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Geologist explains possible cause of Wichita earthquakes

Kansas geologists: 'New' fault may because of recent earthquakes
Updated: Jan. 4, 2021 at 7:25 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - The latest earthquake registered in east Wichita was felt early Monday morning and measured at a magnitude of 2.2. Looking at possible causes of the numerous earthquakes reported in the area since Thanksgiving, a local geologist explains why he thinks there is a newly-identified fault line.

The earthquake recorded overnight wasn’t felt as much as a much larger earthquake last Wednesday that the Kansas Geological Survey recorded at a magnitude of 3.9, but it continued the seismic activity that’s ramped up locally since late November. Retired Wichita State University geology professor Dr. Sal Mazzullo said it’s nearly impossible to predict if the local earthquakes will increase in occurrence or strength over time.

“I hope they stop. I don’t know if they will or won’t,” Dr. Mazzullo said. “But I would rather not live in a tectonically active zone.”

Dr. Mazzullo believes there are new, previously unrecognized faults under Wichita. He showed a map with two possible other faults not connected to the Humboldt fault line.

“Faults slip to create earthquakes, all in this area from Central to 13th, mostly all of them are right in this area,” he said, pointing out an area of east Wichita where recent earthquakes have registered. “That’s where we think a possibly previously unrecognizable fault exists. It may exist. It could also be due to a known fault that is present just to the west of us, that runs on the other side of Wichita.”

The larger quake recorded on Dec. 30 measured at a magnitude of 3.8 by the U.S. Geological Survey and 3.9 by the Kansas Geological Survey. Dr. Mazzullo explained that the Kansas Geological Survey has more seismometers in the state.

“The USGS doesn’t have but one in the state of Kansas, so we rely, I rely on the information provided by the Kansas Survey because they have better data coverage.”

Mazzullo added that when it comes to earthquake strength, potential structural damage starts when an earthquake’s magnitude exceeds 4.0.

The Kansas Corporation Commission reached its findings of the recent earthquakes and said they are not tied to the oil and gas industry. The KCC released the following statement.

“The Kansas Corporation Commission understands and shares the concerns that exist over the recent seismic events in Wichita. We want residents to know that our staff continues to monitor seismic activity in the area and work wtih (the Kansas Geological Survey and Kansas Department of Health and Environment.) Any new information that we learn will be shared.”

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