Program: RESESS Socorro
Major: Geology and Environmental Studies
Academic Affiliation: Augustana College
Mairi Litherland, Relocation of earthquakes in southeastern New Mexico to better understand induced seismicity
Niah Tyler is a rising junior at Augustana College pursuing a double major in Geology and Environmental Studies with hopes to obtain a minor in GIS. His passions include structural geology, environmental policy, and science communication. This summer, he will be working with the GrowClust algorithm to relocate an earthquake swarm that took place in southeastern New Mexico to create a better understanding of induced seismicity. After graduation, he plans to attend graduate school to further his education.
Between June 28th to June 30th of 2020, a swarm of 603 earthquakes occurred in southeastern New Mexico within the Permian Basin. Seismometers in the area were able to record basic seismic information and standard location quality, but these locations needed to be clearer to understand subsurface faults and possible paths of fluid injection. To obtain more precise locations of this swarm, we used GrowClust, a relative relocation algorithm that relocates earthquake hypocenters based on the double-difference technique and waveform cross-correlation. GrowClust produced relocation data in the form of coordinates that we translated into maps in order to see the progression of the swarm in time and space. We successfully relocated 380 seismic events, which when mapped shows cleaner, linear features indicating possible subsurface faults which have not been previously mapped. This study therefore enables us to piece together a more complete understanding of local subsurface faults which may be influenced by nearby oil and wastewater injection operations within the Permian Basin. Future research could focus on similar reprocessing of events recorded in New Mexico’s earthquake catalog, implementing the GrowClust relocation technique in other areas.