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Many Mysterious Earthquakes and a Giant Methane Plume

Between March 4 and March 12, 2014, 77 earthquakes were recorded in Poland Township, Ohio. Nine earthquakes ranging in magnitude from 1.6 to 3.6 occurred in North Texas in a 24 hour period this week. Satellite images show a plume of methane gas covering 2,500 square miles over New Mexico. Should we be worried?

Scientists in Ohio think so. According to a report this week in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, the earthquakes in Ohio were caused by fracking and were the first strong enough to be felt by humans, not just measured by seismic equipment. The earthquakes ranged in magnitude from 1.0 to a building-shaking 3.0 and all occurred near oil and gas wells using hydraulic fracturing.

Locations of some of the North Texas earthquakes

Locations of some of the North Texas earthquakes

Now they can add the Dallas area to the list of cities where humans have felt a high frequency of mysterious earthquakes. The 9 earthquakes registered from 1.6 to 3.6 and were felt in Irving, Dallas, Mesquite, Arlington and Coppell, with most of the shaking centered in Irving, a Dallas suburb. If you’re counting, a total of 25 earthquakes have been registered in this North Texas area since late October 2014 and over 100 since 2008. Irving just happens to be headquarters of Exxon Mobil’s XTO unit that pioneered fracking in this region. Not surprisingly, no one in the energy industry is making a connection to the earthquakes.

Size and location of methane plume over New Mexico

Size and location of methane plume over New Mexico

One of the consequences of fracking is the release of methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. There are about 40,000 gas wells in the area underneath the New Mexico methane plume, the largest such gas cloud over the continental U.S. Methane is visible from space and the New Mexico plume is so big (the size of the state of Delaware), NASA scientists at first questioned their data. There’s no question now – just as there should be no question that this is a serious problem.

Massive clouds of methane over fracking sites. Increasing numbers of frequent earthquakes centered around fracking operations. There doesn’t appear to be any mystery here. Is it time to worry … or too late?

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Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.
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