Oklahoma Earthquake: Many Earthquakes Puzzles Scientists

The recent spike in earthquakes striking Oklahoma, including the 5.6-magnitude tremor that rocked the region Saturday, has scientists puzzled.

More than 20 earthquakes struck the state over the weekend, including several 4.0-magnitude and higher quakes surrounding the 5.6-magnitude earthquake, the largest in the state’s history, announced officials.

"We will definitely continue to see aftershocks, as we've already seen aftershocks from this one," said Paul Earle, a seismologist with the United States Geological Survey in Golden, Colo., to the Associated Press. "We will see aftershocks in the days and weeks to come, possibly even months."

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The weekend’s seismic activity is part of a trend of increased activity in the state.

More than 1,000 earthquakes were recorded in 2010 after seismographs were installed in the area. Only around 100 of those earthquakes, however, were strong enough to be felt by people in the area.

It is unclear why there was a sudden spike in reported earthquakes in Oklahoma. Before 2010, the state typically had 50 earthquakes a year, officials said.

Oklahoma has had 10 times more earthquakes than normal since mid-2009, said Austin Holland, a research seismologist with the Oklahoma Geological Survey, to the New York Times.

 “It could be a natural cycle; we just don’t know,” Holland added.

The fault systems are not studied as in-depth as major faults like the San Andreas in California, because the earthquakes striking the region only recently increased, according to reports.

Arkansas also saw a significant increase in the number of earthquakes reported in recent years, which some in the area are blaming on fracking, a common practice in Oklahoma, reported the AP.

Fracking, shortened from hydraulic fracturing, is the process of using fluids to break apart shale and rock, which releases natural gas trapped deep underground. Wells above ground push the liquid back into the ground after the natural gas is captured.

Officials and industry leaders said there is no proof linking the widely used practice of fracking to natural disasters, such as earthquakes.

Officials continue to study theories to understand the significant increase of seismic activity in the region.

"It's a real mystery," Holland told the AP. "At this point, there's no reason to think that the earthquakes would be caused by anything other than natural (shifts in the Earth’s crust)."

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