The U.S. Geological Survey admits it is not in the business nor the practice of predicting where and when earthquakes will occur in the U.S. But the agency that is familiar to Oklahomans because of the number of oilpatch-related earthquakes in the past several years, recently issued new maps of the U.S. showing areas that could face potentially damaging earthquakes.
And Oklahoma is not one of those main areas, despite the recent 4.2 magnitude quakes that occurred more than a week ago in the Edmond and Arcadia areas. What the maps revealed are areas where the USGS anticipates intense quakes to perhaps strike in the next 100 years. The latest National Seismic Hazard Model showed nearly 75% of the U.S. could experience a damaging earthquake.
The maps are based on the work of more than 50 scientists and engineers who carried out seismic studies, historical geological data and the latest data-collection technologies reported CBS News.
“This was a massive, multi-year collaborative effort between federal, state and local governments and the private sector,” said Mark Petersen, USGS geophysicist and lead author of the study. “The new seismic hazard model represents a touchstone achievement for enhancing public safety.”
Despite the spate of earthquakes attributed to wastewater disposal back into the earth in Oklahoma, a practice now regulated by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, Oklahoma was not a site chosen for anticipated major earthquakes, at least the damaging kind described by the USGS. Instead some 500 fault lines were identified by the researchers. However, the study did not exclude Oklahoma from ever facing earthquakes that it did in November 2011 when a 5.7 magnitude earthquake was recorded in Lincoln County followed by a 5.8 magnitude temblor in the fall of 2023.
“No one can predict earthquakes,” the agency wrote. “However, by investigating faults and past quakes, scientists can better assess the likelihood of future earthquakes and how intense their shaking might be.”
California and Alaska are believed to be most at risk for earthquakes. Southern California experiences an estimated 10,000 earthquakes a year but many are not felt. Such is the case in Oklahoma where hundreds of small earthquakes are recorded annually. Only about 15 to 20 earthquakes greater than magnitude 4.0 are recorded in California.