Monitoring posts to begin recording quakes in south-central Kansas

Four temporary seismic monitoring stations have been established in south-central Kansas and three more will be ready by the end of the month to help determine why the number of earthquakes has dramatically increased in three counties.

The temporary monitoring network was funded in mid-November after Gov. Sam Brownback appointed a task force to study the earthquake activity.

The U.S. Geological Survey documented 124 earthquakes in Kansas from Jan. 1, 2014, to Dec. 24, mostly in Harper, Sumner and Barber counties, up from 32 in 2013 and none in 2012.

The magnitude of the earthquakes has also increased, said Rick Miller, chief of exploration services at the Kansas Geological Survey.

“We’re having more 2.5 earthquakes than in the past,” Miller said. “We can’t predict the future, but we’re hoping to determine the cause and effect.”

The largest earthquake recorded in Kansas, with a magnitude of 4.9, was on Nov. 12 at Milan in Sumner County, said Shelby Peterie, geophysical research assistant at the Kansas Geological Survey. An earthquake near Wamego in 1867 was believed to have a magnitude of 5.2, but that was based solely on damage reports.

The stations will be at the Wichita State University Biological Field Station in southwest Sedgwick County, south of Sun City and near Hardtner, Pratt, Arkansas City, Kingman and Wellington. They will monitor seismic activity for six months to a year.

Miller said the current seismometers are 20 years old and were borrowed from a University of Missouri program. New seismometers, costing a total of about $85,000, have been ordered and will eventually replace the older equipment.

The Kansas Geological Survey will analyze data from the stations to pinpoint earthquake epicenters and better determine faults to develop an earthquake response plan.

In addition, a permanent network of six monitoring stations that will detect and locate earthquakes of a magnitude greater than 1.5 eventually will be deployed across Kansas.