OU Prof's Man-Made Earthquake Theory Gains National Attention

Wednesday, March 27th 2013, 5:58 pm
By: Dana Hertneky

An OU professor's claim that last year's 5.7 earthquake in Prague's was man-made is gaining national attention.

The report, published in the journal Geology, is shaking things up when it comes to the debate over if large earthquakes can be caused by injecting water into the earth. The earthquake was the largest recorded in Oklahoma. Fourteen homes were destroyed and two people were injured. 

Dr. Katie Karanen put seismographs in the ground the day after the first quake then used that data for her research. She along with seismologists from Columbia University and the US Geological Survey found the quake was caused by wastewater from a nearby oil field injected back into the ground. 

The significance: Unlike other quakes that are caused shortly after water was injected, this time the injection had been going on for 20 years.

"Here it appears that the fluid was not able to move far away from the well and so as you add in more and more fluid, the pressure rose steadily." Karanen explained.

As evidence she points to steadily growing pressure in the well and the close proximity the injection wells to the November quakes.

However Seismologists with the Oklahoma Geological Survey, also on the OU campus, in the exact same building and using the exact same data, found something completely different.  

"It's the position of researchers here at the OGS that these earthquakes are completely consistent with naturally occurring earthquakes," said Seismologist Austin Holland. "We haven't seen the data that would force us to say otherwise."

Holland wrote a response to Keranen's paper in which he says there is no good correlation between the actual injection and the timing of the quake. In addition he says the quake's location and behavior are consistent with an earthquake caused by nature, not man.

Holland also says is new 3D seismic data that was not available in Karanen's research that also suggest the water injected could not have caused the earthquake.