Scientists are hunting for the cause of recent earthquakes in the Southeast

Scientists are sending additional sensors to south Alabama and the Florida Panhandle to try and solve the mystery of what caused a spate of recent earthquakes. Five earthquakes have been detected in the region within a three-week span.

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Why it matters 

Government researchers are trying to determine whether the quakes are related to oil and gas operations in the area, reported.

The U.S. Geological Survey is working with its partners to deploy seismometers around the area that will provide more information if additional quakes occur, said Justin Rubinstein, a geophysicist with the agency. The Geological Survey of Alabama and University of Memphis researchers are also involved in the overall effort.

"We're getting these (seismometers) on the ground, and when we have more instruments in the area, we'll be able to better understand what has happened," Rubinstein said.

What it means 

The USGS reported in 2015 that 21 areas have seen an uptick in earthquakes believed to be related to oil and gas extraction operations. They include the Brewton, Alabama, area near the Alabama-Florida line.

There were few earthquakes reported in that area before 1997. That year, several quakes — including one estimated to be magnitude 4.9 — struck near Brewton. That was Alabama's second-largest earthquake ever recorded, reported.

Georgia connection 

A magnitude 4.4 earthquake rattled many in metro Atlanta in December, the strongest temblor to strike the region in decades.

"We don't necessarily live in an 'earthquake zone,' but our earthquake risk is not zero,"said Andrew Newman, a professor at Georgia Tech's School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. "There's no place that's absolutely devoid of earthquakes."

While we might not think of Georgia as quake country, the ground does shake with some regularity.

More than three dozen earthquakes of magnitude 2.5 or greater have occurred in Georgia since 1974, according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis of data from the U.S. Geological Survey.

A 4.3 magnitude quake occurred in Lincoln County in 1974, and Whitfield County experienced a 4.2 magnitude one in 1984. Georgia hadn't experienced a magnitude 4.0 or higher event since then, until that December morning.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Credit: Pixabay

Credit: Pixabay

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