Journalist Doualy Xaykaothao with KERA public radio covered the research of SMU seismologist Heather R. DeShon.

DeShon is leading the effort to trace the source of a recent sequence of small earthquakes in North Texas and any relationship they may have to the injection of waste water by energy companies using shale gas production to recover gas.

North Texas earthquakes occurring in the Reno-Azle area since Nov. 5, 2013, and in Mineral Wells since Nov. 28, 2013, have raised scientific questions about the nature of these sequences and heightened local and national concerns about the impact of shale gas production on infrastructure and subsurface structures.

The KERA broadcast aired Feb. 10, “What’s Causing Quakes? SMU Scientists Aim To Finish Seismic Study In Two Years.”

DeShon, an associate professor of geophysics, is an expert in earthquake generation within subduction zones and intraplate settings, seismogenic zone processes, local earthquake tomography and volcano seismology.

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By Doualy Xaykaothao

Researchers from Southern Methodist University say folks shouldn’t rush to conclusions about what’s been causing the swarm of more than 30 earthquakes northwest of Fort Worth since November.

Scientists have installed a temporary seismic network in and around the earthquake swarm to help gain a better understanding of the quakes.

On Friday, in the basement of SMU’s Department of Earth Sciences, professors gathered in front of colorful waves from seismic stations.

Professor Brian Stump is part of SMU’s research team. He said those waves are what they use to pinpoint earthquakes, and more carefully examine each acceleration.

“Talking about how earthquakes generate waves,” Stump says. “That may be too technical, but it does help you understand what you’re feeling.”

To understand earthquakes, consider what happens when you drop a rock in a pond, he said.

“You can see the waves spread out from that rock,” Stump says. “And they get farther and farther apart, the farther they propagate. Same thing happens in the earth. The fault slips and it generates waves, but it generates two kinds of waves” — a “P” wave and an “S” wave. The “S” wave travels slower, he says.

“So you may feel the first ‘P’ wave, which is a pop or a bang, and then you may feel a kind of rolling motion that’s associated with the ‘S’ wave,” he said.

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