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Satellite Imagery Measures Ground Motion Due to Oklahoma Induced Seismicity

Researchers: Magali Barba-Sevilla, Bridger W. Baird, Abbie B. Liel and Kristy F. Tiampo, University of Colorado, Boulder

Written by Linda Rowan
6 November 2019


Ground displacements caused by wastewater injection near Cushing, Oklahoma are examined from satellite radar measurements. The remote sensing shows between 4 to 6 centimeters of uplift across Cushing over 17 months. Observations during the M 5 2016 Cushing earthquake suggest the earthquake is shallower than defined by other measurements. Remote sensing provides a significant new way to understand near-surface deformation caused by humans or nature, especially near critical infrastructure such as the Cushing Hub, among the largest of oil storage facilities.


The number of earthquakes of small to medium magnitude has increased in Oklahoma over the past decade and most of these earthquakes are associated with human activities, such as wastewater injection. In 2016, a moment magnitude (M) 5 earthquake struck near Cushing, Oklahoma, causing some damage to built structures. It is important to understand these earthquakes and the amount of near surface changes occurring over time because of the risk to people and infrastructure. The Cushing Hub near Cushing, Oklahoma is among the largest oil storage facilities in the world and is considered a critical national infrastructure in the United States. Damage to this hub from earthquakes or ground displacement is of great concern to the community and the nation.


Differential Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar from the Sentinel-1A satellite was used to measure ground displacement before and after the 2016 M5 Cushing earthquake. The high-resolution technique observed 4 to 6 centimeters of uplift across Cushing over 17 months. The data suggest the earthquake was shallower than the estimates from seismic data. The changing ground surface and the shallower earthquake increase the risk of damage to people and infrastructure in the future if the human causes, that is wastewater injection, are not mitigated.

Related Links


Barba-Sevilla et al., Hazard Implications of the 2016 Mw 5.0 Cushing, OK, Earthquake from a Joint Analysis of Damage and InSAR Data, Remote Sens. 2018, 10, 1715, doi:10.3390/rs10111715.


induced earthquakes, wastewater injection, synthetic aperture radar

Map Center
Cushing Oklahoma

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Last modified: 2020-01-28  22:16:20  America/Denver