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Arkansas Earthquakes-Hundreds & Severity Increasing

Natural Disasters Earthquakes Arkansas 2011

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#1 Vapor Trails

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Posted 01 March 2011 - 12:25 PM

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The central Arkansas town of Greenbrier has been plagued for months by hundreds of small earthquakes, and after being woken up by the largest quake to hit the state in 35 years, residents said Monday they're unsettled by the increasing severity and lack of warning.

The U.S. Geological Survey recorded the quake at 11 p.m. Sunday, centered just northeast of Greenbrier, about 40 miles north of Little Rock. It was the largest of more than 800 quakes to strike the area since September in what is now being called the Guy-Greenbrier earthquake swarm.

The activity has garnered national attention and researchers are studying whether there's a possible connection to the region's natural gas drilling industry. The earthquake activity varies each week, though as many as nearly two dozen small quakes have occurred in a day.

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What woke Tarkington was a magnitude 4.7 earthquake that was also felt in Oklahoma, Missouri, Tennessee and Mississippi. No injuries or major damage have been reported, but the escalation in the severity of quakes in and around the small north-central Arkansas town has many residents on edge. Some said they're seeing gradual damage to their homes, such as cracks in walls and driveways.

"We probably had 40 to 50 calls last night," Greenbrier police Sgt. Rick Woody said, noting that the tone of the calls had changed. After pervious quakes, most callers simply wanted to find out if a loud noise they'd heard was an earthquake, he said.

"The fear had calmed down until last night," Woody said Monday. "People's biggest concerns (now) are whether or not these earthquakes are going to get any bigger."

Scott Ausbrooks, seismologist for the Arkansas Geological Survey, said Sunday's record quake was at the "max end" of what scientists expect to happen, basing that judgment on this swarm and others in the past. It's possible that a quake ranging from magnitude 5.0 to 5.5 could occur, but anything greater than that is highly unlikely, he said.

Ausbrooks said he plans to hold a town hall meeting in Greenbrier next month to address people's concerns.

"This quake actually scared folks," he said. "It lasted longer than a lot of the others did."

Ausbrooks said scientists continue to study whether there may be a connection between the earthquakes and local injection wells, where the natural gas industry pumps waste water that can no longer be used by drillers for hydraulic fracturing. Fracturing, or "fracking," involves injecting pressurized water to create fractures deep in the ground to help free the gas.

Geologists don't believe the fracturing is the problem, but possibly the injection wells.

A major source of the state's natural gas is the Fayetteville Shale, an organically-rich rock formation in north-central Arkansas. A six-month moratorium was established in January on new injection wells in the area to allow time to study the relationship if any between the wells and the earthquakes.

In Greenbrier, many residents are starting to notice gradual damage. Tarkington said her house has started to show cracks in ceilings and walls.

"You can see the wear and tear on our houses," she said. "I wish they'd go away."

:unsure:
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#2 Nonny

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Posted 01 March 2011 - 12:39 PM

View PostAnalog Kid, on 01 March 2011 - 12:25 PM, said:

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The activity has garnered national attention and researchers are studying whether there's a possible connection to the region's natural gas drilling industry. The earthquake activity varies each week, though as many as nearly two dozen small quakes have occurred in a day.
My heart goes out to the folks affected by this.  I have been wondering lately if anyone was studying the effects of drilling, particularly in connection to earthquakes.
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#3 Vapor Trails

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Posted 01 March 2011 - 01:16 PM

What would be causing the quakes, though, if they are related to the frakking?
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#4 Bad Wolf

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Posted 01 March 2011 - 01:38 PM

My heart also goes out to those affected.

Mother nature is now having her say.
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#5 Orpheus

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Posted 01 March 2011 - 04:16 PM

Though the link is conjectural (but plausible to me), and that fault system is VERY little-studied compared to say the San Andreas (CA)  and New Madrid (MO) systems, I feel I should point out that, even if proven, such a link could be a GOOD thing.

The salt-water injections don't CAUSE earthquakes. no one is saying that (Well, a lot of people are literally saying it, but they're abusing the language) The CAUSE of the earthquakes is millennia of stored geological stress. The water may act as a lubricant, allowing small slippages (the mass of rock involved in earthquakes is incomprehensible and far greater than any drilling operation). That fits the observed pattern of frequent small earthquakes, mostly centered at a depth of 3-5mi, the range of the current drilling.

This could be a safer better way to release stored geological stress. That's not to say that this is entirely safe (small slippages can trigger larger ones) or even desirable (people will always choose an unpredictable cataclysm 1000 years from now over equally unpredictable but relatively limited catastrophe today)

I just wanted to point that out because it takes some of the edge off some of the hysteria I've read in some quarters over the possible role of drilling. I wouldn't be surprised if we someday used scheduled controlled releases of this kind to defuse earthquakes (of course we'd have to know a lot more than we do now) Even if it did occasionally cause an unexpectedly destructive quake, the invisible time bombs are ticking regardless. It might be a reasonable risk to trigger one a little earlier, in the course of defusing many, more safely.

#6 Cybersnark

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Posted 01 March 2011 - 06:01 PM

Yeah, my best wishes to those at risk.

View PostBad Wolf, on 01 March 2011 - 01:38 PM, said:

Mother nature is now having her say.
Clearly, the lesson here is "don't frack with mother nature." :bemused:

I'm sorry.

Edited by Cybersnark, 01 March 2011 - 06:01 PM.

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#7 Cheile

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Posted 01 March 2011 - 06:02 PM

hope they never have a severe one.  little ones are bad enough, moderate ones are worse.  living in Earthquake State, USA, i feel their pain.

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