Fracked up: How Blackpool became the UK’s earthquake hotspot – LancsLive

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The ground shakes, your furniture moves and for a few seconds there is uncertainty in the air.

Thankfully, it’s not common to have earthquakes at the top end of the Richter scale – with high magnitude – in Lancashire or the UK as a whole.

But that doesn’t mean that earthquakes don’t happen here or that they are insignificent.

The shaking of the ground can have damaging impacts on homes and the infrastructure of our communities.

Here are where earthquakes are most likely to happen.

The UK’s hotspot is in Lancashire

Blackpool is the UK’s earthquake hotspot – and fracking is likely to blame.

The area has experienced 135 earthquakes so far this year according to data from the British Geological Society (BGS).

That is more than anywhere else in the UK and comes on top of 57 more in 2018.

Most of the earthquakes reported in the Blackpool area have been during hydraulic fracturing operations, a process that releases gas from shale rock, at Preston New Road.

They included a 2.9-magnitude tremor in August.

The BGS lists this as having an intensity of six – meaning it would be felt by most people indoors and many outdoors, and could cause minor damage, like small cracks, falling plaster and falling objects.

The Oil and Gas Authority halted fracking indefinitely at the Preston New Road site following the August earthquake.

The Government then stopped fracking across England in November, saying it would only allow its resumption if science supported it and communities wanted it.

BGS said hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is generally accompanied by “microseismicity” – very small earthquakes too small to be felt.

The high number of earthquakes recorded in Blackpool is likely also due to higher numbers of monitoring stations being placed by BGS in the area.

The BGS permanent network of sensors across the UK is usually able to detect most earthquakes with a magnitude of 2.0 or above anywhere in the UK, although this may vary from place to place and at different times.

The vast majority of the events detected near Preston New Road had magnitudes far below the normal detection threshold and were only detected because of the increased number of seismic stations.

Across the UK, 325 earthquakes have been recorded so far this year.

That is higher than in any year since 1994, when there were a total of 356.

During the whole of 2018, there were 281 earthquakes recorded.

The biggest earthquake in the UK so far this year, on September 24, had a magnitude of 4.2.

However, this was in the North Sea, so BGS lists its intensity as three or weak – meaning a few people might have noticed swaying or light trembling.

It was followed by a 3.1 magnitude earthquake in Newdigate in Surrey in February.

This was rated as having an intensity of five or strong – meaning it was felt indoors by most and outdoors by a few, with buildings trembling, hanging objects swinging, and crockery clattering.

This largest recent earthquake on mainland Britain was a 4.6 magnitude one in Cwmllynfell, Neath Port Talbot, in February 2018. This made it the biggest in 10 years, since the 5.2 magnitude Market Rasen earthquake in February 2008.

BGS said an earthquake of this size occurs somewhere within mainland Britain roughly every four years – in 2014, a magnitude 4.1 earthquake occurred in the Bristol Channel and was widely felt in south Wales and Devon.

This content was originally published here.

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