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Fear seizes the TV presenter at the very moment her TV studio starts to shake. She stops, mid-monologue, and falls silent. The shaking worsens. Other presenters seated around the awkwardly large plastic table sit stock still, save for a few worried glances left and right. Then the shaking gets stronger. The rattling of equipment above them can be heard. One broadcaster turns his gaze upward to see. The main presenter gasps. It’s time to go.

电视演播厅开始晃动,女广播员的脸上的恐惧溢于言表,话说了一半就停下来,陷入沉默。摇晃变得更剧烈了。围坐在笨重的大塑料桌旁的其他主持人呆若木鸡,忧心忡忡地左右瞥了几眼。紧接着,演播厅晃动得更加剧烈,可以听到头顶上的设备吱嘎作响。一名广播员仰头看了看,节目主持人倒抽一口冷气。该撤了。

As the South Korean live TV team hastily discarded body microphones and abandoned their set, the seismic ripples of a 5.5 magnitude earthquake continued to shudder across Pohang. It was a powerful jolting. Other footage shows people running from buildings as walls collapse behind them. An entire city of half a million residents was left in shock. But this quake wasn’t a freak natural event. It was started by people.

这支韩国的电视直播团队随即匆忙扔掉身上的麦克风,丢下了他们的设备,此时,这场5.5级地震波继续波及浦项整座城市。这场地震十分剧烈。其他视频片段显示,人们从大楼逃出来,他们身后的建筑物墙身随即倒塌。这座拥有50万人口的城市陷入惊慌。但这次地震并不是一次反常的自然事件。然而,这场地震是人为造成的。



While we like to use metaphors like “on solid ground” in English, on a geological scale the stuff below our feet is anything but. It’s full of shifting planes of material with varying densities. There are faults and fractures, often with ribbons of fluid running through them. There are sediments, clays and bedrock. Not to mention, on an even bigger scale, gigantic tectonic plates rubbing against or pulling apart from one another. In some places, the ground is like a tower of toy bricks just waiting to topple.

虽然在英语中我们喜欢用“在稳固的基础上”这样的比喻,但从地质的角度来看,我们脚下的大地绝不稳固,全是由不同密度物质组成的移动岩层,有断层和裂缝,并有地下水流穿过。这里还有沉积物、粘土和基岩。更不用说从更宏观的角度,有巨大的地壳构造板块相互挤压或撕离。在一些地带,地表就像一座玩具砖塔,只消一推即倒。

Bill Ellsworth remembers the first time he saw images of people fleeing buildings as the Pohang earthquake rattled the city.

埃尔斯沃思(Bill Ellsworth)犹记得他mg电子游戏平台次看到浦项地震时人们逃出大楼时的情景。

“They were very fortunate that no-one was killed, having seen some of the security cam footage,” he says. Ellsworth, from Stanford University’s Center for Induced and Triggered Seismicity, was part of the international team that investigated what happened.

他说:“我后来看到了一些监控摄像头的视频,他们非常幸运,没有人死亡。”埃尔斯沃思为斯坦福大学诱发和触发地震活动中心(Stanford University's Center for Induced and Triggered Seismicity)的学者,是调查浦项地震的国际团队的一员。

The stakes for these investigators were high. They knew at the outset that to label Pohang a human-induced earthquake would be a big deal. Earthquakes are measured on the Richter scale – which is “logarithmic” – meaning an increase in one point signifies a 10-fold increase in strength. A quake of about 3 on the Richter scale would be felt by inhabitants, and 4 would be enough to knock obxts off shelves. A 5.5 or higher magnitude event caused by human activity is very rare, and although it is still considered moderate, it would be enough to damage buildings.

这些调查人员冒着很大风险。他们从一开始就知道,将浦项地震定性为人为地震是非同小可之事。地震采用里克特级数(Richter scale)计量,这是“对数级”,意味着每增加一级,强度就增加10倍。居民可以感觉到里氏3级左右的地震,4级地震足以将货架上的物品震落。由人类活动引起的5.5级或更高级别的地震非常罕见,尽管仍被认为是中等强度,但已经足以摧毁建筑物。



“For whatever reason there was a pathway that allowed the fluid to escape the borehole,” explains Ellsworth. By flushing even more fluid down, the drillers secured their borehole. But the huge pressure now present caused what no-one wanted: seismicity.

埃尔斯沃思解释说:“不管是什么原因,有一条裂缝让钻井液从钻孔中流出。”冲下更多的钻井液后,钻井工们保住了他们的钻孔。但是现在巨大的水压造成了人们不想看到的结果:地震活动。

“It triggered some very tiny events, events that were so small they were not noted at the time,” says Ellsworth.

埃尔斯沃思说:“水压引发了一些非常轻微的地震,因为强度非常小,当时没有人注意到。”

What the drilling team don’t appear to have realised then, but which spatial analysis of these mini earthquakes later showed, was that the drilling had actually crossed a fault line – a boundary underground where two planes of earth meet. Movement of earth can happen along these faults. That’s what causes earthquakes.

后来对这些轻微地震的空间分析发现,钻探实际上已经碰到断层线,即地下两个岩层面相交的边界。而钻探小组当时似乎没有意识到这一点。沿着这些断层可能发生地层移动,这就是导致地震的原因。

Ideally, fault lines in areas subjected to drilling or fluid injection are known about and are usually avoided. In this case, partly because there had been no indication of a fault line at the surface, the South Korean team had no idea what they had drilled into. As Ellsworth puts it: “That was very unlucky.”

理想情况是,若果事前已知钻井或灌注井液的岩区有断层线,通常是可以避开断层线钻井。但在这次事故中,部分原因是地表没有迹象表明地下存在断层线,韩国的钻探队根本不知道自己钻到了什么地方。正如埃尔斯沃思所说:“这是非常不幸的。”

“This fault was what we call critically stressed – only a small change in conditions could cause that fault to move, which is ultimately what happened.”

“这个断层就是我们所说的临界应力,只要有地层有微小变化就能导致断层移动,而最终发生的正是这种情况。”

Those first, smaller earthquakes, overlooked at the time, were a sign that something wasn’t right. It was only a few weeks later that the 5.5 magnitude earthquake hit.

起初那些轻微的地震被忽视了,那其实是一个信号,说明出了问题。仅仅几周后,5.5级地震就发生了。

Data collected by Ellsworth and his colleagues convinced them that the event was human-induced. While there has been some debate over the results, the findings have already been accepted by the South Korean government, which says it will now dismantle the geothermal plant.

埃尔斯沃思和他的同事们收集的数据使他们相信,这次地震是人为造成的。尽管对调查结果存在一些争议,但韩国政府已经接受了调查结果,并表示将拆除地热发电厂。

Could the drilling team have noticed the early seismicity and stopped drilling just in time? It’s possible, says Ellsworth, but they were relying on a relatively simple traffic light system to help them judge whether drilling was safe. This involves monitoring seismicity and only ceasing to drill should a certain magnitude of quake be reached. Ellsworth points out that in this case the magnitude of those mini quakes was very small, but plotting where they occurred reveals the presence of a fault. That kind of more comprehensive analysis could, in theory, have alxed drilling operators to the gravity of the situation earlier.

钻探小组是否注意到了早期的地震活动并及时停止钻探?埃尔斯沃思说,这是有可能的,但是钻探小组当时依靠的是一个相对简单的交通灯式的系统来判断钻井是否安全。该系统只有地震达到一定的震级时才能监测到有地震发生,才能停止钻探。埃尔斯沃思指出,在这次事故中,这些轻微地震的震级非常小,因此这个监测系统未能察觉,而调查小组测绘发生这些微地震的区域,发现此处有断层存在。理论上,这种更全面的分析可以让钻井操作人员更早意识到形势的严重性。



Because a firm called UK Oil and Gas (UKOG) has been extracting oil nearby, many locals are worried that the activity is disturbing ancient fault lines and causing the quakes. There has been a series of heated protests at the drilling site. Many have turned to scientists to see if they can prove what is really going on, which is where Hicks comes in.

由于英国石油天然气mg电子游戏平台公司(UKOG)一直在附近开采石油,许多当地人担心这种活动会破坏古老的断层线,引发地震。钻井现场曾进行过一系列激烈的抗议活动。许多人求助于科学家,看看他们能否证明到底发生了什么,这正是希克斯要研究的。

“That’s what we call the digitiser,” he says, enthusiastically pointing to a small box inside the black case. “That’s just turning analogue signal into some sort of digital form and then we can later convert it into velocity, metres per second or acceleration.”

希克斯兴致勃勃地指着黑色盒子里的一个小盒子说:“这就是我们所说的数字转换器,就是把模拟信号转换成某种数字形式,然后我们可以把它转换成速度、每秒多少米或加速度。”

After stamping on the ground he shows me the huge spikes that pop up a few minutes later on the near-real-time chart of tremors he can check online. Having multiple instruments in the field means that incidental noise, say from passing vehicles (or stamping scientists), can be discounted. Only when tremors appear uniformly on a number of the seismic monitors does that indicate an earthquake.

他往地上狠狠跺了几下脚,然后向我展示了可以在线查看的近乎实时的震动图表,几分钟后图表上出现了巨大峰值。现场有多个仪器,这意味着偶然的噪音,比如过往车辆(或跺脚的科学家)发出的杂音可以忽略不计。只有当许多地震监测仪一致出现震动时,才表明发生了地震。



“Regardless of the cause, it’s still an interesting sequence,” he says.

他说:“不管原因是什么,这仍然是一系列令人感兴趣的事件。”

As we stroll through the countryside, near to the epicentre of the biggest quake – an amusingly boring field – we bump into a lady named Jackie Wilson, who is walking her dog. When that 3.1 quake hit in February, her cat “leapt off the bed”, she says.

我们在乡间漫步时,走到萨里郡最大地震的震中,一个有趣的钻井场所附近,我们遇到一位名叫威尔逊(Jackie Wilson)的女士,她正在遛狗。她说,今年2月3.1级地震发生时,她的猫“从床上跳了下来”。

“Somebody did come round with a petition for the locals to sign against all of this drilling going on,” she adds, “I guess it has kicked off since then, hasn’t it?”

她补充道:“确实有人带着请愿书,请当地人签名反对所有正在进行的钻探活动。我想从那以后地震活动就开始了,不是吗?”

Hicks has fielded emails, calls and tweets from locals similarly curious about what’s going on. But for now he is sticking to his conclusion that the quakes are natural. A few weeks after we meet, he and colleagues publish preliminary results of their investigation online. “Overall, we find no indicators in the earthquake parameters that would strongly suggest an induced source,” they write.

希克斯已经回复了当地人发来的电子邮件、电话和推特,当地人也同样好奇这场地震到底是怎么回事。但是现在希克斯仍坚持自己的结论,认为地震是自然的。我们见面几周后,他和同事在网上公布了初步调查结果。他们写道:“总的来说,我们在地震参数中没有发现强烈暗示人为原因的迹象。”

But public concern that tremors might be man-made is becoming a more common story around the world. Especially when drilling or geothermal activity happens in the same place as earthquakes.

但公众对地震可能是人为造成的担忧,在世界各地正变得越来越普遍。尤其是当钻探或地热活动与地震发生在同一地点时。

People are clearly getting used to the concept of anthropogenic seismicity, which can be either human-induced or triggered. The latter is a slightly different condition in which earthquakes are mostly caused by tectonic activity but human activity plays a role in how they occur.

很明显,人们已经能接受人为活动可能造成地震的概念,地震可以由人类行为诱发或直接触发。后者与前者略微不同,在这种情况下,地震主要是由地质构造活动引起的,但人类活动对地震的发生起着一定作用。



One paper published earlier this year described how microseismic monitoring apparently helped to keep fluid-induced seismicity to a minimum at a geothermal project in Finland. In that case, the team listened carefully to small-scale seismicity, which in turn motivated them to occasionally lower the rate of fluid injection or wait for longer periods between pumping. The authors of the paper think this kept any more serious shaking at bay.

今年早些时候发表的一篇论文描述了在芬兰的一个地热工程中,微震监测明显有助于将流体诱发的地震活动降到最低。在该案例中,钻井团队仔细监听小规模的地震活动,因而促使他们不时降低注液速度,或者拉长两次注水之间的等待时间。这篇论文的mg电子游戏平台们认为,这阻止了较严重的地震发生。

Some will never be comfortable with the idea of drilling near populated places. The potential consequences, they argue, are just too great, even if the probability of setting off a big earthquake remains small. Earthquake detectives, though, can in theory help to assess the situation while drilling is going on, not just after the fact, and raise the alarm should that drilling become dangerous. By listening carefully to what the ground is telling us, companies and governments may be better equipped to react – before it is too late.

有些人对人口密集地区附近钻井永远心怀不安。他们认为,即使引发大地震的可能性很小,但潜在的后果太严重。尽管如此,在理论上,地震侦探们可以帮助评估正在进行的钻探情况,并在钻探变得危险时发出警报,而不仅仅是在事故发生后才采取行动。通过仔细倾听大地发出的声音,企业和政府或许能更好地做出反应,以免为时过晚。