Oct 22, 2012 01:12 PM EDT

Causes of the 2011 Lorca Earthquake of Magnitude 5.1

The Spanish city of Lorca has received a relatively modest quake of a magnitude of 5.1. The quake resulted in nine deaths and some damage.

The groundwater removal may have been a contributing factor to the deadly 2011 earthquake. The shifts related to the locations where water had been drained for years, according to Nature Geoscience, they discovered how human activity can have “far-reaching seismic effects.”

Accordingly, the slippage was an aggravating factor to the earthquake. The cause was found by Pablo Gonzalez of the University of Western Ontario along with his colleagues who used satellite data to read ground movements of the Lorca event.
The slippage occurred at a depth of approximately 3km which leads one to realize why the magnitude 5.1 earthquake resulted in such extensive physical damage to the surrounding area. The water table adjacent to Alto Guadalentin basin had plummeted by some 250m over the course of the last 50 years as water was drained for irrigation in the area.

"Numerous examples of seismicity triggered by the impoundment of reservoir lakes, hydrocarbon extraction, quarrying and deep well injections have been documented over the years." Jean-Philippe Avouac California Institute of Technology stated.
"For now, we should remain cautious of human-induced stress perturbations, in particular those related to carbon dioxide sequestration projects that might affect very large volumes of [the Earth's] crust."
Studies evidence that the water drainage rapidly increased and inevitably culminated in the earthquake. Nonetheless, the causes of the Lorca earthquake cannot necessarily be extended as an explanation for earthquakes in other geographical locations more generally as reiterated by Dr. Gonzalez. The Lorca earthquake’s cause is case-and situational specific.

He reminds us that "we cannot set up a rule just by studying a single particular case".
"But the evidence that we have collected in this study could be necessary to expand research in other future events that occur near... dams, aquifers and melting glaciers, where you have tectonic faults close to these sources."

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