I once saw Lex Luther do it . . .

April 10, 2009 | By | Reply More

Can human beings cause earthquakes? Scientists are seriously debating this issue. Some are suggesting that the

Zipingpu Dam - image by treasuresthouhast at Flickr

Zipingpu Dam - image by treasuresthouhast at Flickr

immense amount of water piled behind the Zipingpu Dam triggered a nearby fault that killed 80,000 people in China. The story is covered in the January 16, 2009 edition of Science (available online only to subscribers.). The reservoir began filling in 2004 and the 7.9 earthquake occurred in 2008.

The article cites seismologists who claim that you don’t need much mechanical disturbance to trigger it an earthquake.

Removing fluid or rock from the crust, as in oil production or coal mining, could do it. So might injecting fluid to store waste or sequester carbon dioxide, or adding the weight of 100 meters or so of water behind the dam.

Some scientists suggest other possible occurrences.   For instance, they suggest that the water piled behind the Koyna Dam caused a 6.3 trembler that killed 200 people in India in 1967.

I do realize that earthquakes can be lethal, so I shouldn’t sound as though I’m making light of them.   The reason for the title is a chapter of the original Christopher Reeve Superman Movie.  In the movie, Villain Lex Luthor started an earthquake by aiming an atomic warhead cruise missile along the San Andreas fault.   That part of the movie is something I wondered about for many years.  Can humans set off earthquakes?   Based on this article in Science, the notion is at least plausible.


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Category: Films, Science

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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