New Madrid Fault, When will it Snap?


New Madrid Fault

What is the New Madrid fault line, and why is it so much on the tips of tongues these days?
The New Madrid fault line essentially follows the Mississippi River from Illinois to Arkansas.
The New Madrid fault system, or the New Madrid seismic zone, is a series of faults beneath the continental crust in a weak spot known as the Reelfoot Rift. It cannot be seen on the surface. The fault system extends 150 miles southward from Cairo, Illinois through New Madrid and Caruthersville, Missouri, down through Blytheville, Arkansas to Marked Tree, Arkansas. It dips into Kentucky near Fulton and into Tennessee near Reelfoot Lake, and extends southeast to Dyersburg, Tennessee. It crosses five state lines, and crosses the Mississippi River in at least three places.

Seems like a local affair, but this is deceptive.
Where quakes along the West Coast of the US cause a jolt in the underlying rock, the area surrounding the New Madrid is essentially mud, soil, wet from the mighty Mississippi and Missouri and Tennessee and Ohio rivers which join near the New Madrid fault line, and liquifaction thus affects a huge area.

The shock or repeated shock of earthquake waves can cause water-saturated soil to rearrange itself in such a way that it essentially becomes a suspension of solids in the liquid. Heavy structures on such areas can suddenly sink or shift. Buried objects can shift and relatively low density objects can float to the surface.

The last great quakes on the New Madrid fault line occurred in the Winter of 1811-1812.
The 400 terrified residents in the town of New Madrid (Missouri) were abruptly awakened by violent shaking and a tremendous roar. It was December 16, 1811, and a powerful earthquake had just struck. This was the first of three magnitude-8 earthquakes and thousands of aftershocks to rock the region that winter. Survivors reported that the earthquakes caused cracks to open in the earth’s surface, the ground to roll in visible waves, and large areas of land to sink or rise. By winter’s end, few houses within 250 miles of the Mississippi River town of New Madrid (Missouri) remained undamaged. The crew of the New Orleans (the first steamboat on the Mississippi, which was on her maiden voyage) reported mooring to an island only to awake in the morning and find that the island had disappeared below the waters of the Mississippi River. Damage was reported as far away as Charleston, South Carolina, and Washington, D.C.
In September of 2008, FEMA’s associate administrator for Response and Recovery, William Carwile, told a Senate panel that FEMA has five regional groups planning for possible earthquake responses, but a major quake along the New Madrid fault line could displace 7.2 million people and knock out 15 bridges. The response would require 42,000 first responders from local firefighters to the Pentagon.”

“Although Memphis is likely to be the focus of major damage in the region, St. Louis, Mo., Little Rock, Ark., and many small and medium sized cities would also sustain damage, ” the U.S.. Geological Survey found.

South Carolina is home to an active fault line, which could also produce a catastrophic earthquake.

A quake in Charleston in 1886 was a magnitude 7.6. That city in 2008 had a population in excess of 348,000. Much of that state’s coastal area is at risk.”

This year marks the bi-centennial of the New Madrid Quake. Mr. Nations is not the only one concerned many communities are making preparations and there aregeologists warning of the dangers. A new report out recently also stresses Americans are not prepared. FEMA is also asking that groups take part in the Great Earthquake ShakeOut Drill. A Map that shows the locations of the nuclear plants along the New Madrid Fault zone can be viewed here.

Just how far ranging was the effect, compared to a quake of similar Richter on the West Coast?
Earthquakes in the central or eastern United States affect much larger areas than earthquakes of similar magnitude in the western United States. For example, the San Francisco, California, earthquake of 1906 (magnitude 7.8) was felt 350 miles away in the middle of Nevada, whereas the New Madrid earthquake of December 1811 (magnitude 8.0) rang church bells in Boston, Massachusetts, 1,000 miles away. Differences in geology east and west of the Rocky Mountains cause this strong contrast. [And more recently] earthquakes of similar magnitude-the 1895 Charleston, Missouri, earthquake in the New Madrid seismic zone and the 1994 Northridge, California, earthquake, [showed similar effects].
The [quake] 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.

A map on the USGS website shows the relative extent of influence, which is far more dramatic than might be imagined.
In 1994 the 6.7 Richter Northridge quake was felt throughout southern California, barely reaching over the border into Nevada and Arizona and Mexico.
The comparable 1895 Charleston, MO quake covered the eastern half of the US, primarily affected, of course, were the states central to the New Madrid fault line – Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana.
But the effect covered at least half of the states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Iowa, and crossed the border into the states of New York and Florida.

But the seriousness of the situation is not described by the effects of quakes in 1811 and 1895, as going into the pole shift, during the quakes preceding the pole shift, there is another aspect to the fault line adjustments.
There is an Earth torque, cause by the twisting of the globe that causes tugs on the S Pole of Earth and the highly magnetized Atlantic Rift, daily.


What are the chances of a Major earthquake in the New Madrid Fault Zone?

Q: I’ve been hearing about small quakes in Oklahoma and then in South Carolina and I just wondered if there is any danger from this fault. Thank You, Mr. Peanut, for the article. It’s very informative.

A: The chances are very good. Wikipedia says that “The New Madrid fault and Earthquake prone region is considered at high risk today” Here’s a great article on the subject:

How could new madrid fault created?

Q: is it created by the new madrid earthquake that happened about 200 years ago or is it because of something else? what is the impact of the new madrid earthquake?

A: The New Madrid earthquake occurred because it is the boundary between two tectonic plates (or more likely a large crack or fault in the N America plate). It probably was there long before the earthquake 200+ years ago. All earthquake faults are areas where there are cracks between two huge pieces of the earth’s crust or, at least, two very substantial bodies of rock. If there was another earthquake the size of the one 200 years ago, it would be pretty bad for St Louis and all the small cities and towns in that part of Mo & Il. Given that the last one did some damage in Chicago and the fact that there are a LOT more buildings in that part of the country today, the damage could be really bad. Look at what happened in Italy this weekend and that was a fairly small quake. Of course there are lots of other potentially devastating natural phenomena that would be as bad or worse.

When do you think the New Madrid Fault will cause a devastating Earthquake?

Q: I live in Southwest Missouri, but I’m originally from Southeast Missouri. With all these big Earthquakes in Chile and Haiti there’s been a lot of talk around here that the New Madrid could be next. I know it’s been predicted for many years now that it could happen anytime. When do you think it will happen? How bad do you think it will be?

A: I live in Middle Tennessee, and the New Madrid fault has been one of my worst fears for a long time. I thought Middle TN would be far enough away, at first, to avoid serious damage. But after hearing that the earthquakes in 1811 and 1812 rang churchbells in boston, cracked sidewalks in Washington DC, and made the Mississippi flow backwards for a little while that kind of scared me. I have done a lot of reading, and surprisingly the shockingly high (or so it seems) number of earthquakes we have been having is normal! Heck, with one hitting Turkey just this morning I might be suspicious, but here is a link to a USGS question… I would also suggest checking out the link provided in their answer to help put things into perspective: Something else that might make you feel better… In 2009 experts have been saying that they think the fault is dying, or shutting down. It doesn’t really compare to active faults out there today, plus they think the small earthquakes we have today are still aftershocks from the 3 really really big ones almost 200 years ago. You can get more info by clicking this link: Hope this makes you feel better. If you still want to play it safe (which you should) there are a few links on USGS all about earthquake safety and how to prepare. Remember to have an evacuation plan ready with your WHOLE family and a survival kit in your home… Also …Look into earthquake insurance!

Regarding recent EQ activity in California and New Madrid fault zones?

Q: I have noticed a lot of EQ activity in California, usually up to 4.2 or so. It’s all over the state (Northern, Central, and Southern). Also noticed activity in the New Madrid seismic region in the midwest, though on a much smaller scale, 1s and 2s on the richter. Do these mean that a larger quake is coming in the relatively near future? I know New Madrid is pretty close to due for a quake. For the record, since someone brought it up, I do NOT live in either region. I am just seismically curious.

A: I don’t know if that fault is due for a big one like the San Andreas fault is. Because a fault is recently active doesn’t mean a BIG ONE is coming for that fault. The small quakes could just be a release of pressure on the fault and a larger one would not be needed. On the other hand these small quakes could be small slips adding pressure or getting closer to a larger slip or break on the fault. This is something we can’t be sure of. Also these small quakes on the New Madrid fault could also be effecting other faults by adding pressure or movement which could lead to quakes on these faults.

Is BP responsible for the recent tectonic activity along the New Madrid fault?

Q: What in the world is happening in the middle of the United States right now? Thousands of birds are falling dead from the skies, tens of thousands of fish are washing up on shore dead, earthquakes are popping up in weird and unexpected places and people are starting to get really freaked out about all of this. Well, one theory is that the New Madrid fault zone is coming to life. The New Madrid fault zone is six times bigger than the San Andreas fault zone in California and it covers portions of Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi. The biggest earthquakes in the history of the United States were caused by the New Madrid fault. Now there are fears that the New Madrid fault zone could be coming to life again, and if a “killer earthquake” does strike it could change all of our lives forever. Jack M. Reed, a retired Texaco geologist-geophysicist, has been carefully studying the geology of the Gulf of Mexico for over 40 years. Reed is convinced that the Gulf of Mexico is currently tectonically active, and that the Gulf of Mexico is the source for most seismic activity along the New Madrid fault. One interesting theory is that the “oil volcano” unleashed by the BP oil spill in 2010 may have sparked renewed seismic activity in that part of the world. According to Reed,… “This entire zone through the United States is suffering some type of tectonic activity that I believe is tied to the deeply buried tectonics in the Gulf of Mexico.” So did BP disturb those “deeply buried tectonics” by drilling such a deep well and unleashing all that oil that flowed into the Gulf of Mexico? EDIT: Teekno,…what are you talking about? Have hundreds of birds been falling from the sky and THOUSANDS of fish been washing ashore DEAD for 1000’s of years? REALLY? Huh!

A: I don’t know, it needs more investigation. Of course some will poo-poo it and call it a waste of money. Somebody need to get it through their heads money won’t matter when the planet dies.

Could there be a New Madrid fault line earthquake?

Q: How likely is a New Madrid Fault Line earthquake? With the dead birds and flooding in that area.

A: Dead birds have nothing to do with earthquakes. It could happen any day, but the odds of it happening any time soon are very remote. I live in So Cal and we are far more likely to get a big shake, but I don’t let it bother me. For teh New Madrid, it is more likely that it will happen to your kid’s kid’s kid’s kid’s kid’s kids. Or even further away than that.

Is it possible that the earthquake today in Illinois could set off the new madrid fault?

Q: I know they said it was a different fault but people along the new madrid fault have said for years that we are past due for “the big one”. so can an earthquake in one place cause and earthquake on a nearby fault?

A: it is possable. earthquakes arent predictable look here for a weird fact about the earthquake today;_ylt=At3Kr6gVUiwoVomG_0X3qRHsy6IX;_ylv=3?qid=20080418203557AA2TrhS

What type of boundry is the new madrid fault?

Q: i’m doing a project for school. isnt the new madrid fault a transform boundry?

A: No, it’s an interplate seismic zone. So it’s like the Hawaiian hot spot in the middle of the Pacific Plate.

What type of fault is the New Madrid Fault?

Q: We are learning about the New Madrid Fault, I live about 20 miles south of New Madrid, Missouri, as a project we are to find what kind of fault the New Madrid Fault is (thrust,lateral,reverse, or normal). Also, could you tell me your source, correct answer with source will receive an automatic ten points.

A: The New Madrid fault system contains two types of faults, a strike slip segment oriented to the northeast, running from Marked Tree, AR to Caruthersville, MO, and a northwest trending reverse fault that rests below the New Madrid region. Material on the northwest side of the strike-slip fault moves northeast, and up the ramp.

What are the chance of a New Madrid fault line earthquake?

Q: Do you think there is a chance that a earthquake could hit the New Madrid Fault Line soon? I’m no geologist but it seems like something is getting ready to happen in that area with the dead birds now the flooding.

A: surface conditions such as rain and temperature do not affect earthquakes 10’s to 100’s of kilometers below the surface. However, tidal forces from the Sun and Moon can. Changes in rotational patterns. Other earthquakes. Anything that would change the stresses and forces. There is always a possibility for an old fault line to become active again, and to generate new fault lines. One would need to study the movement and stress patterns in the area to give a more accurate answer Also, there is a relationship between the type and size of fault and its strength Japan and Alaska have convergent plates and subduction causing potentially large quakes The Dead Sea and East Africa are on Divergent plate boundaries causing potentially small quakes The San Andreas is on a Translational plate boundary – sideways motion. -> medium sized quakes New Madrid is in the middle of the North American plate in a non-active to divergent plate boundary scenario. Quakes here would not be very strong or very often compared to Japan, Alaska or California

4 thoughts on “New Madrid Fault, When will it Snap?

  1. Pingback: New Madrid Fault Line – Whose Waking the Monster? | World Exposed


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