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Following Greeley Quake, Scientists Install Network To Look For More

After a rare magnitude 3.2 earthquake northeast of Greeley, scientists hope to learn more about any possible future quakes in the area. They’ve quickly mobilized to set up a network of five instruments that monitor for earthquakes, all around the epicenter of the original one.

William Yeck, a seismologist and doctoral candidate at the University of Colorado, Boulder, said the new stations, which hold seismometers that measure earth movement, will help better pinpoint quake depths and locations.

“If we have stations surrounding the earthquake we are able to pick the exact time that we observe it at the seismometer, and then triangulate back to the location of the earthquake,” Yeck said.

Earthquakes are unusual in the area; the last time Greeley experienced an earthquake was 45 years ago. Over the past few years, the number of earthquakes in the United States has risen significantly.

Scientists have connected some of these quakes with the disposal of wastewater from oil and gas activities, particularly in Oklahoma, which has experienced significant uptick in quakes, but also in other parts of the country. No one knows whether the recent Greeley quake was related to wastewater injection. If there are more quakes in Weld County, the new network will help researchers know if there is a link.

Jenny Nakai, a seismologist and doctoral student and Matthew Weingarten, a hydrogeologist and doctoral candidate from the University of Colorado align, level and bury a seismometer outside of Gill, Colo., June 4, 2014.

Matthew Weingarten, a hydrogeologist and graduate student at the University of Colorado, Boulder, helped Yeck install the new network.

“We’re trying to figure out where the earthquakes are and how close they are to the wells. The closer they are to the wells in space and in depth, the more likely it is that this is possibly not a natural event,” said Weingarten.

The monitoring network will be in place for at least a month. If it detects additional earthquakes, it may remain longer.

Stephanie Paige Ogburn has been reporting from Colorado for more than five years, primarily from the Western Slope.
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