Research Spotlight: N. Texas earthquakes not unexpected

SMU Professor Brian StumpGeologists in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences are deploying 10 portable seismic stations in North Texas to study the increasingly frequent rumbling of earthquake activity in the Metroplex.

But the recent quakes that have occurred near Dallas-Fort Worth and Cleburne are not unexpected: They illustrate the earth’s natural dynamic nature, says Brian Stump (right), Albritton Professor of Geological Sciences in the Huffington Department of Earth Sciences and a faculty member in its Seismology Research Program.

Rocks in the earth’s crust store energy that is relieved when faults slip; that motion generates the waves that are felt or recorded during an earthquake. And even in a stable continental region such as North Texas, “we expect to see small events,” Stump told WFAA-TV. “But we’ve seen a whole series of small events, and what intrigues us now is to try and understand that series of events.” The monitoring stations his team will use to collect data are on loan from the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology and supported by the National Science Foundation.

Recent oil and gas production in the Barnett Shale has raised questions about whether the North Texas quakes are related to those activities. Current information cannot provide a definitive answer, but improved monitoring of the earthquake locations and a deeper understanding of how the earthquake sequences form and vanish may provide some insight, Stump says.

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