It seems that almost everyone involved in any way with government has an opinion on the sudden rise in earthquakes – in numbers and now intensity – in Oklahoma. Although not involved in government in any way (except for paying the excessive taxes to support the bloated bureaucracy in all levels of government, even down to school boards), this is my turn.
Unfortunately, most of the opinions being put forth in media (primarily print) rarely bother to list names and qualifications of those making the statements quoted or referred to.
Before making my opinions, again, it is appropriate to list these qualifications: bachelor of science in geological engineering from The University of Oklahoma, class of 1950; registered professional engineer (retired status, not current) Colorado; registered professional geologist (not current) California; plus 50 years active in exploration, drilling, well completion, workover and repair, pipeline design and construction supervision and producing well operation management. I am still a practicing consultant in those.
Also prior experience in the area of human-operation-triggered earthquakes, being active in the Denver area when such quakes developed shortly after federal government began injecting very deadly war-produced chemicals into a basement-drilled well on the Rocky Mountain Arsenal grounds.
Naturally, as should be expected, that incident has, in my opinion, given me a certain amount of insight into the mechanics of the situation here in Oklahoma. The premise of the Denver quakes being triggered by the injection was put forth by a RMAG colleague almost as soon as they began, and was roundly and almost universally rejected by those in the profession in the area. It seemed to me to be premature rejection and allowed as how it could be possible, given the presence of numerous known faults in the basement rocks present from the Rocky Mountain Uplift immediately west of town. My attitude was to wait and see and almost as soon as the injection was terminated, so did the quakes.
My further thoughts on the matter developed the idea that it would be far better for the population that the rather small quakes experienced there would be preferred to waiting for a naturally appearing major quake, with massive damage and loss of life. No statements have come to my attention that anyone has expressed a similar opinion.
Unfortunately, many of the media reports are faulty, probably because of the ignorance of the subject on the part of those reporting and the haste to get the report out, sometimes necessitated by deadlines. However, in the daily paper in December, there appeared a story headlined: “Quakes drop for 2nd year in a row.” The sub-headline read: “The frequency of quakes is declining but their intensity is on the rise.” Credit was given to Corey Jones of the World staff. The story had some quotes from Jeremy Boak, Director of the Oklahoma Geologic Survey as well as a reported “model developed by two Stanford University geophysicists predicts a 37 percent chance in 2017 for Oklahoma to experience a quake that exceeds magnitude-5.0”
Once the trigger has allowed movement, there are almost always the expected aftershocks, some nearly as strong as the original. It appears to me that the trigger allows the relief of build-up stress at one point which results in increased stress nearby, thus the more natural occurring follow-up quakes. It also has seemed to be desirable to release the stress at a lower level to allow more, smaller-scale quakes to more gradually reduce the strain. This strain is developed, over perhaps many centuries, from the natural movement of what are called tectonic plates the size of continents. This is normally referred to as continental drift and a well-known example would be in California with the San Andreas Fault.