Monday, November 7, 2011

Lemming Tracks: Oklahoma Earthquake, "Unexplained Increase," and Sounding Crazy

You've probably heard about it by now: Oklahoma, a central-USA state, had a major earthquake on Saturday. Apparently nobody's been killed, or seriously injured.

Generally speaking, what happens in Oklahoma doesn't make the national news in this country. The big weekend quake, on the other hand, is news. International news:

Oklahoma Earthquake: Unusually Strong

"Fourteen homes damaged in record earthquake in Oklahoma"
Steve Olafson, Reuters (November 6, 2011)

"Fourteen homes were damaged late on Saturday in the largest earthquake to hit Oklahoma on record, emergency management officials said on Sunday.

"The 5.6-magnitude earthquake's epicenter, located 44 miles east of Oklahoma City, was felt as far away as Wisconsin and South Carolina, but there were no serious injuries, officials said. The Oklahoma health department reported two minor injuries, neither requiring hospitalization.

"The largest earthquake previously recorded in Oklahoma was a 5.5-magnitude tremor in 1952, according to the Geological Survey...."

So, what's the big deal? Fourteen homes damaged is important: for folks living in those buildings; and probably their friends, relatives, and neighbors. But it's not exactly earth-shaking news.

Well, actually, it was: literally. But the Lemming meant that it wasn't the sort of thing that's likely to affect folks living on another continent. Or even another state.

Being literal again, this Oklahoma quake was felt in another state. Several, actually, besides Wisconsin and South Carolina.

Quake Felt From Illinois to Texas

"Oklahoma's largest quake in decades buckles highway; rattles residents"
CNN (November 6, 2011)

"Central Oklahoma continued to experience dozens of aftershocks Sunday, nearly 24 hours since the state's strongest earthquake since 1952 was felt throughout the region.

"More than ten aftershocks measuring at east 3.0 magnitude were reported Sunday, in the hours after a 5.6-magnitude earthquake took residents by surprise Saturday night. The temblor rattled homes and structures, causing belongings to scatter in houses and sending strident, booming sounds through the area....

"...The 5.6-magnitude quake struck four miles east of Sparks in Lincoln County at 11:53 p.m. ET Saturday.

"It hit struck the same area where a 4.7-magnitude quake struck just hours earlier -- at 3:12 a.m. ET Saturday.

"By 8 a.m. Sunday, geologists had recorded more than 30 aftershocks.

"The strongest quake previously reported was of magnitude 5.5 on April 9, 1952, according to the Oklahoma Geological Survey.

"According to The Oklahoman newspaper, the weekend's tremors were reportedly felt as far away as Illinois, Kansas, Arkansas, Tennessee and Texas....

An earthquake being felt over several Midwestern states isn't all that odd. From what the Lemming's read, the central part of the North American continent acts more like one big piece of rock than the west coast.

That's because the Midwest doesn't have the west coast's wealth of more-or-less active fault lines. Shaking on one of the coastal fragments doesn't travel too well across that fractured terrain. Toward the center of the continent, the effect is more like hitting a gong: vibrations travel hundreds of miles. At least, that's what the Lemming's gathered is the case.

Back to the Oklahoma earthquake, and what's happening deep below the Sooner state:

Ancient Crack in the World: REACTIVATED!

"...The quakes happened near the location of a 4.7-magnitude quake last year near the Wilzetta fault, also known as the Seminole uplift, [state geological survey seismologist] Holland said....

"...At least one person was taken to a hospital in Prague with minor injuries, he [Lincoln County emergency services' Aaron Bennett] said.

"The man hit his head against a wall when he tripped and fell while trying to run out of his house, Bennett said....

"...'We know that this is an old fault, now reactivated, interacting with the North American plate and generating pressure,' said Holland...."

Okay, now this is starting to get interesting. The Wilzetta fault, that ancient crack in the world, has been - - - REACTIVATED! That must mean that someone - or SOME - THING reactivated it!!!

Sure, the Lemming realizes that Earth is a tectonically active planet, and that there's a huge mess of churning forces at work inside this 8,000-mile-wide sphere we call home. But that sort of common-sense approach seems so - commonsensical. Let's see what the fevered imagination of a Lemming can come up with:


"Oklahoma Hit With 10 Aftershocks Following 5.6-Magnitude Earthquake"
Associated Press, via (November 6, 2011)

"...The magnitude 5.6 earthquake and its aftershocks still had residents rattled Sunday. No injuries were reported, and aside from a buckled highway and the collapse of a tower on the St. Gregory's University administration building, neither was any major damage. But the weekend earthquakes were among the strongest yet in a state that has seen a dramatic, unexplained increase in seismic activity.

"Oklahoma typically had about 50 earthquakes a year until 2009. Then the number spiked, and 1,047 quakes shook the state last year, prompting researchers to install seismographs in the area...."

This is more like it! 'Deeply buried' in an Associated Press news item, the SHOCKING TRUTH!!! DRAMATIC, UNEXPLAINED INCREASE in SEISMIC ACTIVITY!!!!!

Remember: if you're going to sound like a crazy person in print, you should use ALL CAPS and TOO MANY EXCLAMATION MARKS!!!!!!! Screwball font choices help, too.

The Lemming's Mind: Off the Leash

Influenced, perhaps, by daylight saving time-induced jet lag, an autumnal cold/sore throat, and several cups of coffee, the Lemming's mind slipped out of its leash while writing this post. More about that in another blog:

Meanwhile, Back in the Real World - - -

A bit more seriously, the Lemming is very glad that nobody got killed - or even seriously hurt. As far as the Lemming knows, anyway. There's been a fair amount of property damage, and city planners should probably start re-evaluating building codes: and that's almost another topic.

The "unexplained" increase in earthquake activity may be a statistical fluke. Or it could be part of the process North America is going through, rebounding from the weight of the last major continental glaciation. Or maybe it's 'earthquake season,' part of a natural cycle we haven't found out about yet.

Part of the fun in science is that we don't know everything there is to know about how things work. It's the Lemming's opinions that the little regularities that humanity has noticed over the last few centuries may not be quite all there is to the laws of nature.

And that is another topic.

Related posts:
More, about the last 4,500,000,000 or so years:


Brigid said...

There's a big blank space after this heading: "Ancient Crack in the World: REACTIVATED!"

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brigid said...

For some bizarre reason, I can't seem to post a comment on your post about the Minneapolis skyway system. So I will mention the typo here: "where worlds like "winter" and "cold" have"

Pretty sure you didn't mean 'worlds.'

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Happy walker said...

nice blog~ walking here with a smile. take care.. have a nice day ~ =D

Regards, (A Growing Teenager Diary) ..

Brian H. Gill said...


Oops. Formatting code error. Fixed, thanks!

Brian H. Gill said...


About the comments on "Minneapolis Skyways: Warm Winter Walking" (November 9, 2011) - Thanks for spotting that. Comments for that particular post had been disabled - quite unintentionally. That's fixed now. The odd word, too.

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