What is the Science Behind an Earthquake

At least five more aftershocks from this weekend's 5.6 magnitude earthquake have hit Monday. Seismologists expect aftershocks to continue for months. Oklahoma reported about fifty quakes a year until 2009, since then that number has topped a thousand. 

Newschannel 6 visited the MSU Department of Geosciences to figure out why this region has seen an increase in earthquake activity. We found out Oklahoma's fault line is extremely active.

Jonathan Price, professor with the Department of Geosciences tells us the majority of quakes that hit on the Oklahoma fault line are usually below a magnitude one and cannot be felt. He says Oklahoma's  Willzetta fault line where Saturday's quake hit is active due to direct movement underground of the earth's plates.

Saturday's 5.6 magnitude earthquake struck six miles northwest of Prague Oklahoma and about two and a half miles deep into the earth. Price comments, "There was a little bit of movement in a break deep in the earth and it is not uncommon. We do seem to see more of them recently, but they are usually quite small. This was larger than typical."

Price says even though Texoma is far away from the underground earth's plate boundaries where most earthquakes hit, we are still being affected. "Here in Oklahoma and Texas we are far away from the plate boundaries. The nearest one is in California and the center of the Atlantic, but we are adjusting to changes that are going on in the edges. There is a bit of breaking and moving that happens as a consequence of that."

But even though we know the consequence Price says the cause is still the big question. "Nobody really knows. All the earthquakes are a response to stress and what's happening in the earth. We don't have a really good way to assess how stress is distributed in the earth so all we can do is monitor them."

So in the mean time the Oklahoma Geological Survey will continue to monitor and track all the increased activity. Price adds, "They're not certain what is causing the increase, but they don't think its unnatural. They do know it's not due to oil exploration or weather conditions. This is just part of the cycle of seismicity."

MSU Geoscience Department says the best researchers can do at this point is locate the fault lines in the earth and assess how active they have been in the past. Another option is just wait until the faults react and move. Their goal is to be able to get some kind of warning that an earthquake is going to happen.

The department says there are more seismographs that have been placed in our region over the past few years. Because of that there is more accessible information online to the public about earthquake data.

Click here to get to the Oklahoma Geological Survey website.

Natalie Garcia,  Newschannel 6