Archive for geology

Earthquakes Caused by Human Activity

It’s bad enough when earthquakes occur naturally (and if you have lived though a bad temblor, you’ll know what I mean), but with various extraction industries boring into the earth and in certain cases injecting material, it is no wonder that humans now cause some earthquakes. The Human-Induced Earthquake Database, hosted by Dunham University (UK), presents an interactive map tracing these anthropogenic disturbances. Each incident report includes the year, the magnitude of the quake, the magnitude type, and what caused it in the first place.

This accepted manuscript for Earth-Science Reviews – Global review of human-induced earthquakes – presents the scientific scaffolding for this database. Other links of interest include: Risk of Human-Triggered Earthquakes Laid Out in Biggest-Ever Database (Scientific American); Induced Earthquakes (US Geological Survey); Injection Induced Earthquakes (Science); Induced Seismicity Potential in
Energy Technologies (National Academies Press); 2017 One-Year Seismic Hazard Forecast for the Central and Eastern United States from Induced and Natural Earthquakes (USGS); and Triggered Earthquakes (Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences. N.B. This is from 1986 so this topic is not as new as some may believe; in fact, the bibliography attached to this piece has relevant references dating back to the 1940s.)

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Welcome to Zealandia, the Newest Continent

As published in GSA Today, Zealandia: Earth’s Hidden Continent, this landmass broke off of Australia tens of millions of years ago and is now 94% underwater. (The part of the continent above the water is New Zealand.)  The authors of this article state that “The identification of Zealandia as a geological continent, rather than a collection of continental islands, fragments, and slices, more correctly represents the geology of this part of Earth.” (Abstract)

While the existence of this continent had been known for years( Zealandia was first named by Bruce Luyendyk in his Hypothesis for Cretaceous Rifting of East Gondwana caused by Subducted Slab Capture written in 1995), the first scientific expedition to explore this area has just finished its survey, and that is why this is now newsworthy.

The JOIDES Resolution is the name of the survey ship; it has a YouTube channel with brief videos highlighting some of the work involved with this expedition. You can also read blog entries at the vessel’s site. Additional information at The New York Times, The Guardian, Smithsonian, and National Geographic.


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U.S. Geological Survey – Seven Million People Susceptible to Human-induced Earthquakes

For the first time ever, the USGS has issued maps/forecasts that include the possibility of earthquakes generated by human operations such as wastewater disposal associated with hydraulic fracturing or fracking. The accompanying report expands on this forecast; page 2 of this report states “Earthquake rates have recently increased markedly in multiple areas of the Central and Eastern United States (CEUS), especially since 2010, and scientific studies have linked the majority of this increased activity to wastewater injection in deep disposal wells….” Numerous tables, charts, and references supplement this report. “Induced seismicity” is the phrase used to describe human-made earthquakes; reports and abstracts on USGS research on this topic are available online. Here is an important 2012 report from the National Academies of Sciences – Induced Seismicity Potential in Energy Technologies


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Historic Geological Treatises

The Oxford Digital Library hosts Key 17th, 18th to 19th century geological literature containing dozens of tomes pertaining to the geology of England; one can search by title, subject, or name. Hundreds of additional volumes on a wide variety of geological topics can be found at the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

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EPA Report on Fracking and Its Impact on Water

The 1000 page report – Assessment of the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas on Drinking Water Resources – and its more readable executive summary have just been published. Both sides of this question claim victory; here is FactCheck’s summation.

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