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Earth Science

Scientists Link Deep Wells To Deadly Spanish Quake 118

Posted by timothy
from the better-tell-those-guys-in-russia dept.
Meshach writes "Research has suggested that human activity triggered an earthquake in Spain that killed nine and injured over three hundred. Drilling deeper and deeper wells to water crops over the past 50 years were identified as the culprit by scientist who examined satellite images of the area. It was noted that even without the strain caused by water extraction, a quake would likely have occurred at some point in the area but the extra stress of pumping vast amounts of water from a nearby aquifer may have been enough to trigger a quake at that particular time and place."
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Scientists Link Deep Wells To Deadly Spanish Quake

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  • Span? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aitikin (909209) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @09:41PM (#41725429)
    Where the hell is Span?
    • Re:Span? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Hsien-Ko (1090623) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @09:42PM (#41725443)
      In Euroe
      • by Taco Cowboy (5327) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @09:57PM (#41725499) Journal

        From TPA:

        Research has suggested that human activity triggered an earthquake

        Umm ...

        It was noted that even without the strain caused by water extraction, a quake would likely have occurred at some point in the area

        Please pardon me, perhaps I am being too dense to understand the following intricacies:

        How can it be that "Human activity triggered an earthquake" when a quake "would likely have occurred at some point in the area" ?
         

        • by R3d M3rcury (871886) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @10:09PM (#41725535) Journal

          How can it be that "Human activity triggered an earthquake" when a quake "would likely have occurred at some point in the area" ?

          Imagine I pull out a gun and shoot you. Well, you would have died eventually anyway, right?

        • Please pardon me, perhaps I am being too dense to understand the following intricacies:

          How can it be that "Human activity triggered an earthquake" when a quake "would likely have occurred at some point in the area" ?

          The difference is in the timing, what with human activity triggering it to happen now, or it happening on its own in a few hundred years in the future.

          • by cheater512 (783349) <nick@nickstallman.net> on Sunday October 21, 2012 @10:22PM (#41725581) Homepage

            Most quake prone areas have a frequency in single digit years, not hundreds of years.
            Hell the bad areas can have quakes on a monthly or weekly basis.

            Humans don't cause quakes, we can only trigger them.
            The stress was there with or without the pumping, and that stress must be relieved.

            • Humans don't cause quakes, we can only trigger them.
              The stress was there with or without the pumping, and that stress must be relieved.

              Why're you telling me this? I never claimed anything like that.

              • by Dishevel (1105119)

                But you were throwing out that humans moved it up a few hundred years.
                An equally stupid statement.
                You were not stupid for the last thing the GP said.
                Grats. You are only stupid for trying to spin things to make man "evil".
                I say sue the guys drilling for water. Let the fucking pesants walk to fill their buckets at the river.
                That will teach them.

                • But you were throwing out that humans moved it up a few hundred years.

                  It was just to make the point that humans triggered it to happen now instead of later.

                  You are only stupid for trying to spin things to make man "evil".

                  Where? I didn't take a stance either way in the whole thing. Geesh. You sure are oversensitive over this.

                  • by Dishevel (1105119)

                    Right.
                    Where did you get "Hundreds of Years"?
                    First, Spain has it share of earthquakes.
                    In May of 2011 of course they had one that killed 9 people.
                    In 1956 they had one that killed 12.
                    They have them much more frequently than every few hundred years.
                    So with no fact to support your statement and facts going against it why would you assume such a long period if not to put more weight on "Bad People"?

            • by Alioth (221270)

              This isn't really a quake prone area (that's to say, prone to quakes of any significant strength). You can tell by the age of the buildings - don't forget that this city is hundreds of years older than the United States, and many of its buildings (that are NOT built in earthquake-proof manners) have stood for centuries. The castle, built over 1200 years ago, suffered structural damage to its ancient walls. So it's entirely possible that the quake was triggered hundreds of years early. It's also possible tha

          • The proverbial straw that broke the camel's back.

          • by khallow (566160)
            There doesn't seem to be any evidence that human activity triggered this earthquake. As the authors of the research note, this is an earthquake prone area. So one would sooner or later expect an earthquake in the area where it occurred.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 21, 2012 @10:14PM (#41725555)

          Translation: Humans cause it to happen *earlier* then it would have occurred naturally. They acted as the last triggering point rather then the natural stress buildup.

          Adding stress when stress is already slowly building up is the same as this example.

          A cup put underneath a running faucet. You adding extra water into the cup causing it to spill. That means that you caused it to spill, even if we know the cup would spill anyways due to the running faucet.

          As for if this was a bad thing or not, who knows. It's possible that the extra stress could have cause the earthquake to be weaker then it would have been if it just slowly buildup to even higher levels. It could have also make the quake stronger compared to say if it naturally just caused several quakes instead of 1 giant one. Since it didn't occur naturally, it's all what ifs at this point.

          • by Solandri (704621) on Monday October 22, 2012 @01:35AM (#41726249)
            This one's a bit different from the quakes caused by fracking. In fracking, they just fracture the rocks and inject a fluid, basically lubricating the ground. There's almost no energy added to the system. So while the fracking may trigger a quake, it is not the root cause (all the energy released was already there). Any energy released from a fracking quake is energy which was already there.

            In this one they removed large quantities of water from the aquifer. While technically no energy was added to the system, the water's removal lowered the potential energy floor, essentially adding the potential energy of the now-too-high ground to any stress energy which had already been built up (if any).

            An analogue to this case would be sinkholes caused by extracting or receding water from underground aquifers/caves. The removal of the water itself directly causes the sinkhole, or in this case the quake. Depending on the quantity of water removed (and thus the distance the ground above had to "settle"), there might not even have been any natural fault slippage involved, and this quake could have been entirely manmade.
        • by Jartan (219704)

          In English the word "triggered" is not related to cause. Humans merely finished tipping a wobbling domino.

        • by sycodon (149926) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @11:05PM (#41725763)

          Stop! Drop whatever it is you are fucking doing RIGHT NOW because whatever it is, some scientists you are going to fuck some other shit up.

          Just freeze and don't move, or we're all going to fucking DIE!

        • by xenobyte (446878)

          Please pardon me, perhaps I am being too dense to understand the following intricacies:

          How can it be that "Human activity triggered an earthquake" when a quake "would likely have occurred at some point in the area" ?

          It's the Global Warming standard. If Human Activity can cause something, it is beyond any doubt or hesitation Human Activity that's at fault. It doesn't matter if other causes are more likely, nor that similar Human Activity has been done for decades elsewhere with no ill effects. Oh, and Occams Razor be damned.

        • Imagine a bucket hanging from a string that will snap once the bucket is full. You hang it from a branch, so that it will be filled by rain water.

          Then, before it is full, you cut the string using a scissor.

          This is perfectly analogous to what happened in Spain.

        • by dissy (172727)

          How can it be that "Human activity triggered an earthquake" when a quake "would likely have occurred at some point in the area" ?

          Would a car example help?

          Say you fill up your tank, and a full tank will get you roughly 150 miles of driving.
          It is a fact that your car will run out of fuel after roughly 150 miles of driving.

          If I come along and siphon out most of your fuel, say to put into my car, then you will run out of fuel after driving only a few miles instead.

          On the one hand, you are claiming it is OK that I stole your fuel, since you would have run out of fuel without my "help" anyways.
          The rest of us are claiming I can not use that

        • by gomiam (587421)
          Actually, there were two suggested effects of excessive water extraction:
          1. Descent of the soil, which changed the stresses affecting the fault that ultimately produced the earthquake. Thus there was an effect on the timeline of the earthquake, which would have happened later if not so much water had been removed
          2. Localized growth of the fault stresses bringing them closer to living areas. Thus an earthquake that could have had its epicenter farther from Lorca had it near the town

          I hope this helps you underst

    • Re:Span? (Score:5, Funny)

      by The MAZZTer (911996) <megazzt@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Sunday October 21, 2012 @09:43PM (#41725453) Homepage
      Inside of Body somewhere, which in turn is inside Html.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I could say preceded by Spic but that would be a derogatory term for someone of Spanish origin.

    • Re:Span? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Jason Levine (196982) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @09:49PM (#41725473)

      It's where the ran falls manly on the plan.

    • Where the hell is Span?

      It is country named by scientist. In fact, scientist was the same as culprit.

    • Re:Span? (Score:5, Funny)

      by guttentag (313541) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @10:08PM (#41725529) Journal

      Where the hell is Span?

      Google says it's between a rock (Gibraltar) and a hard place to publish Web search results (France [slashdot.org]).

    • Re:Span? (Score:4, Funny)

      by Ukab the Great (87152) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @10:23PM (#41725589)

      It's located somewhere in Div

    • by Maow (620678)

      Where the hell is Span?

      A province in the country of Spic, duh. Never heard of Spic & Span?

    • Re:Span? (Score:5, Funny)

      by c0lo (1497653) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @11:46PM (#41725921)

      Where the hell is Span?

      Relevant citation:

      The dwarves delved too greedily and too deep. You know what they awoke in the darkness of Khazad-dûm

    • Budget cuts, you know. Because the MF, the pean Central Bank and the Word Ban won't give you any more lans unless you turn over a letter or two. Maybe they can buy a vowl from Vanna and Pat. OK, that's all 've got...

    • by sjames (1099)

      It sank into the ocean due to the quake!

    • by younelan (2758205)
      I believe somewhere between C-Span and Div :)
    • It is usually in HTML where you have some formatting that break the normal flow of the page. While deprecated by the DIV tag for most usage. it is still there. For the most part it is fairly useless, However if you add CSS to it. you can do additional formatting with it.

    • Apple maps strike again!

  • In other news... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 21, 2012 @09:42PM (#41725445)

    Research has suggest that in most cases, murder is directly related to getting out of bed.

    • by pspahn (1175617)

      So let's give people six-shooter alarm clocks. If it's a foregone conclusion, what's the harm in expediting the process?

    • by xenobyte (446878)

      Research has suggest that in most cases, murder is directly related to getting out of bed.

      Actually death has been linked to life. Research has showed that every single death is the result of being alive. Nobody has died from being not-alive and nobody dead has died again. Life can therefore be said to be a fatal sexually transmitted disease.

      Undeath and zombiism were not included in the research, mainly due to lack of available undead creatures and zombies.

      • by alexgieg (948359)

        Actually death has been linked to life. Research has showed that every single death is the result of being alive. Nobody has died from being not-alive and nobody dead has died again.

        Yes, but he was talking about murder, not death in general. To both of you then I can add that murder in particular is directly related, in 100% of cases, to humans. Hence, the best way for us to get rid of murder is to get rid of human beings, the main advantage afterwards being that no one (or, rather, nothing else) will ever die from murderous causes again.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 21, 2012 @10:28PM (#41725609)

    The Anthropogenic Earthquake Theory is a myth! There is no evidence that mankind's efforts have any effect whatsoever on earthquakes! Face the facts, people, Earth is big, man is small! There is no way that these--

      Wait, did you say water wells?

      Oh. Nevermind.

  • by Z00L00K (682162) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @11:39PM (#41725887) Homepage

    That also means that they are consuming more water than what is replenished each year, which in the long run may be a more important issue than a quake every 25 years or so.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Herve5 (879674)

      Indeed, this is the kind of fact that that is at the same time disclosed and unknown, or maybe we don't want to know, or then it's buried in the many and silly non-informations in the Ecology area.

      Emptying regional aquifers to raise cherries one month before the other European countries has been a national sport in Spain for dozens of years.
      And this clearly results in documented papers which show all the other cultures (orchards...) had to be progressively abandoned, in favor of less and less demanding crop

    • According to Jeff Fulgham, the CEO of Banyan Water and the ex-lead of General Electric's ecomagination division, the global replenishment rate is about 4,200 km3 while 2010 use was at least 4,300 km3. This is only possible by drawing down surface reserves like lakes and aquafirs.

      Water use also limits the amount of CO2 that we can sequester in soils and plants to an additional 500 GT or so because we'll sequester water with it and not have enough for us. 500 GT is about 15 years worth at the current burning

      • by khallow (566160)

        According to Jeff Fulgham, the CEO of Banyan Water and the ex-lead of General Electric's ecomagination division, the global replenishment rate is about 4,200 km3 while 2010 use was at least 4,300 km3. This is only possible by drawing down surface reserves like lakes and aquafirs.

        It's worth noting that this is two thirds the flow rate of the Amazon river. If you're not finding fresh water to replenish what you're using, then you're not trying.

    • Are you saying the strain in Spain was mainly due to lack of rain?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 21, 2012 @11:52PM (#41725941)

    Human-induced earthquakes are usually caused by water injection, or more precisely by increasing pore fluid pressure which in turn has the effect of decreasing the rock's confining pressure. Basically, the water inside the rock pushes out in all directions with a (typically very high) pressure related to the height of the water column in hydrostatic communication with it above. The rock above is also pushing down, but other considerations aside, this confining pressure from the weight of the rocks tends to lock faults together preventing them from moving. The effective confining pressure is reduced by the pore fluid pressure pushing the rock apart. If you add to the water column the extra weight of the water may be minuscule compared to the increase in pressure caused by the greater height of the water column. That extra pore water pressure can then allow other forces, previously held in check by the rock's confining pressure, to break the fault causing an earthquake.

    The most common place for this to occur is in filling new reservoirs and in deep waste injection wells used for disposal of fluids from oil and gas production. Suck quakes are usually very small, but I think they've been observed in rare cases above magnitude 5.

    Removing water is a much less common cause of earthquakes. Pumping, for both water and oil, can ground subsidence, but rarely earthquakes. It will, however, subtly affect the balance of forces on a fault, so it's not inconceivable that it could cause a fault already near the breaking point to slip. I'd be curious to see the fault geometry and movement on the fault that caused the earthquake in Span.

    • by camg188 (932324)
      Another thing I noticed: The article claims [no citation given] that the water table has dropped 250m in the past 50 years, but according to the USGS [usgs.gov] the quake epicenter was 1km below the surface. So unless the region started off with a water table below 750m (very doubtful), the epicenter was still below the water table.
      Also according to the same USGS page, the root cause was (no surprise) plate tectonics:

      The southeastern Spain earthquake of 11 May, 2011, occurred within the plate boundary region that sep

  • Yeah, all fun and games. Just keep digging. Have a little fiesta and call it cute. Then, watch, ..just watch -- as after you puncture the pristine hymen of New Swabia [wikipedia.org], a vicious horde of extremely irate Vril [wikipedia.org] ascend from the holes, sporting swastikas and saucers -- and turn you all into subterranean bratwursts. Ja? You get it? Trust me, we don't want to start this shit again.
  • This is what happens when you dig too deep for mithril.
  • Here, Let me fix that sentence for them:

    a [stronger] quake would likely have occurred...

    Yes, since the quake happened now, it would not be more powerful later. We should thank the person who triggered this one so the pressure did not keep building up for and even more catastrophic event. Maybe we should develop such equipment over here so that we can trigger smaller scheduled quakes in the California area. Triggering them on a timed schedule so that people could be prepared and take necessary precautio

  • If the wells go all the way to New Zealand then you know they've gone too far

    There have been quakes in New Zealand too.

  • the Spanish Quake!
  • Either they have better evidence than justifies a "maybe" or the suggestion is completely absurd. Just another two things happened in the same place so once of them must have caused the other. This is garbage. It's not even correlation v causation. They haven't even shown correlation. It's just garbage.
  • Generally only nuclear bomb has enough energy to create a quake. (M4 to M6 depending on bomb size.) Human activity in adding or extracting fluids from the earth can accelerated or retard a quake, but rarely create new ones.

    One fear is the consolidation of natural small quakes into a larger bigger quake. Each earthquake is equivalent in energy to 30 quakes of smaller magnitude. Perhaps human activity may have many of these smaller quakes go off at once.

    The inverse has been proposed to prevent damagi

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