Tuesday, January 26, 2021
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Tag: Earthquakes

Solid Aftershock Shakes Central Virginia in Wake of August Earthquake

Up until last August, tonight's 3.2 earthquake in central Virginia would have been big news. But in the wake of August's 5.8 quake that shook much of the East Coast, the steady stream of light tremors in & around Louisa since then haven't gotten much attention. More on tonight's temblor from WTVR's Zach Daniel:
A magnitude 3.2 aftershock occurred at 6:39 PM this evening 5 miles south of Louisa and was felt across much of central Virginia. This aftershock was one of the strongest since the original quake back in August. I've been getting a lot of questions on my facebook page about these aftershocks, and specifically when we can call them a new earthquake. Technically, all of these aftershocks are earthquakes, but we call them aftershocks because they are smaller earthquakes associated with the larger seismic event (the 5.8 magnitude quake). If an aftershock is stronger than the original earthquake, it will be deemed the main quake, and all subsequent seismic activity will be referred to as foreshocks. Here's hoping tonight's was the last of them, but I doubt it.
While the U.S. Geological Survey has linked natural gas fracking to recent earthquakes in Youngstown, OH, talk linking fracking to Virginia's quake has been more speculative. Did you feel tonight's quake?

Fracking, Suspected in Virginia’s Quake, Linked to Ohio Tremors

frack-ohioAfter Virginia's August 23rd earthquake, there was speculation about whether it was linked to nearby gas fracking. In the wake of a series of quakes in Ohio capped by a 4.0 rumbler on Saturday, officials aren't being so cautious - they're ordering nearby fracking wells to shut down:
The quake was the 11th over the last eight months in Mahoning County, all within two miles of the injection wells, he said. Saturday's quake was the largest yet. A quake on Dec. 24 measured 2.4.

There is "little doubt" that the quake is linked to injection wells that the state and the owner agreed on Friday to shut down, [state geologist Michael C.] Hansen said. [...]

The wells are among 177 in Ohio. Drilling wastes from Ohio and Pennsylvania are being pumped in increasing volumes into the wells for permanent disposal.

Geologists have long suspected that injecting liquids into underground rock formations can trigger earthquakes along fault lines. The liquids allow rocks to flow more easily past each other. Earthquakes have been linked to injection wells in Arkansas, West Virginia, Colorado and Texas.

Learn more about fracking from the Environmental Working Group, and how it cause earthquakes from the Christian Science Monitor's Pete Spotts.

Exploitatively Pointing Out We’ve Cut Earthquake & Hurricane Monitoring

Earthquake DamageSince I never waste an opportunity to exploit a tragedy, I thought I'd point to this tweet from the Center for American Progress' Michael Linden in the wake of yesterday's earthquake:
US Geological Survey's budget was cut by some $20 million this year. #justsaying
As Hurricane Irene approaches, CAP's ThinkProgress.org reports on budget cuts hurting weather monitoring & emergency response. You may also remember Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) mocking funding for life-saving volcano monitoring and Republican efforts to cut tsunami monitoring at the same time the Japanese earthquake & tsunami struck.

"[P]ointing out that they cut funding on this stuff doesn't constitute 'politicizing' any ongoing natural disasters," writes Matt Yglesias, "Astute readers will note, however, that the meaning of across the board spending cuts is that you're cutting spending on all programs."

"Across the board" spending cuts sound equitable, hence are more politically palatable. But as Matt points out, that means cutting funding for feeding hungry children, taking care of sick people, and fighting forest fires - things that cutting might get you voted out of office. Any politician who'd rather cut funding for earthquake monitoring and feeding hungry children than raise taxes on the wealthy should have to explain that choice to voters.

Small Earthquake Felt in Northern Virginia

I just experienced my first earthquake, getting shaken awake at about 5:02am. Not sure how long it lasted, but after waking up, it felt like my bedroom was inside a giant cell phone on the vibrate setting for about 15 seconds.

Did you feel it? Let us know in comments.

UPDATE 5:15am: US Geological Survey reporting a preliminary magnitude of 3.7, centered near Gaithersburg, MD.

UPDATE 5:26am: After being reviewed by seismologist, USGS puts quake at 3.6 centered a bit closer to Germantown, MD.

UPDATE by Lowell 5:41 am: Great work by Miles, who posted this news 7 minutes before the Washington Post. So far, no word from the Sun Gazette, the Connection Newspapers, the Washington Times or the Washington Examiner on this story.

UPDATE 6:06am: Not Larry Sabato says it looks like a lot of people got woken up by the quake & just decided to stay up, tweeting, "Hysterical- the #DCQuake really woke a lot of people up. Traffic already tied up for morning commute in #Rosslyn outside my window."

UPDATE 6:10am: From NBC's Jeff Rossen via Twitter: "USGS: The quake was largest recorded within 50 kilometers of Washington DC since a database was created to track activity in 1974."