Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

5 Earthquakes Recorded in England Just Days After Fracking Restarts

Energy
5 Earthquakes Recorded in England Just Days After Fracking Restarts
Greenpeace fracking protest in London's Parliament Square. DAVID HOLT / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

A string of small earthquakes were reported the town of Blackpool just days after fracking operations restarted in England after a seven year hiatus, raising concerns that the controversial drilling process could eventually trigger bigger temblors.

The British Geological Survey (BGS) detected five quakes since Thursday near the contentious Preston New Road site operated by UK shale gas firm Cuadrilla Resources.


Most of the earthquakes were at negative levels, meaning they were unnoticeable by residents. However, a 0.3-magnitude earthquake recorded on Friday hit amber on the government's monitoring scale, meaning Cuadrilla has to "proceed at caution," Friends of the Earth Campaigner Rose Dickinson told Metro.co.uk.

British Geological Survey

Incidentally, fracking was halted at the Blackpool site in 2011 because of earthquakes. The largest had a magnitude of 2.3 and was felt locally.

"Since hydraulic fracturing operations started at Preston New Road, near Blackpool, we have detected some small earthquakes close to the area of operations," BGS said, as quoted by the Guardian. "This is not unexpected since hydraulic fracturing is generally accompanied by micro-seismicity. The Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) has strict controls in place to ensure that operators manage the risk of induced seismicity."

The government has a traffic-light system that immediately halts operations if seismic activity exceeds 0.5 on the Richter scale.

"All of the earthquakes detected at Preston New Road so far are below the threshold required to cease hydraulic fracturing," BGS added.

Cuadrilla has shrugged off the minor seismic activity. It retweeted a post from seismologist Stephen Hicks, who commented that Friday's 0.3-magnitude earthquake could "set a new world record for one of the world's smallest earthquakes that has been reported on by multiple media outlets."

Twitter

"The micro seismic events which have been recorded through the detailed monitoring Cuadrilla and the BGS are carrying out are successfully detecting events even at these very low levels," the company said, per the Guardian. "This is not an 'amber' incident under the traffic light system operated by the OGA as we were not pumping fracturing fluid as part of our hydraulic fracturing operations at the time and the seismic events remain under 0.5 local magnitude."

However, opponents said that the earthquakes are proof that fracking poses too many risks.

"Recent research by Stanford University shows that these tiny tremors can be indicators of bigger quakes to follow—like canaries in a coal-mine," David Smythe, emeritus professor of geophysics at the University of Glasgow, told Metro.co.uk.

"The problem for Cuadrilla is that if it carries on regardless, bigger earthquakes may well be triggered," Smythe continued. "To quote Cole Porter, 'There may be trouble ahead.' Cuadrilla's only safe option is to cease fracking."

With drilling underway, documents obtained by Greenpeace's Unearthed show that ministers are looking to weaken earthquake standards at fracking sites.

In a letter sent to Conservative MP Kevin Hollinrake in July, UK energy minister Claire Perry said the traffic-light system is "set at an explicitly cautious level but, as we gain experience in applying these measures, the trigger levels can be adjusted upwards without compromising the effectiveness of the controls."

Earlier this month, a high court judge allowed drilling to restart in England despite years of anti-fracking protests and last-ditch legal bids.

Environmentalists warn that increased gas extraction not only jeopardizes the country's emissions reduction targets, it also skirts warnings from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report that says we must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent below 2010 levels by 2030 in order to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures.

Eating too much black licorice can be toxic. Nat Aggiato / Pixabay

By Bill Sullivan

Black licorice may look and taste like an innocent treat, but this candy has a dark side. On Sept. 23, 2020, it was reported that black licorice was the culprit in the death of a 54-year-old man in Massachusetts. How could this be? Overdosing on licorice sounds more like a twisted tale than a plausible fact.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sustainable t-shirts by Allbirds are made from a new, low-carbon material that uses a mineral extract from discarded snow crab shells. Jerry Buttles / Allbirds

In the age of consumption, sustainability innovations can help shift cultural habits and protect dwindling natural resources. Improvements in source materials, product durability and end-of-life disposal procedures can create consumer products that are better for the Earth throughout their lifecycles. Three recent advancements hope to make a difference.

Read More Show Less

Trending

There are many different CBD oil brands in today's market. But, figuring out which brand is the best and which brand has the strongest oil might feel challenging and confusing. Our simple guide to the strongest CBD oils will point you in the right direction.

Read More Show Less
A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

Financial institutions in New York state will now have to consider the climate-related risks of their planning strategies. Ramy Majouji / WikiMedia Commons

By Brett Wilkins

Regulators in New York state announced Thursday that banks and other financial services companies are expected to plan and prepare for risks posed by the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less

Support Ecowatch