Monday, September 13, 2010

Missouri Bootheel at risk for earthquakes - Mississippi Valley

The Geological Record

There are historical accounts of major earthquakes in the New Madrid region during 1811-12. The geologic record of pre-1811 earthquakes also reveals that the New Madrid seismic zone has repeatedly produced sequences of major earthquakes, including several of magnitude 7 to 8, over the past 4,500 years. These prehistoric earthquakes caused severe and widespread ground failures in the New Madrid region, much like those caused by the 1811-12 earthquake sequence. The key evidence for large earthquakes that occurred in the past are sand blows that formed when under¬ground sand and water erupted to the surface as a result of violent shaking. Numerous large sand blows over a wide area were created by strong ground shaking during the 1811-12 earthquakes. Similarly large, widespread, and abundant prehistoric sand blows were produced over the same area during ground shaking from previous clusters of large earthquakes around A.D. 1450, A.D. 900, and 2350 B.C. The sizes and areal distribution of the prehistoric sand blows indicate that the older earthquakes were similar in location and magnitude to the 1811-12 shocks.

Continuing Seismic Activity

The New Madrid seismic zone is a source of continuing small and moderate earthquakes, which attest to the high stress in the region and indicate that the processes that produced the large earthquakes over the previous 4,500 years, are still operating. It is the most seismically active area of the United States east of the Rockies. There is no sign that the rate of these smaller earthquakes is decreasing with time, as would be expected if they were aftershocks of the 1811–12 earthquakes.

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