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USGS: Risk of 2016 earthquakes increases, especially in Oklahoma

Staff writer |
The ground east of the Rockies is far more likely to shake this year with damaging though not deadly earthquakes, federal seismologists report in a new risk map for 2016. Much of that is a man-made byproduct of drilling for energy.

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Parts of Oklahoma now match northern California for the nation's most shake prone. One north-central Oklahoma region has a 1 in 8 chance of a damaging quake in 2016, with other parts closer to 1 in 20, AP reported.

Overall, 7 million people live in areas where the risk has dramatically jumped for earthquakes caused by disposal of wastewater, a byproduct of drilling for oil and gas. That is mostly concentrated in Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Kansas, Colorado and Arkansas.

Natural earthquake risk also increased around the New Madrid fault in Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas and Illinois.

In a first-of-its-kind effort, the U.S. Geological Survey on Monday released a map for risks of damaging quakes in the current year. Past efforts looked at 50-year risks and didn't include man-made quakes. The new risks are mostly based on increases in quakes felt last year.

These are not massive quakes that kill hundreds or thousands of people and leave devastation in their wake. Instead, these smaller quakes happen more frequently, said Mark Petersen, chief of the National Seismic Hazard Mapping Project. They damage but don't topple buildings.

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