Why Did Ojai Have a 5.0 Earthquake During Tropical Storm Hilary?

Ojai 5.0 earthquake near oil and gas wells

Did a massive amount of rainwater from Hurricane Hilary rush into the ground causing the first 5.0 earthquake?  16+ smaller earthquakes have followed so far

What causes a frackquakes? 

A "frackquake," also known as an induced seismic event or induced earthquake, is caused by human activities related to hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and the disposal of wastewater generated from fracking operations. Here's how it happens:
  • Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking): Hydraulic fracturing is a process used to extract oil and natural gas from underground rock formations. During this process, a mixture of water, sand, and chemicals is injected at high pressure into the rock to create fractures, allowing oil and gas to flow more freely. The increased pressure from the injected fluids can alter the stress conditions in the subsurface rock layers.
  • Fluid Injection: The injection of fluids during fracking increases the pore pressure in the surrounding rock formations. This can reduce the friction along pre-existing faults or fractures in the rock.
  • Reactivation of Faults: In some cases, the increased pore pressure can reactivate dormant or previously stable faults, causing them to slip or release built-up stress. This sudden movement along a fault results in an earthquake.
Ojai earthquakes and oil and gas wells
  • Wastewater Injection and Pressure Changes: Injecting large volumes of wastewater into deep wells can increase pore pressure in the surrounding rocks. If these fluids migrate to faults or fractures, they can alter the stress conditions and potentially induce seismic activity. This is particularly likely when wastewater is injected into formations that are already stressed or near a critical point of fault slippage.
  • Wastewater Disposal: Another significant factor contributing to frackquakes is the disposal of wastewater generated during fracking operations. This wastewater, often referred to as "produced water," "flowback water," or "frack fluid," is typically a mixture of water, chemicals, and naturally occurring substances from the subsurface. To dispose of this wastewater, it's injected into deep wells, a process known as wastewater injection.
Not all fracking operations lead to induced earthquakes, and the majority of fracking-related activities do not cause significant seismic events. However, in regions where fracking is conducted in proximity to geologically active areas or where there's a history of seismic activity, the potential for induced earthquakes is a concern. Scientists study the relationship between fluid injection, pore pressure changes, and seismic activity to better understand and manage the risks associated with induced earthquakes. Regulations and best practices have been developed to minimize the potential for frackquakes and to ensure the safety of nearby communities.

How much water goes into the water table during a tropical storm?

The amount of water that enters the water table during a tropical storm can vary widely depending on several factors, including the intensity and duration of the storm, the local topography, soil conditions, and the existing water table level. Tropical storms and hurricanes can bring heavy rainfall, leading to increased runoff and groundwater recharge.

In general, tropical storms can bring several inches to several feet of rainfall over a relatively short period of time. The exact amount of water that infiltrates the ground and contributes to the water table depends on the permeability of the soil and the rate at which the rainfall occurs. Some of the factors that influence water infiltration include:

Soil Type: Sandy soils tend to allow water to infiltrate more easily compared to clayey or compacted soils, which may lead to more surface runoff.

Rainfall Intensity: If the rainfall is intense and exceeds the rate at which the soil can absorb water, more runoff might occur, limiting the amount of water that enters the water table.

Ground Saturation: If the soil is already saturated due to previous rainfall, its ability to absorb additional water will be reduced, leading to more runoff.

Land Use: Urban areas with extensive pavement and buildings can increase surface runoff, preventing water from infiltrating the ground and reaching the water table.  Oil and gas drilling will deep wells into the ground could also be a factor. 

Topography: The slope of the land can affect how quickly water runs off the surface and whether it has a chance to infiltrate the ground.

Vegetation: Vegetation can help slow down and absorb rainfall, allowing more water to infiltrate the ground.

The exact amount of water that will enter the water table during a tropical storm is complex and can vary significantly based on the factors mentioned above. In areas prone to tropical storms, local hydrologists and meteorologists often study historical data and use computer models to estimate the potential impacts of rainfall on groundwater recharge and water table levels.

What is a frackquake?

A "frackquake" is a term used to describe an earthquake that is induced or triggered by human activities related to hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking. Hydraulic fracturing is a method used to extract oil and natural gas from deep underground by injecting high-pressure fluid into rock formations to create fractures, allowing the release of trapped hydrocarbons.

In some cases, the injection of fluids into the ground during the fracking process can increase pressure in geological faults and formations, leading to a release of built-up stress and causing earthquakes. These induced earthquakes are usually of smaller magnitude than natural earthquakes, but they can still cause damage to structures and pose risks to the environment and human safety.

Frackquakes have become a subject of concern and research as the hydraulic fracturing industry has expanded. Scientists study the relationship between hydraulic fracturing activities, the injection of fluids, and the occurrence of induced earthquakes to better understand the mechanisms behind them and to develop strategies for mitigating their potential impacts. Regulations and practices have been developed in some regions to manage the risk of inducing earthquakes through hydraulic fracturing.

Yes, oil and gas wells can potentially be affected by flooding, including flooding caused by heavy rainwater. Flooding can impact these wells in several ways, depending on the specific circumstances and the design of the wells:

Can oil and gas wells get flooded by rainwater?

Well Integrity: Floodwaters can infiltrate into wellbores if proper precautions are not taken. In some cases, the integrity of well casings may be compromised due to flood-related erosion or instability in the surrounding soil. This could potentially lead to contamination of the well or groundwater resources.

Surface Equipment: The equipment and infrastructure at the surface of oil and gas wells, such as wellheads, pumps, storage tanks, and other facilities, can be vulnerable to flooding. Floodwaters can damage or displace this equipment, potentially disrupting the production or extraction process.

Access Roads: Flooding can make access roads leading to well sites impassable, making it challenging for workers to reach the well locations and perform maintenance or emergency actions.

Wastewater Management: Flooding can affect the proper disposal and management of wastewater produced during oil and gas extraction. If floodwaters reach containment ponds or other storage facilities for produced water or other byproducts, there's a risk of these fluids being released into the environment.

Disruption of Operations: Severe flooding can disrupt the normal operations of drilling, production, and maintenance activities at oil and gas well sites. This disruption can lead to delays in production and potential economic losses for operators.

To mitigate the risks of flooding, oil and gas companies often implement preventive measures such as elevating surface equipment, building proper drainage systems, reinforcing well casings, and conducting regular inspections to ensure the integrity of wells and associated infrastructure. Additionally, regulatory agencies often have guidelines and requirements in place to address potential environmental and safety concerns related to flooding and other natural events at oil and gas well sites.

How are frack quakes different than large earthquakes?

Frackquakes (induced earthquakes from hydraulic fracturing) and natural large earthquakes have several differences in terms of their causes, characteristics, and impacts. Here are some key distinctions:


  • Frackquakes: These are induced earthquakes caused by human activities, specifically hydraulic fracturing (fracking) or the disposal of wastewater generated from fracking operations. The injection of fluids and the alteration of subsurface pressures during fracking can trigger these earthquakes.
  • Large Natural Earthquakes: These are caused by the movement of tectonic plates beneath the Earth's surface. Stress builds up along faults due to the movement of these plates, and when the stress exceeds the strength of the rocks, it's released in the form of seismic activity,

Magnitude and Energy Release:

  • Frackquakes: Generally, frackquakes are of smaller magnitude compared to natural large earthquakes. They typically range from very small to low-magnitude events.
  • Large Natural Earthquakes: Natural earthquakes can range in magnitude from moderate to extremely high magnitudes, with potentially catastrophic effects. The energy released during large natural earthquakes is far greater than that of frackquakes.

Frequency and Distribution:

  • Frackquakes: Induced seismic events are localized to areas where fracking or wastewater injection is occurring. They tend to cluster around the active fracking sites and are limited to specific regions.
  • Large Natural Earthquakes: Natural earthquakes can occur anywhere in the world, typically along tectonic plate boundaries. They are not limited to specific industries or activities and can impact diverse regions globally.


  • Frackquakes: Induced earthquakes are often shallower than natural earthquakes, as they are related to specific fracking or injection activities in the near-surface layers.
  • Large Natural Earthquakes: The depth of natural earthquakes can vary widely, from shallow events near the Earth's surface to deep-seated events in the mantle.

Human Activity:

  • Frackquakes: These earthquakes are directly linked to human activities, particularly hydraulic fracturing and wastewater injection practices.
  • Large Natural Earthquakes: They are driven by natural geological processes and tectonic plate movements, unrelated to human activities.

Seismic Monitoring and Regulation:

  • Frackquakes: Due to their association with specific industrial activities, frackquakes are more closely monitored, and regulations and guidelines have been developed to manage the risks associated with induced seismicity.
  • Large Natural Earthquakes: These are monitored as part of broader seismic monitoring efforts aimed at understanding tectonic activity and assessing seismic hazards.
In summary, the primary differences between frackquakes and large natural earthquakes lie in their causes, magnitudes, distributions, and impacts. While both types of earthquakes involve the release of stored energy in the Earth's crust, they result from distinct processes and have varying implications for human activities and infrastructure.

You won't get news reporting on this issue from any of the major news networks because they can't cover this story objectively without jeopardizing their ad revenue.  

Here is an update on the story.  Ojai has had 16 smaller earthquakes since the first 5.0 one happened at 2:41 PST on 8/20/2023.  More earthquakes are likely on the way. 

You won't get news reporting on this issue from any of the major news networks because they can't cover this story objectively without jeopardizing their ad revenue.  

Ojai earthquake map