Modern technology helps mankind to do a lot of things that previous generations may never have imagined would be possible. Satellites, for example, continue to let us monitor both other planets as well as our own. Fracking allows us to drill for oil deep within the Earth’s crust; oil we use for fuel in transportation, heating, and electricity generation.
Both of these advancements have helped us to develop new understandings of and adaptations to the planet.
But new satellite data also shows that modern fracking has been the cause of earthquakes. Satellite data taken from the Japanese Advanced Land Observing Satellite (ALOS) shows various changes in the height of the ground over many fracking wastewater wells. The study shows, basically, that fracking’s wastewater injection process has caused earthquakes in Timpson, Texas.
In 2012, the area suffered a 4.8 magnitude earthquake, which is the largest such event ever to be measured in the entire Lone Star State.
“Our research is the first to provide an answer to the questions of why some wastewater injection causes earthquakes, where it starts, and why it stops,” explains study co-author William Ellsworth, who is a geophysics professor at Stanford University’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences.
In addition—and perhaps more importantly—the US Geological Survey had never supported a single earthquake in the whole of the Dallas-Fort Worth area. However, since 2008, they have recorded nearly 200 events. This is a sixfold increase of earthquakes over historic levels. Similarly, Oklahoma has experienced a 160-fold increase in earthquakes, to the point that some people have been hospitalized and both buildings and highways have been damaged. And the Texas earthquakes recorded in 2014 have surpassed the rate of frequency of California.
Researchers are now saying these findings massively highlight the importance of gaining more understanding of local geology before initiating wastewater injection; more understanding of the relationship between how the technology we develop to improve business ventures dramatically effect the planet.
Indeed, Stanford adjunct professor for energy resources engineering, Mark McClure comments, “States need to do a much better job of gathering the data and making it available to the public so these sorts of studies are possible. Specifically, monthly injection volumes for every well.”