Kansas began measuring seismic activity in 1977. From 1977 to 2012, there were just under 200 earthquakes recorded in Kansas. After a period of relative quiet, in 2013 there were 31 earthquakes recorded in the state. In 2014 that number jumped to 160. So far in 2015 nearly 600 earthquakes have been recorded.
Latest Earthquake News
- Belle Plaine, Stillwater residents feeling the tremble
- Kansas more active for quakes this week than Oklahoma
- Harper County records five quakes in past week, but largest temblor was 4.2 south of the state border
- One of week's larger quakes in Harper County
- Earthquake activity picks up again, but Kansas temblors unnoticed
The map below plots all earthquakes recorded in south central Kansas and northern Oklahoma since 2011. Slide the magnitude control to filter the results by earthquake strength. Use the year checkboxes to show or hide data from various years. Hover over a point to see more detail about that earthquake.
This Week's Quake Tracker
Did you feel an earthquake?
U.S. Geological Survey officials measure intensities based on reports from the public collected on their USGS “Did You Feel It?” database. These reports are one of the risk variables in the state’s seismic action score, which determines whether an earthquake requires further investigation. If you felt it, report it.
The average magnitude of Kansas earthquakes recorded since 2013 is 2.46, which is slightly higher than the average 1.97 recorded from 1977-2012. However 85 percent of recent earthquakes register less than 3.0 and are unlikely to be noticed. Even a 3.0-3.9 earthquake may be mistaken for a passing truck.
So far the strongest earthquake was recorded near Conway Springs on Nov. 11, 2014. It measured 4.9 on the Richter scale, strong enough for Kansans in the northern part of the state to feel it and to knock items off shelves in homes closer to the epicenter.
To date there have been fewer than 10 earthquakes in Kansas that registered above 4.0.
Even the strongest earthquakes recorded in Kansas in recent years have not caused widespread damage to buildings. But minor damage is possible when earthquake magnitude reaches 4.0. Dishes and windows can be broken and unstable objects can fall. Kansas' larger earthquakes have been thought to worsen damage to Harper County’s courthouse, and a 4.9 earthquake in 2014 damaged a bell tower at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Harper. Geologists also say that because the Kansas earthquakes occur much closer to the surface of the earth than typical earthquakes, the ground shakes longer which could increase damage.
Concerned about the growing frequency of earthquakes, some property owners are seeking earthquake insurance. While may insurance carriers offer earthquake policies for Kansas residents, be sure to read the fine print. Some policies have exclusions, and may exclude the man-made or "induced" earthquakes like geologists believe Kansas is experiencing. Deductibles also vary among insurers, and some coverage may not kick in unless there is catastrophic damage.
Fracking itself is likely not the cause of the earthquakes. But recent evidence gathered by geologists suggests there is a link between the disposal of fracking wastewater into deep disposal wells and the increase in the number of earthquakes in the region. As oil and gas production in the region has grown, there has also been a sharp rise in the number of disposal well sites in southeastern Kansas. For more information, click the links below.
In 2014 Gov. Sam Brownback appointed a task force to study the cause of the seismic activity, and the state installed more monitoring stations. Prompted by increasing geologic evidence of a link between fracking wastewater disposal and earthquakes, the Kansas Corporation Commission in March 2015 imposed daily wastewater injection limits in Harper and Sumner counties and further limited disposal levels in five specific areas of “seismic concern.” Earthquake frequency did drop over the summer, but was on the rise again in September. In October there were over 100 earthquakes, the most seen in any month so far.
The Kansas chapter of the Sierra Club fought for legislation that would shut down wastewater injection sites in the five Kansas counties in that lie in the Humboldt fault zone. "There are other injection wells around state where we don’t know of any earthquake activity. At least move disposal of waste fluids there while investigations are conducted and don’t create such an enormous risk,” Joe Spease, chairman of the environmental organization’s hydraulic fracturing committee said when the bill was introduced. It died in a House committee meeting in February 2015.
Proving which company is at fault would be nearly impossible. It is difficult to pinpoint which injection well is responsible for an earthquake, and multiple oil and gas producers may use the same well for disposal. Few cases have made it through the courts in other states since induced earthquakes started happening around the country. That's why the Sierra Club proposed a financial risk pool that oil companies operating in the state would pay into be created to compensate people for earthquake losses. The risk pool was part of a bill that died in a Kansas House committee meeting in February 2015.