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Man-Made Earthquake

February 12, 2007

Humans caused the most destructive earthquake in Australia’s history.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
Man-made earthquakes. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Coal mining directly caused the most destructive earthquake in Australia’s history. That’s according to Christian Klose of Columbia University. The 1989 quake killed 13 people and caused over three billion dollars of damage. Klose’s model of the Earth’s crust shows that the extraction of coal and groundwater put enough stress on the underlying fault to cause the earthquake. He says surprisingly, the region’s seismic stability made the problem worse.

CHRISTIAN KLOSE (Columbia University):
In stable continental regions, they’re more trigger-sensitive because stresses build up over thousands or millions of years and faults are close to failure.

HIRSHON:
He says northeast America is also a stable region and has already seen human-triggered earthquakes. He hopes engineers will start using models like his to better assess the risk. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.