Monday, October 22, 2012
The science isn't in place yet for accurate predictions. It's like suing the weatherman if a tornado touches down. Italy Orders Jail Terms For 7 Who Didn’t Warn Of Deadly Earthquake By ELISABETTA POVOLEDO Published: October 22, 2012 ROME — Seven prominent Italian earthquake experts were convicted of manslaughter on Monday and sentenced to six years in prison for failing to give adequate warning to the residents of a seismically active area in the months preceding an earthquake that killed more than 300 people. Speaking in a hushed courtroom in L’Aquila, the city whose historic center was gutted by the April 2009 earthquake, the judge, Marco Billi, read a long list of names of those who had died or been injured in the disaster before he handed down the sentences to six scientists and a former government official. The defendants, who said they would appeal the decision, will also have to pay court costs and damages of $10.2 million. The seven, most of them seismologists and geologists, were members of the National Commission for the Forecast and Prevention of Major Risks, which met shortly before the quake struck — after weeks of frequent small tremors — but did not issue a safety warning. The verdicts jolted the international scientific community, which feared they might open the way to an onslaught of legal actions against scientists who evaluate the risks of natural hazards. “This is the death of public service on the part of professors and professionals,” said Luciano Maiani, the current president of the risk commission, according to the news agency ANSA. The legal and media pressure prompted by the trial have made it impossible to carry out professional consultancies for the state, he said, adding, “This doesn’t happen anywhere else in the world.” Thomas H. Jordan, a professor at the University of Southern California, led a commission that after the disaster advised the Italian government about better ways to communicate earthquake risks to the public. He described the verdicts as incredible, “given that they have just convicted scientists for basically doing their job during a time of crisis.” “I’m afraid it’s going to teach scientists to keep their mouths shut,” he added.
Tuesday, October 2, 2012
The process called "fracking" is controversial. Here's a good reason to stop doing it: Unusual Dallas Earthquakes Linked to Fracking, Expert Says By Eli MacKinnon, Life's Little Mysteries Staff Writer | LiveScience.com – 3 hrs ago Three unusual earthquakes that shook a suburb west of Dallas over the weekend appear to be connected to the past disposal of wastewater from local hydraulic fracturing operations, a geophysicist who has studied earthquakes in the region says. Preliminary data from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) show the first quake, a magnitude 3.4, hit at 11:05 p.m. CDT on Saturday a few miles southeast of the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) International Airport. It was followed 4 minutes later by a 3.1-magnitude aftershock that originated nearby. A third, magnitude-2.1 quake trailed Saturday's rumbles by just under 24 hours, touching off at 10:41 p.m. CDT on Sunday from an epicenter a couple miles east of the first, according to the USGS. The tremors set off a volley of 911 calls, according to Reuters, but no injuries have been reported. Not a coincidence Before a series of small quakes on Halloween 2008, the Dallas area had never recorded a magnitude-3 earthquake, said Cliff Frohlich, associate director and senior research scientist at the University of Texas at Austin's Institute for Geophysics. USGS data show that, since then, it has felt at least one quake at or above a magnitude 3 every year except 2010. Frohlich said he doesn't think it's a coincidence that an intensification in seismic activity in the Dallas area came the year after a pocket of ground just south of (and thousands of feet below) the DFW airport began to be inundated with wastewater from hydraulic fracturing. During hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," millions of gallons of high-pressure, chemical-laden water are pumped into an underground geologic formation (the Barnett Shale, in the case of northern Texas) to free up oil. But once fractures have been opened up in the rock and the water pressure is allowed to abate, internal pressure from the rock causes fracking fluids to rise back to the surface, becoming what the natural gas industry calls "flowback," according to the Environmental Protection Agency. "That's dirty water you have to get rid of," said Frohlich. "One way people do that is to pump it back into the ground." In a study he recently published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Frohlich analyzed 67 earthquakes recorded between November 2009 and September 2011 in a 43.5-mile (70 kilometers) grid covering northern Texas' Barnett Shale formation. He found that all 24 of the earthquakes with the most reliably located epicenters originated within 2 miles (3.2 km) of one or more injection wells for wastewater disposal. The injection well just south of DFW airport has been out of use since September 2011, according to Frohlich, but he says that doesn't rule it out as a cause of the weekend's quakes. He explained that, though water is no longer being added, lingering pressure differences from wastewater injection could still be contributing to the lubrication of long-stuck faults. "Faults are everywhere. A lot of them are stuck, but if you pump water in there, it reduces friction and the fault slips a little," Frohlich told Life's Little Mysteries. "I can't prove that that's what happened, but it's a plausible explanation."