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Study: New Madrid fault zone alive and active

New Madrid Fault Zone Alive And Active

LOS ANGELES (AP) - The New Madrid fault zone in the nation's midsection is active and could spawn future large earthquakes, scientists reported Thursday.

It's "not dead yet," said U.S. Geological Survey seismologist Susan Hough, who was part of the study published online by the journal Science.

Researchers have long debated just how much of a hazard New Madrid (MAD'-rihd) poses. The zone stretches 150 miles, crossing parts of Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee.

In 1811 and 1812, it unleashed a trio of powerful jolts - measuring magnitudes 7.5 to 7.7 - that rattled the central Mississippi River valley. Chimneys fell and boats capsized. Farmland sank and turned into swamps. The death toll is unknown, but experts don't believe there were mass casualties because the region was sparsely populated then.

Unlike California's San Andreas and other faults that occur along boundaries of shifting tectonic plates, New Madrid is less understood since it's in the middle of the continent, far from plate boundaries.

Previous studies have suggested that it may be shutting down, based on GPS readings that showed little strain accumulation at the surface. Other research came to the same conclusion by blaming ongoing quake activity on aftershocks from the 1800s, which would essentially relieve strain on the fault.

Earthquakes-New Madrid

The latest study suggests otherwise. Hough and USGS geophysicist Morgan Page in Pasadena, Calif., analyzed past quakes in the New Madrid region and used computer modeling to determine that the continuing tremors are not related to the big quakes two centuries ago.

"Our new results tell us that something is going on there, and therefore a repeat of the 1811-1812 sequence is possible," Hough said.

The USGS estimates there's a 7 to 10 percent chance of that happening in the next 50 years.

Arthur Frankel, a seismologist with the USGS in Seattle who had no role in the study, said the latest results seem plausible. His recent field work using GPS shows significant movement of land along the fault in the past decade, indicating a buildup of strain that could lead to potentially dangerous quakes.

Others said this won't end the debate about the hazards on the New Madrid seismic zone.

Andrew Newman, a geophysicist at the Georgia Institute of Technology, said the method used in the study works well for faults along plate boundaries, but he's unsure if it applies to enigmatic faults like New Madrid.

Join the discussion

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nancy January 24 2014 at 11:57 AM

I heard that NYS is on a fault. Is this still true

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1 reply
Terry nancy January 24 2014 at 11:58 AM

No, New Jersey. But I heard it's Christie's fault!

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3 replies
bk031498 January 24 2014 at 10:59 AM

Seems like the New Madrid fault zone is a is a mid-plate fracture zone and of course it is still active as it seems unlikely that continental drift has suddenly stopped during this debate.

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3 replies
kg8wud January 24 2014 at 10:59 AM

Folks in AR, MS & TN experience "mini" tremors from time to time, even now. Once, while I was visiting my daughter in Memphis, we both felt a small tremor which I describe more as a feeling of energy passing through us rather than a shaking. It was a very strange feeling, I must say. It would have been nice to have a map of the New Madrid fault to go along with the story.

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1 reply
tim_haney kg8wud January 24 2014 at 11:12 AM

I lived on the outskirts of Memphis, in Collierville, during the mid to late seventies and as a kid I experienced a small earthquake around 1977.

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vanguardtitle January 24 2014 at 10:55 AM

amazing. glue your stuff down

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1 reply
SummitBay vanguardtitle January 24 2014 at 11:04 AM

There is NOTHING in the deep south that superglue and duct tape cant fix LOL

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1 reply
Terry SummitBay January 24 2014 at 11:50 AM

Don't forget "Great Stuff".

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wickedone1414 January 24 2014 at 10:53 AM

Now you just KNOW there's a handful of people that read this and areFREAKING out lol

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2 replies
GUISEPPE DOTZABO wickedone1414 January 24 2014 at 11:02 AM

Make peace with yor creator

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Terry wickedone1414 January 24 2014 at 11:52 AM

That would be fracking out!

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the RAY January 24 2014 at 10:50 AM

We come, we go but earth abides.

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SummitBay January 24 2014 at 10:49 AM

MOST of the USA land mass experiences earth tremors and quakes of various magnitude. The whole continent is a tectonic plate, but the fault lines are proof that earthquakes have been happening since forever. It is just as active as the middle east, and southern asia, as their continent shifts upward to the North. Check out the tectonic plate map : http://www.worldatlas.com/aatlas/infopage/tectonic.htm

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Jen January 24 2014 at 10:47 AM

Having been through 3 of the major quakes in the L.A. area, I would still take a quake over hurricanes, tornados and horrific flooding any day. I think that the not knowing when one will hit is better than anticipating a natural event. When it hits, that's it. It is over except for aftershocks (which are usually smaller). Yes, it can and does leave a trail of destruction, but once it is over, usually in a matter of seconds, you can start the process of getting things back in order.
And waiting for the "big one". I'm not holding my breath.

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tammyscholz January 24 2014 at 10:44 AM

realy?Global warming people need to study history. Sailing ships used to sail through the (inside passage) thats been frozen for over a centry. South Texas had a quake that blocked a major river and inland port a hundred and fifty years ago. And to top it off there is no such thing as earth quake proof buildings and highways. history will repear its self..

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2 replies
the RAY tammyscholz January 24 2014 at 10:48 AM

Liberal battle cry----- Screw the facts WE HAVE AN AGENDA!!!!

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1 reply
gordianpiusiii the RAY January 24 2014 at 10:56 AM

Screw you!

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wannababrit tammyscholz January 24 2014 at 10:58 AM

Frank Lloyd Wright's Tokyo hotel survived the Great Kantō earthquake of 1923 when most everything around it was leveled. Obviously he had the (W)right idea. However, it did not face fracking. Imagine all those bodies eliminated in one fell swoop. Why, the government would rejoice - provided none of their chief cronies were among them (and you know they wouldn't be unless due to clerical error). Haha.

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JOSE GONZALEZ January 24 2014 at 10:43 AM

And to think that I left Los Angeles!!

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