Oklahoma rocked by 5.6-magnitude earthquake


By: Logan Pierce, editor-in-chief

Remember, remember, the fifth of November

As preparations were made for daylight savings time in Oklahoma, the clocks weren’t the only things that fell back. This was due to a record-breaking 5.6-magnitude earthquake, which occurred Saturday.

Geologists believe the 4.7-magnitude earthquake, which hit early Saturday morning, was a foreshock for the record-breaker that occurred later that night.

Oklahoma is not the only state experiencing an increase in earthquake activity; some Arkansas residents have blamed their state’s sudden spike in seismic shudders on injection wells.

What the Frack?

Natural gas companies use hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to break apart shale and rock using fluid, in order to release natural gas. Injection wells then dispose of the fluid by injecting it back into the ground.

According to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC), which oversees Oklahoma’s oil and gas production, there are 181 injection wells in the Oklahoma county where most of the weekend earthquakes occurred.

Natural gas companies claim there is no proof of a connection between injection wells and earthquakes, and a study released earlier this year by Austin Holland, Oklahoma Geological Survey seismologist, seems to back that up. Holland said most of Oklahoma’s seismic activity didn’t appear to be tied to the wells, although more investigation was needed.

Professor Perspective

Eric Johnson, professor of geosciences, discussed with his students what causes earthquakes to occur.

Johnson said that while fracking could result in minor seismic activity, it is unlikely that fracking would be capable of generating the long-term geological pressure needed to induce the recent earthquakes.

“At this point, it is more likely to suspect the earthquakes were caused by natural shifts in the Earth’s crust,” Johnson said.

Flights of Frenzy

Steve Carano, professor of earth and physical sciences, said the earthquake caused birds and insects to take flight en mass, creating changes in air patterns strong enough to register on radar used to track weather patterns.

The National Weather Forecast Service office in Norman is located just 70 miles west of the epicenter of the quake.

Their radar system shows that at 10:50 p.m. Saturday everything looked still. The next shot, taken at 10:53 p.m. when the quake hit, shows a massive shift in the area surrounding Norman.

“The winds were calm that night,” Carano said, “A simultaneous movement of birds and insects flying in low altitude is what caused the shift.”

Scientists see no reason to think this earthquake is an isolated incident. Though unsure as to why these earthquakes are occurring now, the belief is that the Sooner state can expect more tremors sooner rather than later.

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