nb_cid nb_clickOther -tt-nb this.style.behavior='url(#default#homepage)';this.setHomePage('http://www.aol.com/?mtmhp=acm50ieupgradebanner_112313 network-banner-empty upgradeBanner
14
Search AOL Mail
AOL Mail
Video
Video
AOL Favorites
Favorites
Menu

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

1000|Char. 1000  Char.
dal January 24 2014 at 6:07 AM

I thought the New Madrid fault was more like a "henge" fault to the North American continental plate? If thats so then no the fault would not be en-active.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
Cort January 24 2014 at 7:52 AM

Good to see the comments below. Predicting a geological event in the next 50 years is suspect at best. You probably have a better chance of picking up Warren Buffets' billion dollar prize! Good luck.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
dvstckwll January 24 2014 at 7:06 AM

Some say it was the spirit of Tecumseh stomping his feet in anger as his people walked the trail of tears.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
foliageoct January 24 2014 at 7:04 AM

My paternal Great, Great grandmother was born in New Madrid, MO in December, 1810, and survived through two New Madrid earthquakes in 1811 & 1812. Her deafness was claimed to be caused by these earthquakes. When the earthquake appeared, her father picked her up and run for miles. That's all I knew about.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
RUSS January 24 2014 at 7:25 AM

As it is the recent awakened activity along the Nemaha Ridge and Humbolt fault zones in Central Oklahoma, it's an age old natural event. Just Mother Nature yawning and stretching, nothing Biblical. It's been going on for 400 to 500 million years. Many of these fault areas are responsible for structural and stratagraphic traps that hold the oil and gas reserves the world over. We would be nothing without them. What a great living machine the earth is. I've been a Petroleum Geologist for 40 years. I think natural science has played it's role in all this but also, I think it was all God's Idea by his plan.

Flag Reply +7 rate up
3 replies
Robert Miano January 24 2014 at 8:22 AM

time will tell

Flag Reply +3 rate up
liondog96 January 24 2014 at 8:20 AM

Nothing we can really do about it. All we can try to do is prepare for it and keep our distance.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
mschroe477 January 24 2014 at 6:33 AM

The next big earthquake of 7.5 or more along the New Madrid Fault line is going to devastate the region and most likely will cause an enormous amount of fatalities I'm sorry to say. The ones in 1812 changed the course of the Mississippi River and made a town disappear. At that time the population was sparse with no Major Cities. Now that same area is packed with people, businesses, cityscape's, and rural developments. The main reason there would be extreme damage is because people in the mid-west live in homes that are brick, block, and siding and when shaken they will crumble and cave in like match-stick types of structures. Also, they don't build with earthquakes in mind which will leave the tall office buildings vulnerable and they too will fall easily. I'm not trying to paint a picture of doom and gloom, I'm just pointing out the facts that the building codes in this multiple state earthquake zone were not made with earthquake building codes in mind like they have in California. The big one that leveled San Francisco and burned it completely to the ground sent a message to the construction industry in California to never let that happen again if possible. It's a very interesting story to read of the New Madrid Earthquakes of 1812.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
2 replies
Jon mschroe477 January 24 2014 at 6:57 AM

ok when your talking about the land moving( California) the fault line on the west side is moving to the north. so millions of year ahead . LA will be next to each other.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
Mark mschroe477 January 24 2014 at 10:57 AM

I USED TO LIVE IN KY, WE HAVE FELT MANY TREMORS IN MY LIFETIME, AND IT HAS BEEN SAID THAT THE NEXT TIME THE FAULT SHAKES, THE MISSISSIPPI WILL DRAIN TO THE SOUTH, AND FLOOD THE DELTA, AND THE OHIO RIVER SHOULD CHANGE COURSE AS WELL... THERE WOULD BE MUCH DEATH AND DEVASTATION WHEN IT HAPPENS, AND NOT JUST IN THE FAULT REGION.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
ekaplan378 January 24 2014 at 8:14 AM

It would be nice if everyone would use their brains before putting their mouths in gear. Looking at the venom in these posts show that there are many Americans who go by the 10 second sound bites on TV or radio and don't research the truth behind them.

Flag Reply +12 rate up
moroticoriver January 24 2014 at 8:27 AM

this is news

Flag Reply +2 rate up
1 reply
girlnads moroticoriver January 24 2014 at 8:38 AM

More newsworthy than justin bieber,YA THINK?

Flag Reply +2 rate up
aol~~ 1209600

Voting...

More From Our Partners