Do quakes precede a big one, or prevent it?

The state’s ongoing, three-year earthquake swarm has produced thousands of tiny earthquakes, but so far only 20 magnitude 4.0 or greater and only one magnitude 5.0 or greater. One of the most pressing questions is whether another big one — or something even stronger — is likely.
by Adam Wilmoth Modified: August 26, 2014 at 7:00 am •  Published: August 24, 2014
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The state’s ongoing, three-year earthquake swarm has produced thousands of tiny earthquakes, but just 20 magnitude 4.0 or greater and only one magnitude 5.0 or greater.

One of the most pressing questions is whether another big one — or something even stronger — is likely.

As with so many other issues, the answer is unclear and depends on who you ask.

One earthquake theory is that every time the earth releases a minor quake, the risk of a larger shaker is reduced or delayed.

Priyank Jaiswal, assistant professor of seismology at Oklahoma State University’s Boone Pickens School of Geology, said the theory is similar to the one used to minimize the risk of wildfires.

>>READ: Earthquake insurance market is growing in Oklahoma

“The reason you have controlled wildfires is so if it burns in bits and pieces, a natural fire is not as bad,” Jaiswal said. “With earthquakes, if you have many, many small earthquakes, there is a chance that it could delay the occurrence of a big natural earthquake because the sediments or rocks are adjusting themselves.”

Pressure building?

The other thought is that the smaller slips could actually cause new pressure and that like pulling back on a rubber band, eventually it will cause a larger quake.

“There are two sides here,” Jaiswal said. “I don’t know which is right. Nobody can say.”

Cliff Frohlich, senior research scientist at the University of Texas’ Institute for Geophysics, agreed it is difficult to know whether the state is at risk for a bigger quake.

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by Adam Wilmoth
Energy Editor
Adam Wilmoth returned to The Oklahoman as energy editor in 2012 after working for four years in public relations. He previously spent seven years as a business reporter at The Oklahoman, including five years covering the state's energy sector....
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One problem with earthquake prediction is we’re not very good at it. There are plenty of times you have 2’s and 3’s and that’s all. Most of the time that’s what happens.”Senior research scientist at the University of Texas’ Institute for Geophysics

Cliff Frohlich,,
Cliff Frohlich, Senior research scientist at the University of Texas’ Institute

for Geophysics

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