AUSTIN (KXAN) — Wednesday’s earthquake in West Texas is the third-strongest ever recorded in the state, according to data from the U.S. Geological Survey.
The magnitude 5.3 quake was recorded at 3:32 p.m. in Reeves County, about 24 miles west-southwest of Mentone.
The earthquake was felt as far away as Austin, more than 350 miles away.
According to the USGS, the earthquake occurred “within the interior of the North American plate, far from any tectonic plate boundaries.”
Only two earthquakes have recorded a higher number on the moment magnitude scale, the scale used to determine the strength of a quake.
A magnitude 5.8 event on Aug. 16, 1931, holds the title of the strongest earthquake to have struck Texas. It struck at 5:40 a.m. CST in Presidio County, about 12 kilometers southwest of Valentine.
More recently, a magnitude 5.7 earthquake was recorded on April 14, 1995, in Brewster County, about 13 km northwest of Marathon.
Since 2018, around 1,000 earthquakes of magnitude 2.5 or higher have struck within 50 km of Wednesday’s quake, according to the USGS.
Most notably was a magnitude 5.0 earthquake on March 26, 2020. The epicenter of that quake was only about 10 km north of Wednesday’s earthquake.
The USGS said scientific studies have linked an increase in earthquakes across the central and eastern U.S. to human activity, such as wastewater injection into deep disposal wells, enhanced oil recovery and fracking.
A study by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin found wastewater injection significantly increases the potential of faults under the Fort Worth Basin to slip if they are not managed properly. Wastewater injection is a common practice in the oil and gas industry.
A 2019 release from UT Austin noted the Fort Worth Basin saw “a major increase in seismic activity from 2008 to 2015 as oil and gas operations increased, but a significant reduction in earthquakes the last four years as injection has slowed.”