GOLDEN, Colo. — A new map released by the U.S. Geological Survey shows Oklahoma City and the surrounding area is one of the places most likely to experience a damaging earthquake this year.
The USGS map shows areas most likely to experience ground-shaking hazards from both human-induced and natural earthquakes.
“The central U.S. faces continued hazards from human-induced earthquakes,” USGS officials stated.
Oklahoma and southern Kansas are the areas with the highest risk.
Approximately 3.5 million people live and work in areas of central and eastern U.S. with significant chance of damage from a human-induced earthquake in 2017, the USGS stated.
An additional half million people in the central and eastern U.S. face a significant chance of damage from natural earthquakes in 2017.
To determine whether particular clusters of earthquakes were natural or induced, the USGS looked at whether an earthquake occurred near a wastewater disposal well and whether the well was active during the time the earthquakes occurred.
“The forecast for induced and natural earthquakes in 2017 is hundreds of times higher than before induced seismicity rates rapidly increased around 2008,” stated Mark Petersen, chief of the USGS National Seismic Hazard Mapping Project.
In 2016, Oklahoma experienced the largest earthquake ever recorded in the state as well as the greatest number of large earthquakes compared to any prior year.
The 2017 forecast decreased compared to last year because fewer felt earthquakes occurred in 2016 than in 2015.
“This may be due to a decrease in wastewater injection resulting from regulatory actions and/or from a decrease in oil and gas production due to lower prices,” USGS officials stated.
It comes as no surprise that areas along the coast of California, Oregon and Washington are also among the locations most likely to experience a damaging earthquake this year. The focus there is on the hazard from natural earthquakes.
“Induced earthquakes have been observed in California as well, but they don’t significantly change the regional hazard level, which is already high due to frequent natural earthquakes,” researchers stated.