Can we cause earthquakes? Is there any way to prevent earthquakes?
Earthquakes induced by human activity have been documented in a few
locations in the United States, Japan, and Canada. The cause was
injection of fluids into deep wells for waste disposal and secondary
recovery of oil, and the use of reservoirs for water supplies. Most of
these earthquakes were minor. The largest and most widely known
resulted from fluid injection at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal near
Denver, Colorado. In 1967, an earthquake of magnitude 5.5 followed a
series of smaller earthquakes. Injection had been discontinued at the
site in the previous year once the link between the fluid injection and
the earlier series of earthquakes was established. (Nicholson, Craig
and Wesson, R.L., 1990, Earthquake Hazard Associated with Deep Well
Injection--A Report to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: U.S.
Geological Survey Bulletin 1951, 74 p.)
Other human activities, even nuclear detonations, have not been linked to earthquake activity. Energy from nuclear blasts dissipates quickly along the Earth's surface. Earthquakes are part of a global tectonic process that generally occurs well beyond the influence or control of humans. The focus (point of origin) of earthquakes is typically tens to hundreds of miles underground. The scale and force necessary to produce earthquakes are well beyond our daily lives. We cannot prevent earthquakes; however, we can significantly mitigate their effects by identifying hazards, building safer structures, and providing education on earthquake safety.
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