Three small earthquakes have slightly shaken the Gulf Coast in the last week, and all of them were centered near the Alabama/Florida state line. The first earthquake was reported last Wednesday, March 6th and registered 2.6 on the Richter scale.
It happened again on Monday afternoon, March 11th, and it was the strongest of the three at 3.1 on the Richter scale. The latest happened early this morning and measured 2.1 on the Richter scale. While a small earthquake may be felt several miles away, it's unlikely to do any damage and none has been reported. But in a part of the world where earthquakes are rare, it's got us wondering what is going on.
It's not unheard of for an "earthquake" to be caused by humans. When Marshawn Lynch (sadly) scored a big touchdown against the New Orleans Saints, it was called the Beast Quake -- because the fans in Seattle were so loud and so raucous that it registered as a magnitude 1 earthquake. But we're pretty sure there have been no NFL games around Flomaton, Alabama and Century, Florida.
Some human activities can cause earthquakes; and according to one paper, wastewater disposal is a main culprit for a dramatic increase in earthquakes in the Central United States. Wastewater is a common byproduct of enhanced oil drilling methods, and it will often get pumped back into the ground after being pulled to the surface. This is where we should note that the area where these small earthquakes have occurred is also a key player in Florida's oil and gas industry. It's home to the Jay oil field, which was discovered in 1970. The area's long history with oil and gas production continues today.
The area is also on an active fault line, according to South Alabama geology professor Dr. Alex Beebe. He tells NBC-15 that the fault is usually dormant, but that stress on the fault line will occasionally cause a quake. Meanwhile, the Geological Survey of Alabama tells al.com that these seismic clusters constitute "normal seismic activity," even if we haven't had too many earthquakes in our past. This same fault was probably responsible for a "severe tremor" that leveled houses in Pensacola and shook ammunition from barracks walls. That was back in 1781.
In any event, these were very small earthquakes. But we're certainly a bit curious about them, and wondering if there are more on the way.