April 10, 2013 – RUSSIA – They may look like stills from an apocalyptic horror film, but these images have become a daily reality for residents in a Russian city. Citizens of Samara, in south east Russia, live in fear of the ground literally disappearing beneath them after huge sinkholes have started to appear all over their city, leaving devastation in their wake. The yawning underground caverns are all believed to have sprung up in recent weeks swallowing cars, buses and claiming at least one life. The sinkholes, some large enough to swallow an entire truck, are believed to have been caused by ground subsidence. It is thought the holes have been caused as ice thaws and melts into the ground, with the excess water causing soil decay underneath Samara’s roads. The massive craters have appeared in car parks, busy intersections, by the sides of roads, and on major and minor thoroughfares. It is believed at least one person has lost their life as a result of one of the crashes caused by the sinkholes. The citizens of the city have now signed a petition urging authorities to find a solution. Sinkholes are common hazards in mining regions, plaguing areas where miners have burrowed into layers of soluble minerals and accidental floods have followed. But natural sinkholes can take thousands of years to form and vary in size. They are usually the result of what are known as Karst processes, which occur when a layer of rock such as limestone underneath the ground is dissolved by acidic water. Typically rainfall seeps through the soil, absorbing carbon dioxide and reacting with decaying vegetation. As a result, the water that reaches the soluble rock is acidic. The acidic water then erodes the soluble rock layers beneath the surface creating cavernous spaces. Then, when it is no longer supported because of the cavity below, the soil or sand over the limestone collapses into a sinkhole. The collapse of the surface can happen suddenly or over a few hours. Heavy rainfall or poor drainage systems can trigger a collapse. Citizens in Berezniki, Russia, have also been plagued by sinkholes. Census data, though, shows that about 12,000 people left the town between 2005 and 2010, after a number of holes opened up. They are also common in Florida, America. Jeff Bush, 37, was swallowed into a sinkhole and killed while he slept in his bed in February in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.
April 8, 2013 – MICHIGAN – The calls started to flood into the Branch County 911 Center around midnight. Each one reporting deafening loud booms and everyone believed the boom happened somewhere close. “We just heard a really loud bang outside our house and me and my kids are really scared, I don’t know what it is and now we’re afraid to outside,” says one caller. “I didn’t see anything but I heard a big boom…it was like a big boom like someone was kicking in the door,” says another caller. It was the talk of the town in Union City Wednesday, everyone with their own theories on what caused it. “It sounded like a cannon going off is the only way I can describe it, kind of like a thunder boom but it was only the one time,” says Michelle Reincke who lives in Union City. “I think it’s aliens to tell you the truth, I think it’s aliens coming down to earth see us,” says Tomika Dow. And adding to the mystery, this is not the first time. One night last may the booms woke people up in Branch County and were heard all the way to Calhoun and Kalamazoo counties. “It’s the same time as last year, we had these loud crashing noises like either an explosion or a sonic boom kind of an earthquake,” says Cynthia Shattuck. There were no earthquakes recorded in the area overnight, the National Guard base in Battle Creek says there were no flights there last night.
April 8, 2013 – PEMISCOT COUNTY, MO. – On shaky ground. Two tremors in the New Madrid Seismic Zone this week have people wondering if a big earthquake could be coming. The two are considered minor. No damage has been reported from either. Thursday night’s quake struck around 7:27 local time. It was centered about six miles northeast of Caruthersville, Missouri and measured a 2.7 on the Richter Scale. Tuesday night a similar quake hit near Portageville, Missouri. The U.S. Geological Survey considers the New Madrid Seismic Zone the most active in North America east of the Rockies. But it’s been about 100 years since a major earthquake hit this area. Still, the two recent quakes are leaving behind some rattled nerves. The only thing getting shaken Friday in Caruthersville, Missouri is the salad at Grandad’s Deli. “It’s a scary thought,” said Sharon Russell, owner. Russell said they were busy Thursday night and didn’t notice the tremor. “We were kind of rocking in this little place last night, so we didn’t feel it,” she said. But now, the week’s two tremors are the talk of the town. Alexis Avis shook with the first. “The first one I felt, I was in bed. And I thought I could tell it was an earthquake,” she said. Avis said the two so close together put her on alert. “New Madrid is always putting out a lot of small ones,” said Dr. James Conder, Assistant Professor of Geology at SIU-Carbondale. Dr. Conder believes there’s really no reason for alarm but said it’s natural for people to wonder. “It really should spark some curiosity,” he said. Dr. Conder said some evidence shows the New Madrid may be running out of energy, and the recent quakes are its last breaths. But that’s just a theory. He warns a larger one could hit at any time. If it does, the damage region-wide could be catastrophic. “We have very thick soils that shake like Jello, everything would get bounced around a lot,” said Conder. That’s a circumstance Sharon Russell doesn’t want to consider. “How big does it have to be before you really feel the effects of it?” said Russell. Professor Conder said researchers would become concerned if the frequency and intensity of those quakes increases in months and years to come.
April 8, 2013 – AZERBEIJAN – Akhtarma-Pashali mud volcano in Hajigabul region of Azerbaijan has erupted, head of the ANAS Institute of Geology’s Mud Volcano Department Adil Aliyev told APA. He said the eruption was recorded on April 1. The scientists of the Institute of Geology have carried out research in the area: “This is one of the largest volcanoes of Azerbaijan. Volcano is located 35 km from Shirvan city – in the south-eastern Shirvan. The volcano erupted for the first time in 1948, this is the 7th eruption.” Aliyev said that along with mud the eruption also spouted a great deal of various rocks. “The volcano mud covered 18 hectares, the total area is 220 000 cu m. The average thickness of the spouted material is 120 cm. A lot of cracks have appeared as a result of the volcano. One of them is too big. It spread out over 2 km. The depth of the crack is 2 m, width between 30 – 80 cm. At present the volcano has calmed down. Usually flames are observed when mud volcanoes erupt. No flame is observed in this volcano,” he said. According to the department chief, the diameter of the volcano is about 10 sq km meters: “Several volcanic areas separated from each other are located in the crater of eruption. Every time eruption occurs in a separated volcanic area. 21 percent of mud volcanoes in Azerbaijan pull a lot of oil out of surface. This volcano is also spewing oil. Oil soaked into all wastes. It should be noted that there was also oil shale. All of them will be studied in the laboratory and concrete information about the oil and gas resources of the area will be obtained after the tests.”
April 8, 2013 – VANUATU – Authorities in Vanuatu have upgraded the alert level of an active volcano on the island of Tanna. The Department of Meteorology and Geohazards says there’s been an increase in explosive activity at the Yasur volcano. Yasur, which is known for its consistent eruptions, has been upgraded to alert level two due to an increase in explosions and ash eruptions being observed. Geophysical engineer at the Department, Sylvain Todman, says communities living near Yasur have been warned to take precautions as activity grows. “It means more explosions, an increase of explosivity, more ash falling down to the close village and a lot of ash and some (volcanic) bombs falling down,” she said. Ms Todman says the Department of Meteorology and Geohazards is closely monitoring the volcano and will prepare a response plan if the alert level increases to three.
April 6, 2013 – JAMAICA – Authorities in Jamaica have been urged by an American seismic expert to start long-term efforts to prepare for another major earthquake to impact the island. The advice came from geophysics professor Eric Calais of Purdue University, who urged the country’s government and various stakeholders to understand that the threat is very real based on the area’s history and active seismic activity. Professor Calais, who visited the island as part of a mission with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), said most scientists agree that Jamaica will most likely be exposed to an earthquake with a magnitude of 7 or 7.5 on the Richter scale. An earthquake of magnitude 7 on the Richter scale is considered “major” and is capable of widespread destruction. Kingston was destroyed, with some 1,000 resultant deaths, in a 6.5-magnitude quake in 1907. If Jamaica were to be hit by a similar quake now, the island could suffer a $6.5 billion loss, nearly half of the island’s gross domestic product, researchers with the University of the West Indies (UWI) have said. “A 6.5 in the harbor by the capital could be a tremendous threat,” Calais said during a visit to Port Royal, just outside of Kingston, which was the island’s main city until 1692 when an earthquake and tsunami submerged two-thirds of the town. While it is impossible to predict whether the next big quake will strike in days or decades, Calais’ advice is particularly noteworthy given that in March 2008 he was among a group of scientists who warned officials in Haiti that their country was ripe for a major earthquake after detecting signs of growing stresses in a fault. Just two years later, that fault unleashed the deadly 7.0 quake that devastated the French-speaking Caribbean nation, killing some 316,000 people and leaving many more homeless. Calais pointed out that Jamaica is located along the same seismically-active plate boundary as Haiti and experiences about 200 mostly minor earthquakes per year. While indicating that Jamaica has a “good foundation” to tackle risks, especially when compared to Haiti, the American seismologist added a cautionary note. “But at the same time, I think it’s important to realize the foundation is not at the level that’s sufficient to face a challenge of a possible magnitude seven or seven-and-a-half,” he said. Calais further noted that he does not believe that the level of hazard has changed in Jamaica since the 2010 quake that levelled Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince.
April 6, 2013 – INDONESIA – An earthquake measuring 7.2 Richter scale rocked Papua in eastern parts of Indonesia on Saturday, but no initial reports of damage or casualty, officials said here. The USGS reported the quake was at 7.0 magnitude with the depth at 68 km. The quake struck at 11:42 a.m. Jakarta time with epicenter at 56 km northeast Tolikara of Papua and with the depth at 173 km under land, an official of the Indonesian Meteorology and Geophysics Agency told Xinhua by phone. The intensity of the quake was felt at 4 MMI (Modified Mercally Intensity) in Wamena, Tanah Merah, Sentani, Jayapura and 2 MMI in Timika, the official said. Spokesman of National Disaster Management and Mitigation Agency Sutopo Purwonugroho said that there were no reports of buildings collapsed or those injured or fatality. “But the assessment on the impact of the quake keeps continuing,” he told Xinhua by phone. Indonesia sits on a vulnerable quake hit zone so called “the Pacific Ring of Fire.”
April 5, 2013 – NORTH KOREA – An earthquake of 6.2 magnitude was registered in the border area between Russia, China and North Korea, the US Geological Survey said Friday. The epicenter of the quake was 9km from the Russian village of Zarubino, about 60km northeast of the North Korean city of Aodzhiri and approximately 608 km from the capital Pyongyang. No casualties or damage have been reported. The earthquake struck at a depth of 561.9 km.
April 5, 2013 – ICELAND – Approximately 70 earthquakes were picked up by the automatic sensors of the Icelandic Met Office in the Grímsey Island seismic belt in North Iceland from midnight yesterday and until the morning. The activity started with a 5.5 quake on April 2. Some of last night’s quakes were of a magnitude higher than three but none measured above four points, ruv.is reports. Yesterday, around 70 earthquakes were registered from noon and until the evening, five of which were above three in magnitude. The quakes could be felt on Grímsey but not on the mainland. Seismologists are paying close attention to the epicenter of the earthquakes at Skjálfandadjúp. So far, there are no indications that the activity is spreading to other fracture zones and the condition was stable yesterday. A level of uncertainty was declared in North Iceland following the 5.5 earthquake and the region’s residents were asked to inform themselves on how to react in case of a major earthquake.
More than 800 quakes: An earthquake swarm continues to shake North Iceland, home to one of the world’s largest and most active series of volcanoes. More than 800 quakes have rattled island residents, a number that’s probably already out-of-date. About 40 to 60 earthquakes hit every hour on April 2 and 3, according to the Iceland Geology Blog. Some smaller quakes preceded the biggest event, a magnitude 5.5 shaker that struck offshore Grimsey Island on April 2. The latest swarm moved about 9 to 12 miles (15 to 20 kilometers) south of the biggest temblor, said Iceland’s Meteorological Office. Another large quake, a magnitude 4.7, struck early this morning (April 4) in this southerly spot. –Live Science
April 5, 2013
An earthquake rattled the Pacific resort of Acapulco and was felt as far north as Mexico City, causing buildings to sway, but there were no immediate reports of damage.
The US Geological Survey said the 5.4-magnitude earthquake late yesterday struck 81 kilometres (50 miles) west of Acapulco at 0158 GMT. Mexico’s seismology center measured it at 5.3. The temblor, which had a depth of 24.4 kilometres (15.1 miles), was 285 kilometres (177 miles) southwest of Mexico City, the USGS said. People cleared out of several government and office buildings in the capital.
“No reports of damage or injuries in the city,” Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera wrote on Twitter, adding that it had just rattled some nerves. The civil protection agency of the state of Guerrero, where Acapulco is located, did not report any immediate damage either.
April 5, 2013 – MEXICO – A 5.4 magnitude earthquake shook buildings in Mexico City on Thursday, but there were no immediate reports of injuries or damages. The epicenter of the earthquake was in Guerrero state on Mexico’s Pacific coast, the U.S. Geological Survey reported. A Reuters witness in the Pacific resort of Acapulco, the biggest city in Guerrero, said the earthquake seemed slight, with some people not even noticing the tremor.
New Study Suggests Disturbing Link Between Fracking and Large EarthquakesKevin Samson
There has been an ongoing battle between researchers and the natural gas and oil industries over whether or not hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is definitively leading to an increase in earthquake activity.
Since September of 2010, nearly 1,000 earthquakes have rattled Arkansas and the area around the New Madrid Fault Line. Previous to this, Arkansas had a total of 38 quakes in 2009. Yet two cities, Greenbrier and Guy had a swarm of 30 small earthquakes in a four-day period in early 2011, which paralleled fracking activity in the same area.
Now, a study has appeared from The Geology Society of America, which investigated the largest of the quakes that rattled Oklahoma and 17 other states in November of 2011. While supporting the research of others in establishing a causal link between fracking and earthquakes, they appear to have found another even more troubling aspect to the data.
According to the RMA, “The Rocky Mountain Arsenal deep injection well was constructed in 1961, and was drilled to a depth of 12,045 feet” and 165 million gallons of Basin F liquid waste, consisting of “very salty water that includes some metals, chlorides, wastewater and toxic organics” was injected into the well during 1962-1966.
Why was the process halted? “The Army discontinued use of the well in February 1966 because of the possibility that the fluid injection was “triggering earthquakes in the area,” according to the RMA. (Source)
They drew this conclusion even after the EPA stated that this method of deep injection was safe. Over the decades that would follow, both the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Geological Survey would accumulate data that showed a link between fracking and underground instability that can trigger earthquakes.
One of the first large studies of an Oklahoma earthquake swarm which began early in 2011 was conducted by the Oklahoma Geological Survey. The results were released in August of 2011 and conclude with a probable correlation within this event, as well as citing a connection made from the historical record:
The strong correlation in time and space as well as a reasonable fit to a physical model suggest that there is a possibility these earthquakes were induced by hydraulic fracturing.
Our analysis showed that shortly after hydraulic fracturing began small earthquakes started occurring, and more than 50 were identified, of which 43 were large enough to be located. Most of these occurred within a 24 hour period after hydraulic fracturing operations had ceased. There have been previous cases where seismologists have suggested a link between hydraulic fracturing and earthquakes, but data was limited, so drawing a definitive conclusion was not possible for these cases. The first case occurred in June 1978 in Carter and Love Counties, just south of Garvin County, with 70 cases in 6.2 hours. The second case occurred in Love County with 90 earthquakes following the first and second hydraulic fracturing stages. [Nicholson and Wesson, 1990] (Source)
Given the aforementioned documentation by the U.S. Army and the U.S. Geological Survey, the data is beginning to look conclusive.
However, there is one more concern that is addressed in the most recent study conducted by the Geological Society of America, a non-profit organization with tens of thousands of members from nearly 100 countries. According to the abstract of this study, which looked most specifically at the largest earthquake reported, a 5.7 event that occurred in November (after the study cited above):
Significant earthquakes are increasingly occurring within the continental interior of the United States, including five of moment magnitude (Mw) ≥ 5.0 in 2011 alone. Concurrently, the volume of fluid injected into the subsurface related to the production of unconventional resources continues to rise. Here we identify the largest earthquake potentially related to injection, an Mw 5.7 earthquake in November 2011 in Oklahoma. The earthquake was felt in at least 17 states and caused damage in the epicentral region. It occurred in a sequence, with 2 earthquakes of Mw 5.0 and a prolific sequence of aftershocks.
Subsurface data indicate that fluid was injected into effectively sealed compartments, and we interpret that a net fluid volume increase after 18 yr of injection lowered effective stress on reservoir-bounding faults. Significantly, this case indicates that decades-long lags between the commencement of fluid injection and the onset of induced earthquakes are possible, and modifies our common criteria for fluid-induced events. The progressive rupture of three fault planes in this sequence suggests that stress changes from the initial rupture triggered the successive earthquakes, including one larger than the first [emphasis added]. (Source)
This is a worrisome conclusion which seems to indicate that even if fracking is halted, earthquake activity can continue as a result of previous activity, and earthquake magnitude can increase over time.
Much more studying needs to be done to confirm the above, and the full results still need to be scrutinized by the scientific community. However, in light of the worries already surrounding the historically dangerous New Madrid Fault Line, we should hope that definitive action is taken sooner rather than later to halt a process that is dubious at best, and cataclysmic at worst.
Note: beyond the risk of earthquakes, fracking has other horrendous consequences. To see what life is like for some residents within fracking zones, please do not miss the film Gasland.
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