Quake Tracker

The Hutchinson News analyzes Kansas earthquake activity on a regular basis. Quake Tracker is our roundup of the earthquakes recorded in the last week, including where they occurred and how strong they were.

Harper County experienced nine earthquakes in the past week, according to U.S. Geological Survey data, including five in a tight group about 3 miles south of Harper.

Of the 16 earthquakes in Kansas and Oklahoma over the past week, one of the largest was in Harper County, U.S. Geological Survey records show.

There were only four earthquakes in the region over the past week, including just one in Kansas, U.S. Geological Survey data show.

U.S. Geological Survey monitors recorded almost three dozen earthquakes in Kansas over the past two weeks, including 10 in Sumner County, seven in Harper County and one in Barber County.

The earth trembled less this week in south-central Kansas and northern Oklahoma.

Kansas experienced a dozen earthquakes over the past week, including a magnitude 3.2 temblor about 6 miles outside of Anthony.

The strongest earthquakes in the south-central Kansas and northern Oklahoma region over the past week were again in Kansas, though the largest in the two-state area overall for the period was just outside of Stillwater, Oklahoma.

There were five earthquakes recorded in Kansas in the past week, including the two centered in South Hutchinson and others in the more traditional earthquake counties of Harper and Sumner.

Of a dozen earthquakes in the region over the past week, half were within the boundaries of Harper County and one just across its eastern border, in Sumner County, U.S. Geological Survey data showed.

There were three earthquakes in south-central Kansas over the past week, and all were in the range detectable to people from ground shaking, though barely.

Of a dozen-plus earthquakes in a 125-mile radius of Hutchinson over the past week, most of them were above a magnitude 2.5, which is when they are considered detectable to people.

Of a dozen earthquakes in the region over the past week – including seven in Kansas – the majority were above a magnitude 2.5, which is the level considered detectable to humans by ground shaking.

Thirteen earthquakes were recorded in Kansas over the past week, but only five were above a magnitude of 2.0 and only two considered detectable from ground shaking.

U.S. Geological Survey monitors recorded five earthquakes in Kansas over the past week, all within Harper and Sumner counties and all under magnitude 2.5, the level considered detectable by humans.

U.S. Geological Survey monitors recorded two clusters of earthquakes in the past week, including a very tight group of five weak quakes on the eastern Harper County border and another group of five larger ones in Garfield County, Oklahoma, south of Enid.

Harper County once more became the center of regional earthquake activity, with five quakes in the county and another just north of the county line over the past week.

More than half the earthquakes in the region recorded by U.S. Geological Survey monitors over the past week were magnitude 3.0 or larger, including four that were 3.4 or larger.

There were two widely spaced earthquakes in Kansas this week, including one on the Kingman/Sedgwick county line and one in southwest Sumner County.

How frequent have the earthquakes become?

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.  

How Strong Are the Earthquakes?

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.

Are the earthquakes strong enough to cause damage?

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.

At what earthquake magnitude is serious damage possible?

Earthquakes typically begin to cause damage to buildings and other structures at magnitudes of 5.5 and higher. A 5.6 earthquake in Prague, OK, in November 2011 buckled U.S. 62, destroyed at least 14 homes and injured two people. Some suspect that earthquake was triggered by wastewater injection.

Will earthquake insurance cover me?

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.

Are the earthquakes related to fracking?

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.

Is Kansas doing anything to address the earthquakes?

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.

Could more be done to stop the earthquakes?

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.

Will oil and gas companies pay for damages sustained during induced earthquakes?

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.

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