Global Review of Induced and Triggered Earthquakes

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First Author:
Gillian Foulger, Durham University, Durham, United Kingdom

Gillian Foulger, Durham University Durham, United Kingdom

Abstract ID:

Abstract Body:

Natural processes associated with very small incremental stress changes can modulate the spatial and temporal occurrence of earthquakes. These processes include tectonic stress changes, the migration of fluids in the crust, Earth tides, surface ice and snow loading, heavy rain, atmospheric pressure, sediment unloading and groundwater loss. It is thus unsurprising that large anthropogenic projects which may induce stress changes of a similar size also modulate seismicity. As human development accelerates and industrial projects become larger in scale and more numerous, the number of such cases is increasing.

That mining and water-reservoir impoundment can induce earthquakes has been accepted for several decades. Now, concern is growing about earthquakes induced by activities such as hydraulic fracturing for shale-gas extraction and waste-water disposal via injection into boreholes. As hydrocarbon reservoirs enter their tertiary phases of production, seismicity may also increase there.

The full extent of human activities thought to induce earthquakes is, however, much wider than generally appreciated. We have assembled as near complete a catalog as possible of cases of earthquakes postulated to have been induced by human activity. Our database contains a total of 705 cases and is probably the largest compilation made to date. We include all cases where reasonable arguments have been made for anthropogenic induction, even where these have been challenged in later publications. Our database presents the results of our search but leaves judgment about the merits of individual cases to the user.

We divide anthropogenic earthquake-induction processes into:

a) Surface operations,

b) Extraction of mass from the subsurface,

c) Introduction of mass into the subsurface, and

d) Explosions.

Each of these categories is divided into sub-categories. In some cases, categorization of a particular case is tentative because more than one anthropogenic activity may have preceded or been ongoing at the time of the relevant earthquakes, e.g., oil production and brine injections. We present a first analysis of the data in our database and comment on some related issues with which scientists are currently grappling.

Figure: Induced or triggered seismicity world-wide in Mollweide projection, centered on the Greenwich meridian.

Proposed Session:
S014: Induced and Triggered Earthquakes: Theory, Observations, Impact

Proposed Section/Focus Group: