PerspectiveGeophysics

How earthquakes are induced

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Science  11 May 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6389, pp. 598-600
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat2776

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Summary

Since 2009, the midwestern United States has seen a dramatic rise in earthquakes induced by human activities. Most of these events were caused by massive reinjection of wastewater produced during oil and gas extraction (1, 2). In February 2016, regulators in Oklahoma called for an injection rate reduction after several major events up to moment magnitude 5.8 (Mw 5.8) occurred. On the other side of the Atlantic, an unprecedented number of earthquakes has followed gas extraction from the Groningen field in the Netherlands (3). The Dutch government imposed production cuts after a Mw 3.6 event in August 2012 caused structural damage to houses. Intensive research of these two instances of induced seismicity points to contrasting mechanisms, but in both cases, the natural conditions prior to subsurface activities play a dominant part.