Earthquakes are shaking the Florida border, and that’s a mystery even to the experts

Flomaton, Alabama, near the Florida-Alabama border, where several earthquakes have been felt since March 2019.
Flomaton, Alabama, near the Florida-Alabama border, where several earthquakes have been felt since March 2019. Google Maps

Florida is known for many things: the Everglades. Walt Disney World. An inability to count votes. Florida Man.

Earthquakes, not so much.

That might be changing.

Last week, a ninth earthquake struck near the Florida-Alabama line, NBC’s WESH2 reported.

On Friday, a 1.8 magnitude earthquake shook the earth struck about six miles north-northeast of Flomaton, Alabama, which is on the Florida-Alabama border. The earthquake was a little over two miles deep.

In addition, a series of small earthquakes were felt in south Alabama within hours of each other near the Florida border on April 11, The Associated Press reported.

On April 11, a 2.5 magnitude earthquake rumbled the same area of Flomaton as the April 12 shake. That one was four miles deep.

That same Thursday, a 2.8 magnitude earthquake shook the ground about seven miles west of Brewton, Alabama, in Escambia County, just north of Florida’s Panhandle. And a 2.6 magnitude earthquake was felt about eight miles northwest of Flomaton.

Put those together with the five earthquakes that were reported in March, which included one in Century, Florida, WKRG News5 reported, and you have a mystery.

“This is an area where a couple of decades ago several quakes occurred. So it is possible that these were natural earthquakes,” said Falk Amelung, a professor in the Department of Marine Geosciences at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Miami.

But why?

Experts are stymied.

Amelung suggests that fracking could induce seismic activity but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

According to a report in the Sun Sentinel on recent Senate activity on agriculture and natural resources, most oil and natural gas produced in Florida is done in the northwest and southern parts of the state and none of the 57 active wells have used fracking techniques.

“In Florida, the earthquake hazard is low as we don’t have any active fault zones. But seismicity could pick up if we start fracking,” Amelung said.

“Oklahoma did not have much seismicity for a long time. This changed with the fracking and now Oklahoma produces more earthquakes than California,” Amelung said, citing a 2016 magnitude 5.8 quake that caused significant damage in Oklahoma.

“It is not the fracking itself that produces quakes large enough to be felt. It is the injection of wastewater into the ground that induces the quakes,” he explained.

For now, as scientists try and explain the cause of all that trembling, the Florida-’Bama border continues to shake and bake.

Related stories from Miami Herald