The results of a new study of Oklahoma's fault lines has local geologists and seismologists very excited.
The USGS sent a plane over the state to map magnetic images of the earth's basement layer, and they revealed some new information. This new set of data is allowing scientists to better understand the ongoing seismic activity because they can now see how different types of rock interact.
Last August the USGS sent a plane fitted with a magnetic sensor over 18 Oklahoma counties with the highest groupings of seismic activity, including the Woodward and Fairview area as well as an area covering Prague up to Pawnee. The goal was to see how the magnetic signatures of different rocks might indicate where previously undiscovered fault lines lie.
“There’s not really another example like this in the world, so we have the opportunity to get a lot of detail about what went on,” says OGS director Dr. Jeremy Boak.
Boak is thrilled to deep dive into the results compiled by his former OGS colleague Kevin Crain and Anji Shah from the USGS. The data has already revealed that the fault lines lie on a better angle for earthquakes at the basement level compared to closer to the earth's surface.
The new maps also show pieces of faults researchers could not see before now. Boak points to one area west of Cushing, saying, “Here’s this fault that comes over here and it stops right at this fault on our trace, but you can see something is continuing on through there.”
Overlaying known earthquakes onto the magnetic maps show just how connected they are to each other, potentially helping oil industry regulators in the future. “The Corporation Commission, they’ve really still only got one tool to change things, and that’s telling someone to stop injecting in this well,” says Boak.
Ultimately, Boak and fellow researchers hope to be able to prevent induced earthquakes altogether. “The ideal,” he says, “we’d be able to point to an area and say here’s an area that’s at risk. That’s what you’re really targeting.”
Scientists will be combining the new and old information in phases over the course of the next few weeks. They also hope to obtain more money to map out the rest of the state.