According to British researchers, the construction of certain dams, mega-mining, drilling for geothermal energy, fracking and nuclear detonations can cause earthquakes.
An investigation carried out by a team of experts led by Miles Wilson, from the British University of Durham, published in the journal Seismological Research Letters, asserts that fracking (hydraulic fracturing), mining or construction of Large reservoirs are some of the human activities that most influence when an earthquake is triggered.
Although in most cases human activity only causes relatively light shocks, in others the consequences can generate powerful earthquakes. This happened in China, when the construction of a dam triggered an earthquake of magnitude 7.9, they point out. Although in these cases, human activity is only the trigger.
Wilson and his team have launched the open access database"HiQuake", which currently has 730 anthropogenic projects that caused seismic activity, being an update of an existing one. The initiative was initiated and co-financed by the Dutch company Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij (NAM) dedicated to the production of natural gas and oil, which brings together all kinds of articles, magazines, conference reports or news related to the subject.
Mining projects (37%) and backwater behind dams (23%) are the most commonly reported causes of induced earthquakes, but unconventional oil and gas extraction projects that use hydraulic fracturing are now a frequent addition to the database, said geophysicist Miles Wilson. However, researchers believe that the number of earthquakes caused by human intervention is higher, only that in many cases it was not taken into account or there was no impact.
In addition to the causes already mentioned, the unnatural causes of earthquakes include drilling for geothermal energy, the construction of skyscrapers or the explosion of nuclear weapons. In fact, nuclear tests carried out by North Korea are detected abroad because of the seismic shocks they cause.
"All human activity that adds or removes mass influences the forces that interact in the Earth's crust," says Wilson. “So it should come as no surprise that the earth reacts to these disturbances. And sometimes the reaction can be an earthquake. "
His objective with the creation of this database is, above all, to better understand the cause-consequence relationship of human activity in seismic movements and to be able to better assess potential dangers in the future.
To build the database, Wilson and his colleagues analyzed peer-reviewed literature, academic presentations, media articles, and industry and government reports for projects where scientific evidence suggests that human activity was the cause. of a sequence of earthquakes. Each entry in the database corresponds to a project or phase of a project. The projects date back nearly 150 years, with most observed maximum magnitude earthquakes falling between magnitude 3 and 4.
Human activities acting on the crust are likely to multiply in the future, Wilson noted, as projects to harness geothermal energy sources and to store carbon dioxide emissions become widespread. "Perhaps one day a balance will have to be struck between earthquake risk and resource demand."
Prof. Norberto Ovando
President / Friends of National Parks Association - AAPN -
Expert World Commission on Protected Areas - WCPA - of the IUCN-
Latin American Network of Protected Areas - RELAP -
SSA / AAPN