Wastewater disposal and earthquake swarm activity at the southern end of the Central Valley, California
Fracture and fault zones can channel fluid flow and transmit injection-induced pore pressure changes over large distances (>km), at which seismicity is rarely suspected to be human induced. We use seismicity analysis and hydrogeological models to examine the role of seismically active faults in inducing earthquakes. We analyze a potentially injection-induced earthquake swarm with three events above M4 near the White Wolf fault (WWF). The swarm deviates from classic main aftershock behavior, exhibiting uncharacteristically low Gutenberg-Richter b of 0.6, and systematic migration patterns. Some smaller events occurred southeast of the WWF in an area of several disposal wells, one of which became active just 5 months before the main swarm activity. Hydrogeological modeling revealed that wastewater disposal likely contributed to seismicity via localized pressure increase along a seismically active fault. Our results suggest that induced seismicity may remain undetected in California without detailed analysis of local geologic setting, seismicity, and fluid diffusion.
Geophysical Research Letters
Goebel, T., Hosseini, S., Cappa, F., Hauksson, E., Ampuero, J., Aminzadeh, F., & Saleeby, J. (2016). Wastewater disposal and earthquake swarm activity at the southern end of the Central Valley, California. Geophysical Research Letters, 43 (3), 1092-1099. https://doi.org/10.1002/2015GL066948