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5.1 magnitude earthquake strikes near Oklahoma City

The area ‘has been illuminated by earthquakes since 2009’, scientists said

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Saturday 03 February 2024 15:25 GMT
A 5.1 magnitude earthquake struck near Oklahoma City
A 5.1 magnitude earthquake struck near Oklahoma City (Screenshot / US Geological Survey)

An earthquake has struck around 40 miles from Oklahoma City with a preliminary magnitude of 5.1 reported.

The Friday night quake was followed by at least two smaller tremors, the US Geological Survey (USGS) stated.

The large earthquake came at 11.24pm local time on Friday about five miles from Prague, Oklahoma, which has about 2,000 residents.

Preliminary reports from USGS said that the shaking was felt in across the state, including in major cities such as Tulsa and Oklahoma City. The tremor could also be felt across state lines as far away as Wichita, Kansas.

After the larger, initial quake, two smaller tremors were reported in the same area with magnitudes of 2.6 and 3.5, the agency noted.

USGS states that “most of North America east of the Rocky Mountains has infrequent earthquakes” but added that “most of the enormous region from the Rockies to the Atlantic can go years without an earthquake large enough to be felt, and several US states have never reported a damaging earthquake”.

The agency noted that quakes east of the Rockies happen less frequently but when they do, they are “typically felt over a much broader region than earthquakes of similar magnitude in the west”.

In the east, an earthquake can be felt across an area ten times the size of a similar quake in the west.

“A magnitude 5.5 earthquake in eastern or central North America might be felt by much of the population out to more than 500 km (300 mi) from its source,” the US Geological Survey says. “Earthquakes east of the Rockies that are centered in populated areas and large enough to cause damage are, similarly, likely to cause damage out to greater distances than earthquakes of the same magnitude centered in western North America.”

Scientists Judith Hubbard and Kyle Bradley wrote on the substack, Earthquake Insights, that the Oklahoma area “has been illuminated by earthquakes since ~2009”, calling it “a byproduct of oil and gas extraction”.

“Specifically, most of these earthquakes are thought to be the result of the injection of wastewater back into the subsurface. Seismicity has decreased since its peak - possibly because of a decrease in wastewater injection rates,” they write.

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