Earthquake damage

United State Geological Survey map displays areas with the most potential to experience damage from natural or human-induced earthquakes in 2016.

Map provided by USGS

When the U.S. Geological Survey released maps on Monday displaying hazards for both natural and human-induced earthquakes, we were troubled to see Oklahoma on that map looking as bad or worse than California.

This is the first time the maps have included induced seismicity information.

We hope the report doesn’t threaten real estate values or thwart any business deals eyeing Oklahoma.

Let’s keep the data in perspective. Earthquake numbers are not growing exponentially like they were before the petroleum industry started cooperating with the regulatory Oklahoma Corporation Commission.

Much of the recent seismicity in the state has been concentrated in a specific area in northwest Oklahoma, near Waynoka, said Oklahoma Geological Survey Director Jeremy Boak.

While another magnitude 5.1 quake is not impossible, we certainly hope that doesn’t happen.

With concern over earthquake swarms evolving, self-reporting energy companies have been cooperating with the OCC, which is getting better resources to get closer to permanent policy solutions.

“We need better seismic and industrial data,” said Justin Rubinstein, deputy chief of USGS Induced Seismicity Project, adding more seismograms can help better determine the location and depth of earthquakes. “We need the industrial data telling us injection volumes and pressures where they’re injecting. If we can connect those in time and space, we will have a better idea.” 

The silver lining is the timing. We’re lucky this is happening when the oil industry is flat on its back and production is down for economic reasons. The slowdown in oil exploration is having an effect.

We hope math looks entirely different in five years.

For now, it would be nice to just see the number of quakes stabilizing and even better to record a decline.

The ace in the hole for us is that man-made quakes can be stopped by man.

That just-released map could look a whole lot different in five years in Oklahoma, but still look the same in California.

Here’s hoping the number and severity of Oklahoma earthquakes taper off by year’s end so we know the measures taken are working. 

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