New Madrid Fault


 Share

Recommended Posts

Doomsayers have warned about the Pacific Coast for years. But only a few have raised concerns about an area with the potential to be more dangerous than California -- the New Madrid seismic zone in the center of the country.

It's a 120-mile-long system of three to five faults stretching from 40 miles northwest of Memphis to southern Illinois, near Cairo.

"The system is capable of producing a quake near 4.0 magnitude every three years," said Gary Patterson, a geologist and information services director for the Center for Earthquake and Research Information in Memphis, Tennessee. "And they'll cause minimal damage."

But New Madrid already has spawned four earthquakes this year of similar size, along with nearly 100 smaller quakes. Patterson said such activity may or may not be the precursor to a much larger quake.

The recent activity is an anomaly, he said.

"It's unusual, and we don't have any reason to believe there is increased risk," Patterson said. "But any time you have this kind of activity in an area that has a 25 [percent] to 40 percent chance of a 6.0 or greater in the next 50 years, it will draw attention."

And the region is ill-prepared for a strong quake, he added.

Scientists know little about how the New Madrid seismic zone works, but in the early 19th century, it was the source of the most violent series of earthquakes known in North American history.

The zone, named for the town of New Madrid, Missouri, is hundreds of miles from a tectonic plate boundary, which Patterson said defies the logic of coastal earthquake science.

There's no doubt that the New Madrid seismic zone has the potential to spawn catastrophic earthquakes. The question, as with most fault areas, is when it will occur.

Whenever it occurs, the quake likely will be felt far from its epicenter. The one in 1968, centered in southeastern Illinois near the confluence of the Tennessee and Ohio rivers, caused moderate damage, but it was felt across 23 states -- as far as the Carolinas -- and into Canada.

full story:

http://www.cnn.com/2005/TECH/science/06/22...uake/index.html

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This topic is now closed to further replies.
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.