Citizen Science and Earthquakes

Traditionally, you wouldn’t think about earthquakes in Oklahoma. But, since 2009, earthquakes have been part of life in the state. (https://www.usgs.gov/faqs/oklahoma-has-had-a-surge-earthquakes-2009-are-they-due-fracking?qt-news_science_products=0#qt-news_science_products) This has raised a lot of questions. Are these earthquakes due to human activities or is there something else. Some of the quakes are definitely related to human activities, but not necessarily to what one might expect. Is it fracking? Or is it the disposal of water? Is it due to the rate? Or is it location? There are a number of factors and there is a great potential for research. But, it also brings out how individuals can provide information that can help scientists understand the world around us, and can help sort through the vast quantities of information that is currently available due to our sensors, cameras, and just being in the right place at the right time.

Yesterday, I was in Enid, Oklahoma. And between 10 am and noon, there were several earthquakes, with the epicenter located near Lucien, Oklahoma. At the time, the largest quake was 4.1 and it occurred at 11:48 am, later it was re-evaluated to be a 4.2. In a 24-hour period, there were seven quakes greater than 2.6 in the same area. These quakes are currently being investigated by the United States Geological Survey and the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to determine if these quakes were due to wastewater disposal activities. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission did order some specific wastewater disposal wells to stop operating due to the activity. But, this event also provides everyone a chance to contribute to science.

The United States Geological Survey has a citizen science site titled “Did you feel it?” (https://earthquake.usgs.gov/data/dyfi/) This allows you to report. It allows you to click on a specific event. In this case, the 4.2 quake in Lucien. The site allows you to indicate if you felt it, where you were (and you can do this by placing a pin on your location or address) and steps you through a variety of questions. This information helps scientists to understand how the energy of the earthquake traveled in the vicinity and what the potential damage or other outcomes might have occurred. This information helps scientists in a number of ways. For example, it helps to see how the geology impacts the local area, it helps to determine what the ultimate cause of the earthquake might be, and it provides information about the ultimate consequences of particular actives might be. Thus, you can help inform and ultimately help scientists predict future outcomes.

There are a number of different citizen projects. You can help identify monitor populations of seals by tagging time-lapse and drone photographs (https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/cmfoley/seal-watch). Help recover hidden weather data collected by the U.S. Navy ( https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/krwood/old-weather-ww2). Or, hunt mysterious bursts from space (https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/mikewalmsley/bursts-from-space). Those are just a small sampling of projects from Zooniverse. There other sites and projects as well you can go to citizenscience.gov to find a catalog. Or just do a quick “google” search. Depending upon your interest, you can contribute to the scientific knowledge base. And, who knows you may be the first to discover something profound.

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