Seismologists with the US Geological Survey and CalTech have been an invaluable resource for both the press and the public in the wake of two major earthquakes near Ridgecrest, California this weekend. They’ve given hours-long press conferences and answered detailed questions about the earthquakes that have already occurred and what Californians can expect in the near future as a result.
Dr. Egill Hauksson, a seismologist at CalTech, held a press conference Saturday in which he was asked by a reporter, “Could fracking in Kern County have anything to do with these earthquakes?”
In his quick reply he seemed to be stifling a chuckle. He said:
“I think that’s — no. I think I can answer that — no. I don’t have to put a qualifier on that.
“There is a geothermal area at the very north end….That’s the coastal geothermal area where there’s a — very large energy production going on where they pump water into the ground to harness heat from the rock. But if they had had something to do with this, we would have expected the activity to maybe start much closer to the geothermal area and then emanate from there.
“But again, the reason we have a geothermal field there is in part due to the active tectonics. It’s due to the ongoing geological deformation. So in that particular area the crust is being thinned and pulled apart so heat can easily rise from the interior of the earth, and we are able to harness that for electricity production.”
It was interesting to hear his scientific explanation as to why – especially that the geothermal field exists because of the active tectonics. With active tectonics one would logically expect some type of seismic activity, whether or not fracking occurs.
Hauksson’s LinkedIn profile states that he is “Project lead for the Southern California Seismic Network (SCSN), a joint project of Caltech and USGS,” and that part of his duties in that role include leading efforts to develop instrumentation for “earthquake early warning and hazards mitigation.”
Watch the question and Dr. Hauksson’s reply here: