SMU Seismologists study North Texas area earthquakes

Azel, Texas and surrounding areas have been experiencing more than 30 earthquakes since November, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

SMU seismologists are currently studying that area north of Fort Worth, Texas.

“It’s a scary thing to live somewhere for 30 years and suddenly there are earthquakes,” associate professor of geophysics Heather DeShon said.

In December 2013, four digital monitors provided by the USGS were deployed to monitor the seismicity in the area.

The SMU research team is deploying several single channel sensors provided by Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) Program.

The team is led by DeShon and includes seismology professor Brian Stump, graduate student Remi Oldham, working on his dissertation, and an undergraduate geophysics major.

Team members visit the area once or twice a week.

Once the instruments have all been deployed the team will no longer travel to the area.

“One of the larger motivations for this project is looking into whether or not the earthquakes are being induced by nearby injection wells related to fracking,” Oldham said.

On Jan. 23, a group of Azel residents traveled to the state capitol to demand that hydraulic fracking is banned immediately in response to allegations that the fracking is causing the earthquakes.

Along with the research, an education and outreach program is being developed.

The outreach program will include a website with frequently asked questions, maps and pictures.

IRIS’s active earth module, an interactive computer-based earth science display, will also be used. A kiosk will be set up in a public area of Azel for citizens.

“If it does turn out that the earthquakes are injection-induced, emphasis on if, that would be a question for policy and industry professionals,” Oldham said.

Oldham studied geology at Boston University, did undergraduate seismology research there and is currently working on his Master of Science degree.

He will be presenting work on the Azel earthquake sequence on Research Day Feb. 26.

Tell us what you think.