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Stories focused on energy & environment topics throughout the state of Kansas.

Whole Lot Of Shakin': Wichita Feels 7 Minor Earthquakes In 2 Weeks

U.S. Geological Survey

Seven low-intensity earthquakes have rattled parts of the Wichita area since Thanksgiving, but a Kansas expert on seismic activity says residents should not be overly concerned about a larger, more destructive quake occurring there.

Two more quakes occurred Thursday morning in east Wichita, both with an estimated magnitude of 2.7. Five other quakes have been reported in the last two weeks. The strongest was magnitude 3.3 on Tuesday.

Wichita media reported concerned residents called emergency dispatchers after feeling the quakes and hearing booms associated with them, but no injuries or significant damage were reported. Geologists say damage is not likely in quakes below magnitude 4.0.

Rick Miller, a senior scientist with the Kansas Geological Survey, said the area has a history of low-intensity earthquakes dating as far back as 1919. The affected region is along the western edge of the Nemaha Ridge, an underground mountain with several faults.

He said KGS recorded nine earthquakes in the region in 2017-2018, but they were small enough that no one felt them. Historically, if an area experiences 10 magnitude 2.0 earthquakes, a magnitude 3.0 quake is likely to occur, he said.

More smaller quakes are likely before the ridge settles down, he said.

“You can never predict with complete certainty, but we shouldn't expect anything in the damaging range,” Miller said.

Earthquakes have increased in Kansas since 2013 when fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, became more common for oil and gas exploration. Some researchers think injection of wastewater from the explorations into underground wells contributes to the quakes.

Those quakes, centered in southern and central Kansas, have caused damage and prompted investigations into the fracking and wastewater injection.

But Miller said there is no evidence to suggest the recent Wichita-area earthquakes had anything to do with fracking or wastewater disposal practices.

"That is just not the case here,” he said. “This is a natural sequence and not a direct impact from any nearby injector.”

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