central and eastern U.S. have felt five times as many earthquakes annually from 2010 to 2013 than they did between 1970 and 2000, and scientists have connected some of these quakes to hydraulic fracturing, well known as fracking.

Fracking itself rarely causes earthquakes, but the way the oil and gas industry disposes of the materials used in fracking has been scientifically shown to cause earthquakes, NPR reports. Crews inject the fluids used during fracking into disposal wells thousands of feet underground. If these fluids come into contact with a fault, the reaction can cause a tremor.

Petersen says the USGS is working to understand the recent uptick in earthquakes in the U.S. and how it relates to human activities.

The Dallas Morning News reports that two quake clusters in recent years — one near the DFW Airport and the other in Cleburne, Texas — have been linked to fracking.

On Jan. 20, 2015, four more earthquakes struck Irving, Texas, all between magnitude 2.0-3.0, NBC DFW reports. Since October, at least three dozen earthquakes have struck the region.

Fracking caused hundreds of earthquakes along a previously undiscovered fault line in Ohio. That’s the conclusion of research by scientists at Instrumental Software Technologies, Inc. (ISTI) and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), who published their findings in the most recent issue of the journal Seismological Research Letters (SRL).

“There were earthquakes where there had not been any in the past records,” ISTI’s Paul Friberg, a seismologist and paper co-author, told “Not just 10 earthquakes, but about 500 much smaller ones that could only be observed using an advanced data processing technique.” Though many of the quakes were positive magnitude — as in a magnitude of 0.1 or greater — they were all more than two miles below the surface, making them too deep to be felt.

To get to these results, Friberg and colleagues looked at data from National Science Foundation seismographs located near the hydraulic fracturing sites. (The seismographs were in place for a different experiment.) They then compared that information to a publicly available ODNR map of oil and gas wells. The earthquakes all coincided with fracking operations nearby.

“The remarkable similarity of waveforms between all of the earthquakes detected during the hydraulic fracturing operations and afterward indicates a common source,” the researchers wrote in their paper. “Based on all of these corroborating pieces of evidence, it is most probable that hydraulic fracturing on the Ryser wells induced the 2013 Harrison earthquake sequence.”


4 Responses to “Fracking Related Earthquakes Revive “Duck and Cover” in Schools”

  1. Andy Lee Robinson Says:

    There’s no “could be caused” about earthquakes and fracking – you can see clusters of them happening in real time here:

    Having followed this site for years, this amounts to definitive proof for me.

  2. jimbills Says:

    Draw a line going north-south in the middle of the city of Dallas, and extend it for 100 miles in both directions. Anything west of that line going out 100 miles (and further) is “fracking country”. Anything east of that line within the 100 mile diameter is not. That’s a rough approximation, but it’s largely correct.

    The earthquakes all occurred on the west side. There weren’t any on the east side.

    The local government, though, chooses ignorance when examining the matter:

    Tied with fracking are the really rotten ozone levels in the area. This is a good article about it:

  3. jimbills Says:

    Last year in Irving, Texas:

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: