Constraints on recent earthquake source parameters, fault geometry and aftershock characteristics in Oklahoma
Abstract:In late 2009, the seismicity of Oklahoma increased dramatically. The largest of these earthquakes was a series of three damaging events (Mw 4.8, 5.6, 4.8) that occurred over a span of four days in November 2011 near the town of Prague in central Oklahoma. Studies suggest that these earthquakes were induced by reactivation of the Wilzetta fault due to the disposal of waste water from hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) and other oil and gas activities. The Wilzetta fault is a northeast trending vertical strike-slip fault that is a well known structural trap for oil and gas. Since the November 2011 Prague sequence, thousands of small to moderate (M2-M4) earthquakes have occurred throughout central Oklahoma. The most active regions are located near the towns of Stillwater and Medford in north-central Oklahoma, and Guthrie, Langston and Jones near Oklahoma City.
The USGS, in collaboration with the Oklahoma Geological Survey and the University of Oklahoma, has responded by deploying numerous temporary seismic stations in the region in order to record the vigorous aftershock sequences. In this study we use data from the temporary seismic stations to re-locate all Oklahoma earthquakes in the USGS National Earthquake Information Center catalog using a multiple-event approach known as hypo-centroidal decomposition that locates earthquakes with decreased uncertainty relative to one another. Modeling from this study allows us to constrain the detailed geometry of the reactivated faults, as well as source parameters (focal mechanisms, stress drop, rupture length) for the larger earthquakes. Preliminary results from the November 2011 Prague sequence suggest that subsurface rupture lengths of the largest earthquakes are anomalously long with very low stress drop. We also observe very high Q (~1000 at 1 Hz) that explains the large felt areas and we find relatively low b-value and a rapid decay of aftershocks.