Now, farmers drilling increasingly deeper wells over decades to water their crops likely contributed to a deadly earthquake in southern Spain last year, a new study suggests, adding to concerns about the effects of new energy extraction and waste disposal technologies. Availing facilities of satellite images, scientists from Canada, Italy and Spain found the quake ruptured a fault running near a basin that had been weakened by 50 years of groundwater extraction in the area.
Six Italian scientists and a government official were found guilty of multiple manslaughter for underestimating the risks of a killer earthquake in the town of L’Aquila in 2009.
While some commentators had warned that any punishment would dissuade other experts from sharing their expertise for fear of legal retribution.
However, they were sentenced to six years in jail in the watershed ruling in a case that has provoked outrage in the international science community.
Meanwhile, the study published in the journal Nature Geoscience centered on the May 11, 2011, quake in the southern Spanish town of Lorca.
In addition to the nine deaths, this relatively modest earthquake of magnitude 5.1 damaged numerous buildings in Lorca, an agricultural center. The researchers noted that even without the strain caused by water extraction, a quake would likely have occurred at some point. For now, we should remain cautious …We know how to start earthquakes, but we are still far from being able to keep them under control,” Avouac wrote.