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Wastewater disposal has not significantly altered the regional stress state in southern Kansas

July 7, 2021

Wastewater disposal is primarily responsible for the increased seismicity rate since ~2013 in southern Kansas. Previous work that used shear wave splitting (SWS) in southern Kansas interpreted a ~90º temporal rotation in the fast polarization direction and attributed it to increased pore pressures resulting from fluid injection. However, this interpreted rotation coincided with a change in the stations used to make the SWS measurements. We investigate the temporal variability of fast azimuths in southern Kansas by making SWS measurements on earthquake families with similar source-receiver paths recorded on a stable local seismic network. We select high-quality SWS measurements by investigating the stability of results across 65 different frequency bands between 0.5-15 Hz. We find that the fast polarization direction in southern Kansas is relatively constant with an average ENE (~N79ºE) orientation between 2014-2017. Our fast polarization measurements are primarily a reflection of the maximum principal horizontal stress direction (SHmax). We observe a slight spatial change in SHmax to the NE (~N55°E) near the Nemaha Ridge in Oklahoma. However, we do not observe any significant temporal rotation of SHmax or variation in delay time (i.e., crack density) in southern Kansas, contrary to the earlier study. The previously interpreted ~90º rotation may either be a reflection of a very local stress change or a misinterpretation of SWS results potentially due to the use of inconsistent source-receiver paths. Our SWS measurements cover the period of peak wastewater disposal and seismicity rates and suggest an absence of significant temporal rotations in the local anisotropy and stress orientations associated with wastewater disposal.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2021
Title Wastewater disposal has not significantly altered the regional stress state in southern Kansas
DOI 10.1785/0220210079
Authors Robert Skoumal, Elizabeth S. Cochran
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Seismological Research Letters
Index ID 70236481
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Earthquake Science Center