The conclusions of an independent review confirm the initial conclusions that the US Geological Survey (USGS) drew on the risk of a major earthquake occurring above and around the New Madrid Seismic Zone.
The new work demonstrated that the conclusions the USGS drew were based on solid science, and urges authorities to move ahead with taking measures to ensure that potential damages caused by such a tremor would be kept minimal.
This particular seismic zone has the potential to affect 8 states in the central and eastern United States, including major urban centers such as Memphis, Tennessee. These regions are currently not prepared to handle a seismic event of the magnitude this fault line can produce.
In order to ensure the quality of the new conclusions, the report was put together by a team of experts that are not associated with the USGS. The federal advisory committee that led the work is called the National Earthquake Prediction Evaluation Council (NEPEC).
According to experts, the document was released in time to mark the bicentennial commemoration of the three massive earthquakes that struck the Mississippi River Valley in 1811-1812. All of the events originated in the New Madrid fault lines.
“I commend NEPEC for assembling an independent expert panel to weigh scientific evidence regarding the threat posed by large earthquakes in the New Madrid Seismic Zone,” says the director of the USGS, Marcia McNutt.
“This is an important issue that has spurred decades of excellent research on the large earthquakes of 1811 and 1812; the geologic evidence of similar earthquakes in previous centuries; and how our modern cities and towns would be shaken if similar earthquakes were to occur today,” she adds.
University of Washington professor and NEPEC chairman John Vidale says that the conclusions of the study are not too encouraging. The first thing his group determined that was a large tremor would cause widespread damage in this poorly-prepared sector of the US.
He adds that the seismic zone has not shut down, as some geologists have proposed, and stresses the importance for authorities, builders and developers to take the elevated seismic risk into account when constructing new, important buildings.
The states that will suffer the effects of a potential, large tremor originating underneath New Madrid are Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, Illinois, Indiana, Arkansas and Missouri, the study confirms.
Investigators also determined that there are multiple indications that massive tremors occurred in the area over the past thousands of years, with the 1811/1812 ones being the most recent.