Category Archives: General

Earthquakes and Fracking in Oklahoma Part II: Dynamic Challenges and Potential Solutions

In the first part of my series on earthquakes and fracking in Oklahoma, I wrote about the correlation between hydraulic fracturing activity in the state and the increased frequency of earthquakes. As more injection wells came online in the state to dispose of the produced fluid from fracking operations, the state saw a vast increase in the number of earthquakes, primarily centered around north-central Oklahoma. While scientists are still determining why the earthquake activity is centered in certain parts of the state, they are almost certain that there is at least some correlation between injection well operations and increased seismic activity. But what can Oklahoma do to slow or stop the frequency of these earthquakes? I will address the issue in this post. Continue reading

Earthquakes and Fracking in Oklahoma Part I: What is Causing all the Shaking?

At 1:04 AM on the morning of June 10th, a magnitude 5.2 earthquake hit Borrego Springs, CA, in eastern San Diego County. The earthquake along the San Jacinto Fault triggered hundreds of smaller aftershocks and residents as far away as Los Angeles could feel the shaking. I live approximately 100 miles away from the epicenter, and it woke me up. The earthquake caused renewed discussions among seismologists and the media about whether “the big one” will hit any time soon. We expect earthquakes in Southern California, but when we talk about Oklahoma, it is not a place that usually comes to mind when we think of active earthquake regions in the United States. However, just one day before the magnitude 5.2 quake in California, Oklahoma experienced 3 earthquakes, the largest of which was a magnitude 3.7. These earthquakes in Oklahoma are not an isolated incident. Continue reading

El Niño Is Not Treating All of California Evenly

In August 2015, forecasters predicted that a “Godzilla El Niño” would be heading to the western United States, potentially wiping out (or at least putting a major dent) in the widespread drought. Meteorologists pointed to the similarities between the ocean warming in 1997 and the pattern seen last summer. So far, the forecasters correctly predicted that the El Niño warming patterns would continue to build and rival the intensity of the 1997-1998 El Niño. But unfortunately for the drought in the western United States, the El Niño ocean warming patterns have not translated into significantly above average rainfall totals. After series of promising storms in January, a warm and dry February provided little relief to the drought. At the beginning of February, the US Drought Monitor reported that 39.41% of California faced exceptional drought conditions. At the last update on March 8th, 38.48% of the Golden State had exceptional drought, a reduction of less than 1%. Continue reading

El Niño and Drought Relief in the Pacific Northwest

As 2016 begins, climate researchers remain optimistic that the El Niño pattern that began to build last fall will hold and will generally deliver wet weather across areas of the US facing some of the worst drought conditions such as California. At the January 8th Operation Sierra Storm Conference in Lake Tahoe, Sasha Gershunov, climate and meteorology researcher at Scripps Institute of Oceanography in San Diego said that, “So far we’ve got out of this event exactly what we expected.” From the initial snow survey on December 30th, California’s mountain snowpack is currently at 136% of average, and many parts of the state received precipitation during the first two weeks of the year. Unfortunately, while the initial snow survey results represent a good start, (especially in comparison to last year’s record low snowpack) the precipitation has not made an appreciable dent in the drought conditions across much of the Western United States. According to the most recent US Drought Monitor conditions, despite appreciable rainfalls, severe drought continues to cover parts of California, Nevada, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. The severity of California’s drought has not yet decreased dramatically either. The land area of exceptional drought (the most severe category) fell from 44.84% last week to 42.66% this week. Continue reading