Plane to map fault lines across SW Oklahoma

Plane to map fault lines across SW Oklahoma

ALTUS, OK (KSWO) - Over the next several weeks a low-flying airplane will be buzzing across southwest Oklahoma in search of fault lines.

The United States Geological Survey will be using a plane to measure the Earth's magnetic field. They said that will allow them to better understand the fault lines here in Oklahoma and, hopefully, allow them to be more prepared for earthquakes in the future.

Research Geophysicist for the USGS Anji Shah said the research is being done because of the number of earthquakes there have been recently in Oklahoma.

"Sometimes these earthquakes happen in sequences that form lines and so it suggests there's a fault. But those earthquakes don't line up with the fault maps we already have. We're trying to improve those fault maps," Shah said.

For the next six to 10 weeks, the plane will be flying across southwest Oklahoma, in some cases as low as 400 feet off the ground. It will fly over nearly every county in our area. Shah said it will be the first time this will be done in the area since the 1970s and she expects it will make a huge impact once they get their results.

"Earthquake hazards pose a risk, there are risks to property or damage. They can be a risk to people," Shah said. "By collecting this data we'll be better informed about the geology that is there. We make the data public and available to everybody and then local communities can decide how they want to respond to it."

There is a well-known fault in southwest Oklahoma, the Meers Fault, that Shah said has been active for hundreds of years. But for the most part, earthquakes are relatively new in our area.

"10 years ago Oklahoma didn't get many earthquakes, but since 2009 there's been a great increase in the number of earthquakes," Shah said. "For that reason, the earthquake hazard in Oklahoma has increased. That's the reason we're out here, we want to better assess what that hazard is."

The plane's flights began Monday morning and can continue for up to the next 10 weeks, depending on the weather. Shah said the planes are virtually silent, meaning if you aren't looking up into the sky to find the plane, you probably won't even know it's there.

Copyright 2017 KSWO. All rights reserved.