Is This a New Normal? Oklahoma and Texas Experience Surge in Earthquakes

While it’s true that Oklahoma experienced a significant decrease in earthquake activity after stricter wastewater disposal regulations were implemented in 2015, it’s not entirely accurate to say the quakes have “stopped” or activity isn’t significant. Here’s a more nuanced picture:

Decrease in Overall Activity:

  • After the 2015 regulations, Oklahoma saw a dramatic decline in earthquakes, especially larger ones. The rate of magnitude 3 or greater earthquakes dropped by roughly 80% between 2015 and 2020.
  • This decrease is widely attributed to reduced wastewater injection volumes in response to the regulations.

Recent Uptick and Reasons:

  • While still lower than the peak years, there has been a slight increase in earthquake activity in Oklahoma since 2020.
  • Possible reasons for this include:
    • Pent-up pressure: Even with reduced injection, fluids already underground can take years to dissipate, potentially triggering earthquakes.
    • Limited enforcement: Some critics argue regulations haven’t been consistently enforced, allowing continued high-volume injection in certain areas.
    • Other factors: Natural tectonic processes, though less likely, can also contribute to earthquake activity.

Current Activity:

  • According to the USGS, Oklahoma averaged around 2-3 earthquakes per day above magnitude 2.5 in 2023, which is similar to the frequency in 2021 and 2022.
  • This is still significantly lower than the peak period around 2014-2015, when they experienced daily averages of 4-5 earthquakes above magnitude 2.5.
  • However, it’s also important to consider the severity of individual events. While fewer than before, recent months have seen some larger earthquakes in Oklahoma, like the 4.5 magnitude event near Pawnee in November 2023.

Recent significant events occurred last night (Friday, January 12th, 2024):near Edmond, Oklahoma (in the OKC Metroplex

  • 9:45 PM: A 4.4-magnitude earthquake struck just east-northeast of Edmond, close to Arcadia. This was the largest tremor of the night and has been reported to have been felt across the Oklahoma City metro area.
  • 9:37 PM: An initial 3.3-magnitude quake occurred approximately 9 kilometers from Edmond and 5 kilometers west of Arcadia.
  • 9:53 PM: A further 2.7-magnitude event registered close to the earlier tremors, centered west of Arcadia and northeast of Edmond.
  • 10:04 PM: Another earthquake measuring 2.6 on the Richter scale was recorded in the same area.

IOver 10 earthquakes have been reported since 9:40 PM Friday night near Edmond and Arcadia. This is certainly a concerning cluster of seismic activity, exceeding the typical daily average for Oklahoma in recent years.


  • The earthquake situation in Oklahoma remains complex and evolving. While overall activity has significantly decreased compared to the peak years, there has been a slight uptick in recent years. This could be due to a combination of factors like residual pressure, potential compliance issues, and natural geologic processes.
  • Continued monitoring and enforcement of regulations, along with further research into the underlying causes, are crucial for managing the risk of earthquakes in Oklahoma and similar regions.

Earthquakes in Oklahoma and Texas have a complex cause, likely involving a combination of factors, including:

Fault lines: While the region isn’t considered highly tectonically active, there are existing fault lines, some capable of producing moderate earthquakes. Studies suggest wastewater injection might reactivate these faults.

Wastewater injection: The injection of wastewater produced during oil and gas extraction into deep underground wells is the most likely factor linked to the increased earthquake activity since 2009. This practice increases pore pressure in the rock, potentially triggering earthquakes.

Fracking: The connection between fracking and earthquakes is less clear and more controversial. Although large fracking operations can cause tremors, most are too small to be felt and likely don’t contribute significantly to the larger earthquakes in Oklahoma and Texas.

Here’s a breakdown of the evidence:

  • Wastewater injection: Studies conducted by the USGS and other institutions have shown a strong correlation between the timing and location of wastewater injection wells and earthquakes in Oklahoma. Reducing wastewater injection volumes has been shown to decrease earthquake activity in some areas.
  • Fault lines: The New Madrid Seismic Zone, a major fault system spanning parts of Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Kentucky, extends into northeastern Oklahoma. While large earthquakes are rare here, the existing fault lines could be influenced by wastewater injection, increasing the risk of tremors.
  • Fracking: The link between fracking and earthquakes is more debated. Fracking operations create small tremors, but most are too small to be felt. Studies haven’t definitively linked fracking to larger earthquakes in Oklahoma and Texas.

Therefore, while fault lines exist and fracking might cause minor tremors, wastewater injection is currently considered the primary factor behind the increased earthquake activity in Oklahoma and Texas. Regulations on wastewater injection volumes and locations are being implemented to manage the risk of earthquakes.

Remember, research and understanding of these factors are ongoing. I recommend checking credible sources like the USGS and Oklahoma Geological Survey for the latest information and scientific updates.

It’s important to stay informed about the situation and follow updates from trusted sources like the USGS and Oklahoma Geological Survey. They will provide information about potential aftershocks, safety recommendations, and any new developments related to the earthquakes.

Here are some helpful resources:

  • USGS Earthquake Information Center:
  • Oklahoma Geological Survey:

I understand that these earthquakes can be unsettling, and I encourage you to reach out for support if needed. Many local organizations offer resources and assistance in the aftermath of such events.

I will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as new information becomes available. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.

Should you worry about your home structure with increasing earthquake activity?

The severity of the earthquakes: The 4.4-magnitude event near Edmond was significant and could potentially cause damage to older or poorly constructed buildings. Smaller quakes, like the 2.5-3.0 range, are less likely to cause structural damage but might still lead to minor cracks or cosmetic issues.

The construction of the home: Homes built to modern seismic codes are generally better equipped to withstand earthquakes than older structures. Factors like the building materials, foundation type, and overall design play a role in resilience.

The location of the earthquake: The distance from the epicenter and the local geology can also influence the impact on specific buildings. Homes closer to the epicenter or on unstable ground are more likely to experience damage.

Previous damage: If a home has already sustained damage from past earthquakes, it may be more vulnerable to further harm from future tremors.

Professional evaluation: Ultimately, the best way to assess the potential impact of the earthquakes on your home is to get a professional evaluation from a qualified structural engineer or building inspector. They can examine your specific property and provide recommendations for any necessary repairs or mitigation measures.

Here are some general recommendations:

  • Stay informed: Monitor earthquake updates from trusted sources like the USGS and Oklahoma Geological Survey.
  • Inspect your home: Look for visible signs of damage, such as cracks in walls, floors, or foundations, sticking doors or windows, and uneven floors.
  • Secure loose objects: Secure shelves, bookcases, and other heavy furniture to prevent them from falling during an earthquake.
  • Have an emergency plan: Develop a family emergency plan in case of an earthquake and practice earthquake drills regularly.
  • Consider mitigation: If you live in an area with high seismic activity, consider earthquake mitigation measures like bracing walls and foundations.

Remember, it’s always better to be prepared and take precautions than to be caught off guard. If you have any concerns about the structural integrity of your home, don’t hesitate to seek professional advice.

I hope this information helps! Please let me know if you have any other questions.

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