Earthquakes in Oklahoma

| Thu Mar. 28, 2013 11:57 AM EDT

Here in my neck of the woods, a magnitude 5.6 earthquake is little more than a wee bit of exercise to help you digest your lunch. In Oklahoma it's a big deal:

Such seismic activity isn't normal here. Between 1972 and 2008, the USGS recorded just a few earthquakes a year in Oklahoma. In 2008, there were more than a dozen; nearly 50 occurred in 2009. In 2010, the number exploded to more than 1,000. These so-called "earthquake swarms" are occurring in other places where the ground is not supposed to move. There have been abrupt upticks in both the size and frequency of quakes in Arkansas, Colorado, Ohio, and Texas. Scientists investigating these anomalies are coming to the same conclusion: The quakes are linked to injection wells. Into most of them goes wastewater from hydraulic fracking, while some, as those in Prague, are filled with leftover fluid from dewatering operations.

Not to worry, though! Jean Antonides, vice president of exploration for a company that operates a fracking site in Oklahoma, says that anyone who blames their wells for the earthquakes is "either lying to your face or they're idiots."

Whew. That was a close call. But an industry spokesman would never lie to us, so I feel better now.

BY THE WAY: I'm breaking my rule and linking to this piece even though it includes an animated GIF. That's because it's a very sedate animated GIF, and actually demonstrates something that's worth animating.

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