Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

Just How Strong Were Weekend Earthquakes in Dallas?

Courtesy of the USGS http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eventpage/usc000cyc1#dyfi

The USGS maps where earthquakes were felt. This shows reports from the quake that struck Irving, Texas.

Update: Read about the Jan. 22, 2013 DFW quake here. 

Pretty Strong. For Dallas.

The 3.1 earthquake that shook the Dallas area on Saturday night and the 3.4 quake near Irving were still small by any estimation. Small enough that the L.A. Times even had a little fun covering the quakes, running the headline “Not Everything is Bigger in Texas” on Sunday.

But even though the quakes were babies compared to the types that visit Los Angeles, U.S. Geological Survey records show that they were slightly more intense than most other earthquakes have been in Dallas.

A search of earthquakes within a hundred kilometer radius of the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport on the USGS Circular Area Earthquake Search showed that only one quake has been stronger than the 3.4 recorded in Irving (a 3.5 quake earlier this year that happened closer to Cleburne, Texas, a known hotspot for small earthquakes).

The most powerful quake ever measured in Texas was a 4.6 on the Richter scale, near Snyder, in 1978.

Of the 50 quakes that have been recorded in the area only 8 had been of magnitude 3.0 or higher until Saturday night. The area has still not seen a quake of 4.0 or higher, the level which seismologists consider dangerous.

“Quakes of this size typically don’t cause any damage at all. I’ve seen some reports of broken windows and cracked sheetrock and honestly I’m a little bit dubious of those reports,” Don Blakeman, a Geo-Physicist at the National Earthquake Information Center, told StateImpact Texas.

“Typically these types of quakes don’t do much than get peoples attention,” Blakeman added.

Researchers have established a link between the uptick in earthquakes in Texas and the use of disposal wells to store fluid from hydraulic fracturing. The link is well-illustrated in the Dallas area records, which show only one quake before 2008 when oil and gas fracking began increasing, and 49 since then.

However when it comes to individual seismic occurrences, the cause and effect can be difficult to prove.

“We really can’t tell, they just look like earthquakes to us,” Blakeman said.

He says that the USGS is putting in more seismic monitoring gear to study earthquake clusters near disposal well sites, although he doesn’t know of any in the Dallas area.

“Now if this [earthquake event]  turns out to be a larger swarm like we’ve seen in Arkansas and Colorado then they’d probably be considering that,” he said.


  • Fracking/manmade or naturally induced seismic activities are NOT the gas well casing’s friend. We need to get Dale Henry elected to the Railroad Commission cause he understands the “other” risks to casings that are falling between the “cracks” with the present set of comissioners…don’t vote straight ticket Republician, or you’ll miss the opportunity to make your (protections to drinking water) casings safer.

  • Nothing to see here folks, just keep moving on…so sez TX RR Commission/TCEQ! TX homes (brick ones) are stiff and prone to shaking damages, not like flexible ones as build in CA.

  • Gee, 1 earthquake before 2008 and 49 since then when they started fracking but they can’t say for sure that the fracking is causing it. Give me a break!

    • TexasOnMyMind

      Uh, they started “fracking” in the mid-1990s, not that we want to let facts get in the way of this ignorant circle jerk or anything like that…

      • WCGasette

        Excuse me. Calling someone a “jerk” is hardly the way to have an “educated” discussion. You very well may not like what Eric Whitney wrote…which is closer to the truth than what you wrote, by the way.

        Industry (I hope that’s not you) likes to always say that “fracking has been conducted safely for 60 years in TX.” Unfortunately, what is always left out is that “fracking of horizontal wells in shale formations began in the Barnett Shale in Wise County, TX sometime in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s.” George Mitchell and his company were working on it to get it right. It only became “viable” in the Barnett Shale around 2006. And since 2007 (beginning the Marcellus Shale) we have the fracking of multiple wells on a pad site in the Barnett Shale. It’s all relatively new. And tag. We’re it.


      • Marc

        The ignorant circle jerk around here is you. Fracing did NOT start in and around Dallas in the mid-1990′s. Back then, it was far removed from densely populated urban areas. Obviously, your knowledge of this subject would fill a very small thimble.

  • Gosh, golly gee, a big quake was recorded near Sherman back in the late 1800′s before any marginal drilling of wells….

    • Mose Buchele

      Hi Steve,
      Just to clarify, the search we did in USGS records were for quakes within 100 kilometers of DFW International Airport. It’s quite possible that there have been other quakes, but if they happened in that range they’re not part of the USGS record.
      As we noted, there have been other quakes in Texas (including that 4.6 in Synder).

      Thanks for reading!

  • Linda Wildes

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-12/earthquake-outbreak-in-central-u-s-tied-to-drilling-wastewater.html Everytime you see an earthquake in the middle of the US– search the city for fracking and guess what you will find! Of course it was fracking…nothing else even make sense.

  • TexasOnMyMind

    Exactly who is “speculating” about this supposed link, other than reporters at State Impact and the Texas Tribune?

  • Just because an earthquacks don’t cause damage above ground. You don’t know what damage it caused underground. And thats the bigest problem. So like I bean telling you be propared. Untill we get the okay to fixs this problem all country are under redline warnings. Rod Bravender The Majestic Lion. It time to be responsable and do the right thing. Seya

  • alva

    This is mostly off of the public’s radar. The facts needs to be elevated to national attention and we need to have a dialog about what we are doing to our planet.

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