Human Impact is Also Affecting the Frequency of Earthquakes, Scientists Say

Fagjun | Published 2017-10-11 17:21

Researchers have found that human impact has had something to do with several earthquakes that have occurred over the past 150 years.


Have we been causing earthquakes for the past century and a half?



Earthquakes are a natural disaster, and, like most other natural disasters, are completely out of our control. If natural disasters are beyond our control, then that must mean that we're not the ones causing them. They're simply something that happens due to certain circumstances. However, this dimension to natural disasters may be changing. For example, scientists have found that man-made climate change played a role in making Hurricane Harvey as destructive as it was. So are we now really causing what used to be considered as natural disasters beyond our control?


According to a new study, we likely are. It's also likely that we're causing bigger earthquakes, and that it's happening more frequently than ever before. Of course, the question is how. What are we doing that we're able to cause a significant natural disaster?



Human Activities that Cause Earthquakes


Mining may be on of the worst things we can do to the earth.



You may or may not know this, but scientists have long known that people can affect seismic activity to a certain degree. What's surprising about the new study's findings, however, is that human activity can apparently cause earthquakes with a magnitude of up to 7.9. According to the study, human impact on seismic activity has caused earthquakes in about 730 different sites over the past 150 years. Unfortunately, man-made earthquakes can be just as dangerous or deadly as natural earthquakes.


Usually, natural earthquakes occur along fault lines. Man-made earthquakes, however, don't follow that rule. These earthquakes can in fact occur far from fault lines.


The findings of the study show that mining is at the top of the list of things that can induce earthquakes. Mining was responsible for earthquakes that occurred around 271 locations. Digging into the earth and scooping huge portions out can cause the earth to be unstable. A sudden collapse in one of these sites can cause an earthquake.


Dam building is another thing that can cause earthquakes, and is responsible for tremors that took place around 167 locations. Earthquakes of this nature, according to the findings, are the deadliest.



Reducing Human Impact?


Fracking also does a number on the earth.



The US Geological Survey has also said that fracking can directly and indirectly trigger seismic activity through water disposal practices. Though the USGS claimed that fracking itself doesn't cause most induced earthquakes, researchers found that fracking did cause tremors in 29 project sites. Post-fracking water disposal caused quakes in 36 sites, while unspecific water disposal caused quakes in 12 sites.


The researchers also found that nuclear explosions caused quakes in 22 sites.


So why are these activities causing earthquakes? According to the researchers, earthquakes occur when the earth reacts to anthropogenic changes in its mass. Miles Wilson, one of the researchers, created a database of human-induced earthquakes that go back 150 years. "In the long term," says Wilson, "we may start to see more cases of induced seismicity across the world as we increase the number and scale of anthropogenic projects that influence the Earth."


Will these findings compel us to reduce human impact on the planet? Probably not, as it's unlikely that we'll stop mining or the other activities that induce earthquakes. However, with this information, we'll hopefully be more prepared to deal with earthquakes and other natural disasters.

Hey! Where are you going?? Subscribe!

Get weekly science updates in your inbox!