Earthquakes trend downward year after year in Oklahoma

TULSA, Okla. — Earthquakes of various magnitudes happen around us all the time – Oklahoma is riddled with small fault lines where these occur. However, the earthquake felt just last week is the first big one many of us have felt in a long time.

If you’ve lived in Oklahoma for at least a decade, you’ve experienced the rise and fall in earthquake frequency. I thought I’d look at the number of earthquakes since the peak in 2015. That particular year, we had well over 800 tremors that were at least a 3.0 magnitude. 27 of those were a 4.0 magnitude – a level at which anyone within a few hundred miles of the epicenter may feel depending on the depth.

By 2016, the number of 3.0 magnitude quakes dropped a few hundred from the previous year.

By 2017, that number dropped below 300.

The number of quakes keep dropping year to year from there. By 2019, the number of earthquakes of that strength was less than half of 2018, falling well below 100.

In 2020, we were down to 36 and last year, only 26 earthquakes measured 3.0 magnitude or above… the strongest last year being a 4.2 magnitude north of Enid about this time last year.

Here in 2022, only 1 earthquake has been above a 3.0 magnitude, but it was a strong one – the 13th strongest in state history in a similar area near Medford, Oklahoma. The last time we had one that strong was in May of 2019 also in the same county.

A cluster of very low magnitude earthquakes have been occurring from time to time near Wilburton in southeast Oklahoma, but those are below the strength of what most of us can feel.

Does this mean we are trending back to pre-2010s norms? It’s hard to say, especially because a stronger quake can often trigger others that are similar in strength. Even before modern drilling equipment made it to our state, we were still prone to a low frequency of tremors given the number of minor fault lines crisscrossing Oklahoma. However, it appears the days of feeling an earthquake every few weeks is gone. One thing we do know, our changing weather does not meaningfully affect seismic events miles below the surface