Oklahoma Earthquakes: past, present, and future

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Oklahoma has always had earthquakes. The rate prior to 2009 was about 2 magnitude 3.0+ earthquakes each year. By 2015, this had exponentially increased to 903 M 3.0+ earthquakes. The increase in seismicity in Oklahoma was roughly coincident with the last shale boom cycle, which included Oklahoma geologic formations containing substantial amounts of co-produced formation brines. To dispose of vast amounts of wastewater co-produced with the hydrocarbons, common disposal practices involved injecting into the Arbuckle Group, which directly overlies the basement. Since the earthquake peak in 2015, the statewide disposal rate is down more than 50% and the earthquakes have also declined. Learn more about how the state experienced an unprecedented increase in seismicity, our latest research into Oklahoma induced seismicity, the role that scientists have in informing regulators about causal links between human activities and future hazards, and the outlook for managing induced seismicity in Oklahoma and elsewhere.

Dr. Walter, a Geophysicist at the Oklahoma Geological Survey, has been the State Seismologist since November 2016. Prior to joining the state survey, he was a research scientist at the Institute for Geophysics at the University of Texas at Austin. Walter earned his BA in Geology at the University of Colorado at Boulder and his PhD in Earth Sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz.