ADVERTISEMENT
  About the SA Blog Network













Rosetta Stones

Rosetta Stones


Adventures in the good science of rock-breaking.
Rosetta Stones Home

Danger Zone! The New Madrid Seismic Zone

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


Email   PrintPrint



Malachite asked an excellent question I’m actually well-placed to address without further research. Yay!

New curiosity: what the heck is that danger zone where Missouri meets Tennessee?

Heh. Pretty startling, innit?

USGS National Seismogenic Hazard Map. Image courtesy USGS.

USGS National Seismogenic Hazard Map. Image courtesy USGS.

That great big target painted on Middle America, my friends, is the New Madrid Seismic Zone. In 1811, it broke in a big way, so big it caused the Mississippi River to run backwards for a bit. Lots of interesting things happened that weren’t quite so interesting to the people who lived through it. More terrifying. And since then, people have watched that fault with a wary stare. It still kicks from time to time, letting us know the earth isn’t as stable as we’d like. But some studies suggest that those may just be aftershocks, long after the main event, and nothing much to worry about. I wrote that up here, a long time ago when I was a young, fresh science blogger.

The thing about New Madrid is this: it was so dramatic, so unexpected, that we’ve approached it with an overabundance of caution ever since. And until further studies confirm it’s no longer a threat, I personally think we’d be wise to continue to treat it as a potential, even if not probable, problem. And this is an excellent place to study intercontinental earthquakes, which are odd and intriguing, so let the science continue!

Here are some additional links should you wish to investigate further.

Nature: Seth Stein: The quake killer.

Nature: Long aftershock sequences within continents and implications for earthquake hazard assessment (pdf).

Highly Allochthonous: Earthquakes within plates: we don’t know when, and we may not know where.

+/- Science:  An Abbreviated Numerical History of the Great New Madrid Earthquakes.

Dana Hunter About the Author: Dana Hunter is a science blogger, SF writer, and geology addict whose home away from SciAm is En Tequila Es Verdad. Follow her on Twitter: @dhunterauthor. Follow on Twitter @dhunterauthor.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





Rights & Permissions

Comments 2 Comments

Add Comment
  1. 1. Malachite 8:29 pm 03/21/2013

    Thank you!! The Mississippi river ran backwards? Oh my!

    Link to this
  2. 2. furiouskitten 10:52 pm 03/21/2013

    There’s a great book by that title that I found very interesting. When the Mississippi Ran Backwards: Empire, Intrigue, Murder, and the New Madrid Earthquakes of 1811-12 by Jay Feldman.

    Link to this

Add a Comment
You must sign in or register as a ScientificAmerican.com member to submit a comment.

More from Scientific American

Scientific American Back To School

Back to School Sale!

12 Digital Issues + 4 Years of Archive Access just $19.99

Order Now >

X

Email this Article

X