Botswana earthquake explanation

Botswana suffered its largest ever earthquake on Monday evening – magnitude 6.5. Tremors were felt as far away as Johannesbeagle.

Immediately, environMENTALists leapt all over it, including a scaremongery article claiming that fracking (which may or may not be taking place in that area of Botswana) was obviously responsible.

After all, Botswana had never had an earthquake that big, just like it had never had an earthquake as big as the one which set previous record, pre-hydraulic fracturing.


Well, Jeffrey Barbee (for it is he) admits in the very first line of his piece:

There’s not enough information to answer that scientifically

But… but… there is circumstantial evidence!!

Statistic likelihood would surely result from scientific investigation, though? And would be a result, meaning that there would be “enough information to answer that scientifically”. And you said… ag… never mind.

Also, because of the remote area in which this quake occurred, no-one can accurately say exactly where the epicentre was. Your 5km claim is therefore a bit of a stretch.

Fortunately, following the knee-jerk hysteria, there came informed, independent sanity, as Stephen Hicks, a postdoctoral research fellow in Seismology at the University of Southampton gave us this highly technical description of the real likely reasons for the quake.

We call these types of events ‘intraplate earthquakes‘. It is likely that the rupture occurred partly due to the gradual transfer of push and pull stresses from the East African Rift toward the more stable part of the continent. Occasionally, this stress is released along pre-existing weaknesses in Earth’s crust as earthquakes. It is fundamentally the same reason why quakes occasionally occur in other stable regions such as the United Kingdom and the midwestern states of North America.

Hicks doesn’t mention fracking at all in his detailed explanation of the factors leading to the earthquake, presumably because fracking was not one of those factors. However, predictably it does get brought up in the comments, where it is promptly debunked.

Still, if you’re the “director and founder of”, you’ve done work for Al Gore’s Climate Reality and you released a 2015 film about the alleged secret roll-out of gas developments in Southern Africa, wouldn’t you try to get some extra mileage out of a completely natural phenomenon? 

(There’s not enough information to answer that scientifically.)