DFW is one of 17 areas identified in a United States Geological Survey report released today as having a high risk for "induced seismicity." That means we're doing something that's making the ground shake, namely injecting wastewater byproducts from energy gathering activities back into the ground.
"This new report describes for the first time how injection-induced earthquakes can be incorporated into U.S. seismic hazard maps," Mark Petersen, Chief of the USGS National Seismic Hazard Modeling Project, said. "These earthquakes are occurring at a higher rate than ever before and pose a much greater risk to people living nearby. The USGS is developing methods that overcome the challenges in assessing seismic hazards in these regions in order to support decisions that help keep communities safe from ground shaking."
Although the overall risk of a damaging earthquake hitting Dallas is still small, Petersen said during a news briefing at the Seismological Society of America's annual meeting, repeated small tremors increase the risk of a big one. The biggest induced earthquake in Texas history is a 4.8 magnitude shake in Timpson in 2012. The biggest temblor yet experienced by North Texas is the 3.6 magnitude quake that happened at 6:52 p.m. on January 7.
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The USGS says it will now update its earthquake risks maps yearly, rather than every six years, because man-made quakes are far less predictable than natural seismic events. The maps are used for things like setting insurance rates, creating building codes and insuring emergency preparedness, the USGS says.