Originally Posted: March 1, 2017
NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect reaction to the study.
North Texas is at the heart of a new scientific mystery: Where did all the earthquakes go?
Quakes that started rattling the area around Dallas in 2008 came to a virtual halt last year, according to a new report by federal scientists. That means the area’s risk of experiencing a damaging quake dropped sharply — to less than 1 percent — for 2017, according to a one-year national earthquake forecast released by the U.S. Geological Survey Wednesday morning.
“I was very surprised to see that we had no felt earthquakes during 2016″ in North Texas, said Mark Petersen, chief of the agency’s National Seismic Hazard Mapping Project. While the risk of a big temblor is lower this year, he said, “ it is not negligible,” adding that the earthquake hazard here is still far higher than it was before 2008.
The change in North Texas was so big that it lowered the number of Americans at risk from quakes to around 3.5 million from more than 7 million, said Petersen.
The agency’s scientists have linked the quakes here to oil and gas operations. They said the absence of significant quakes in the area last year may be linked to a drop in energy activity in North Texas because of low oil and gas prices.
But other scientific experts warn against making too much of the decline.
”Earthquake rates in North Texas have always been variable year to year,” said Heather DeShon, a seismologist at Southern Methodist University and a leading researcher on local quakes. “In fact 2016 doesn’t look any different than 2010 or 2011” — two other years when earthquakes went on hiatus. READ MORE