Midwest Earthquakes Are Redrawing the Risk Map

Setting aside the debate about fracking's responsibility for swarms of earthquakes in states like Kansas, Texas, and Oklahoma, seismic experts are recognizing a need to rethink building safety.

2 minute read

February 9, 2015, 12:00 PM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


"Earthquakes are synonymous with California to most Americans, but West Coasters might be surprised to learn they’re far from the new center of the seismic landscape in the United States," according to an article by Michael Corey.

The new capital of tremblers: Oklahoma. According to Corey's analysis for the Center for Investigative Reporting, "Oklahoma recorded more than three times as many earthquakes as California in 2014 and remains well ahead in 2015. Data from the U.S. Geological Survey shows that Oklahoma had 562 earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or greater in 2014; California had 180. As of Jan. 31, Oklahoma recorded 76 earthquakes of that magnitude, compared with California’s 10."

Oklahoma even beat out Alaska in the number of recorded events—though Alaska is so remote that many seismic events elude detection.

The proliferation of earthquakes throughout the Midwest began in 2009, but so far none have inflicted deadly force. Still, the trend is forcing many experts to rethink seismic risk. Previously earthquake risk was calculated on a 50-year timeline to inform safety requirements recommended by the Building Seismic Safety Council. Now, however, "[a] U.S. Geological Survey team led by seismologist Mark Petersen is working on significant changes to the national hazard model to begin to address those questions. The team will propose several options for how to model earthquake risk in the next year, rather than over 50 years."

Saturday, February 7, 2015 in Center for Investigative Reporting

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