A new study suggests the presence of chemicals that have been linked to earthquakes could be a contributing factor to the quakes that have rocked the U.S. and Canada in recent years.
A recent study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research finds that chemicals that can trigger earthquakes may also be a factor in the quaking that’s happening in many parts of the world.
The study is the first to link the presence and behavior of quakes to chemicals in the atmosphere, said study author David N. Krasnoff, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California at Berkeley.
The authors said they hope the study will help scientists understand the possible role that wastewater-generated earthquakes may have on the earth’s crust and the potential for wastewater-derived chemicals to contribute to quakes.
“The combination of chemicals and earthquakes is one of the largest uncertainties associated with the seismicity in the U, Canada, and U.K.,” Nils Krasner, the study’s lead author, said in a statement.
The researchers say their findings suggest that the presence or behavior of wastewater-induced quakes may be a major contributor to the frequency and severity of earthquakes that have occurred around the world, and to the global warming caused by those quakes, the Associated Press reported.
“It’s the first time we’ve really looked at wastewater-related quakes and that they are not the only cause of earthquakes in a global scale,” Krasnyks co-author and former Berkeley graduate student Kevin J. Folling said in the statement.
“They are part of the puzzle, but they are a large part of it.”
The researchers found that wastewater wastewater injection caused a spike in the number of quake events and increased the odds that an earthquake would occur.
“We find that the number and severity (of quakes) are correlated to the wastewater injection rate,” Krosnoff said in an email.
“So, if we assume a 1 in 3,000 to 1 in 4,000 chance of an earthquake, we see that the odds of a wastewater injection earthquake increase by over 10,000 times if we use that scenario.”
The findings, published in The Journal of Chemical Physics, are consistent with the idea that wastewater injection could cause quakes in a number of ways, the AP reported.
The paper said the study showed that wastewater injected at higher rates is likely to have more energy released as it travels through the Earth’s atmosphere and can trigger a larger number of earthquakes.
“This result confirms the hypothesis that high wastewater injection rates increase the likelihood of wastewater injection earthquakes, and that these earthquakes are a major cause of quaking in the crust and on the seafloor,” the researchers wrote.