The United States Geological Survey has funded nearly $250,000 in grants to Midwestern universities and agencies for further investigation of the New Madrid Seismic Zone, according to a news release May 1.
In the central United States, Randel Cox of the Center for Earthquake Research and Information (CERI) at University of Memphis, and John Baldwin and Robert Givler of William Lettis and Associates, will study seismic hazards from poorly understood faults located near the famed New Madrid Seismic Zone that produced three large earthquakes in 1811 and 1812. Chris Cramer, also of CERI, will analyze the accuracy of ground motion calculations, contributing to an urban hazard mapping project in St. Louis.
Research along the New Madrid is in flux. Academics at Northern Illinois University and Purdue University claim that the fault is dying, and the machine-noticeable shakes generated once every two to three days are the last gasps of the fault. Researchers within the fault zone aren’t so sure. Quakes large enough to be felt by the public happen two or three times a year, but there are no human scientific records of fault activity patterns prior to the 1811-12 approximately magnitude 8 or Halloween, 1895 Charleston, MO magnitude 6 earthquakes. Two other major quakes are known since the year 1000 AD which have left their geological mark.The relationship of the New Madrid zone to the Wabash Valley Fault System at Mt. Carmel, Ill., which generated a magnitude 5 earthquake last year on April 18, 2008, is unknown.