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U.S. earthquake forecast includes human-induced tremblors for first time

USGS map displaying potential to experience damage from natural or human-induced earthquakes in 2016. (Image: USGS)
USGS map displaying potential to experience damage from natural or human-induced earthquakes in 2016. (Image: USGS)

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. agency responsible for monitoring earthquakes has for the first time issued a short-term seismic forecast that includes both natural and human-induced risks.

The report comes after an alarming six-year rise in the incidence of quakes throughout parts of the U.S. where some seven million people may be affected, including pockets that could see quakes as damaging as those typically occurring in California. 

The states facing the highest risks from human-induced quakes are, in order, Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arkansas. The largest populations at risk live in Oklahoma and Texas.

Related: 5 tips for earthquake catastrophe planning

Earthquakes measuring higher than 3 out of 10 on the Richter scale reached into the hundreds in 2015, up from an average of 24 between 1973 and 2008. Many of the temblors are what scientists call "induced earthquakes" and have been linked to underground storage of water related to oil and gas production.

A recent journal study by scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey concluded that water injection wells with the highest rates, greater than 300,000 barrels per month, are more frequently associated with quakes than lower-volume wells, and that managing these injection rates may be a good way to reduce quake risk. 

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