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Locating Earthquake Epicenters

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Definitely, Most Likely (or Not)

Definitely, Most Likely (or Not)

Credit: HartmannValves
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Wellhead_Bohrlochkopf.JPG
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

This is a well head. Fluids are injected into the ground for hydraulic fracturing. Some people say that this process causes man-made earthquakes. Let’s examine this idea to see if it’s true, false or needs further testing.

News You Can Use

  • Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, releases natural gas from rock. Fluids are injected into a rock at high pressure to create fractures. The gas migrates out of the rock and is collected.
  • An increasing number of small to medium earthquakes are taking place in regions where there is fracking.
  • Earthquakes are normally rare in many of these locations, causing people to speculate that they are the result of fracking.
  • This is an area of active research; no one is sure if or how many earthquakes are caused by fracking.

Show What You Know

With the link below, learn more about manmade earthquakes from fracking. Then answer the following questions.

  1. Why does Dutchsinse think that fracking has caused the 10/20/2011 Texas earthquake?
  2. How does Dutchsinse locate the epicenter of the earthquake? What does he really need to know to see if there is a link between fracking and the earthquake?
  3. Is Dutchsinse’s conclusion that the earthquake was “definitely, most likely” caused by fracking sound? Why or why not?
  4. How could you continue this study to come to a better conclusion on whether fracking causes earthquakes or not?
  5. What do you need before you can establish causation? Is this correlation or causation?
  6. Can you say with certainty based on this study, if fracking does or does not cause earthquakes?

Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: HartmannValves; Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Wellhead_Bohrlochkopf.JPG; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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