New USGS Maps Show Human-Induced Earthquakes

The total number of Americans at high risk from both natural and human-induced earthquakes this year is about 4 million.

New maps produced by the U.S. Geological Survey identify potential ground-shaking hazards in 2017 from both human-induced and natural earthquakes in the central and eastern United States. This is the second consecutive year both types of hazards are forecasted; previous USGS maps identified hazards only from natural earthquakes.

The research was published March 1 in Seismological Research Letters and illustrates the hazards central U.S. states face from human-induced earthquakes, according to the agency. About 3.5 million people live and work in areas of these states with significant potential for damaging shaking from induced seismicity in 2017, with most of those people living in Oklahoma and southern Kansas.

The total number of people at high risk from both natural and human-induced earthquakes this year is about 4 million. "The good news is that the overall seismic hazard for this year is lower than in the 2016 forecast, but despite this decrease, there is still a significant likelihood for damaging ground shaking in the [central states] in the year ahead," said Mark Petersen, chief of the USGS National Seismic Hazard Mapping Project.

The 2017 forecast decreased from last year's because fewer felt earthquakes occurred in 2016 than in 2015, possibly because of a decrease in wastewater injection resulting from regulatory actions and/or from a decrease in oil and gas production due to lower prices. Oklahoma experienced the largest earthquake ever recorded in the state in 2016 and also the greatest number of large earthquakes compared to any prior year. The chance of damage from induced earthquakes will continue to fluctuate depending on policy and industry decisions, Petersen said.

"The forecast for induced and natural earthquakes in 2017 is hundreds of times higher than before induced seismicity rates rapidly increased around 2008," he said. "Millions still face a significant chance of experiencing damaging earthquakes, and this could increase or decrease with industry practices, which are difficult to anticipate."

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