Humans can cause earthquakes

We don't have a great handle on predicting earthquakes. But we do know enough about them to know that they aren't all purely forces of nature. Humans can actually cause (or maybe just prompt) the Earth to shake. We've talked before here at BoingBoing about man-made earthquakes — caused by lubricating rocks deep underground, or by shifting the distribution of weight on the surface of the Earth in significant ways (think: building a reservoir). At Scientific American, David Biello has a short piece on what we do and don't know about this phenomenon. In light of the ruling in the L'Aquila earthquake trial, I found it particularly interesting to learn that, even when we know we're doing something that could trigger a 'quake, we still aren't very good at figuring out how strong that quake is likely to be.


  1.  A spanish new that appeared today talks about the abusive use of subterranean water as one of the causes of Lorca’s earthquake:

    Google Translation:

    A magnitude 5,1 earthquake took place in Lorca (Murcia, Spain) one year ago, with a lot of damage considering such a low intensity.

  2. Pop groups can cause earthquakes too. (Or maybe not.) For example – the London group Madness (and their footstomping audience) in Finsbury Park, 1991…

    “Over 75,000 fans attended the weekend festival, and the dancing of the boisterous crowd seemingly caused an extraordinary event of ground-shaking proportions (during “One Step Beyond”, according to the legends.) As seismologist Alice Walker told the 1999 BBC documentary Young Guns Go For It:
    ‘On the 8th of August 1992, the police phoned the British Geological Survey, and they said that people had been phoning in saying that there had been an earthquake in London. They had described some effects like heavy lorries passing outside. People were frightened. Tower blocks were being evacuated because people thought the tower block was going to fall down. It was an intensity of about five. When I told the police that I thought the cause of the disturbance was a Madness concert at Finsbury Park, they didn’t believe me at first. I got a phone call the next night from the police who said exactly the same felt effects had occurred – and so they did believe me after all. So my reputation as a seismologist still remains intact!’

    According to the UK’s Health Protection Agency:

    ‘One of the most bizarre investigations conducted by BGS using its seismic network, was in connection with an earthquake reported to be felt strongly in North London in August 1992 when three blocks of flats (8-9-storeys) were evacuated following minor damage that included cracked windows and a cracked balcony. Our seismic network showed that there had not been an earthquake or an explosion, and we were able to deduce that the cause was resonance set up by dancers at a Madness rock concert in nearby Finsbury Park. The resonance frequency of such dancing, in harmony, is tuned to the natural frequency of apartment blocks of this height, so that the movement is amplified.’

  3. I guess the “US tried to destroy Cuba with an earthquake but missed and destroyed Haiti” theory still stands then.

Comments are closed.