Earthquakes in Missouri
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Most Missourians are familiar with the large 1811-1812 earthquakes that occurred in the New Madrid Seismic Zone (NMSZ) in southeast Missouri. However, Missouri experiences small earthquakes nearly every day. These earthquakes typically are too small to be felt but are recorded on seismographs, devices that measure the earth’s movement. While these earthquakes are more frequent in the NMSZ in southeast Missouri, they also occur on other faults located in Missouri and surrounding states. Read more in the Geologic Hazards brochure.
Earthquake Frequency in the New Madrid Seismic Zone
- Earthquake occurrences in southeast Missouri are not rare.
- Four earthquakes measuring magnitude 4.5 or greater occurred in the zone since 1974 (as of December 6, 2012).
- Sixty-eight earthquakes that ranged between Magnitude 2.0 and Magnitude 3.9 shook southeast Missouri from 2009-2011.
- Two hundred thirty-six earthquakes that ranged between Magnitude 2.0 and Magnitude 3.9 shook southeast Missouri in the 10-year time frame from 2000-2009.
February is Earthquake Awareness Month in Missouri
During the month of February, geologists with the Missouri Geological Survey will help educate citizens about earthquakes. Learn more.
2017 Earthquake Insight Field Trip - New Madrid RegionThe 2017 Earthquake Insight Field Trip through the New Madrid region will be held Friday afternoon, March 31, through Sunday afternoon, April 2. The route includes geological evidence of the geologic and earthquake history of the region, as well as sites important to the human stories of the 1811-12 New Madrid earthquakes. The field trip route is about 400 miles long, and will include two overnight stops. The field trip begins in the St. Louis area and includes Kaskaskia, Ill.; Ste. Genevieve and New Madrid, Mo.; Reelfoot Lake, Tenn.; as well as other sites in southern Illinois, southeast Missouri, and western Tennessee and Kentucky. In the past, the annual Earthquake Insight Field Trips were subsidized by the U.S. Geological Survey. The purpose was to inform and educate those in the insurance, financial, utility, transportation, and government sectors about earthquake hazards and earthquake risks in the central U.S. However in 2017, professional geoscientists will volunteer their time and expertise to lead the event. Continuing Education units may be available through the University of Missouri. For more informaiton, contact Phyllis J. Steckel, RG; PO Box 2002; Washington, MO 63090; 636-239-4013; email@example.com.
Earthquakes occur in our state
Threat of Earthquakes Occurring in Central United States Still Alive – U.S. Geological Survey
Missourians experience small earthquakes daily. This is especially true in southeast Missouri. The size of these earthquakes are in the range of magnitude 1.0 and 2.0 which means that they rarely are felt by humans; but they can be recorded on devices that measure the earth's movement. These earthquakes are evidence that a seismically active fault system is present in the southeastern portion of our state. This system is called the New Madrid Seismic Zone and it extends through a multi-state area. The movement along this fault system occurs thousands of feet below ground surface. However, because of both the extent and depth of this fault, it has the potential to cause damage and impacts across a large area of the central United States. See a map of recent earthquakes.
Geologic studies indicate that large earthquakes occurred along the New Madrid Seismic Zone in approximately 300 AD, 900 AD, and 1400 AD. Most Missourians have heard of the more recent 1811-1812 flurry of quakes that were in the range of magnitude 7-8 and centered near New Madrid, Missouri. Because few people lived in Missouri in the early 1800s, impact to human life was minimal. The three major earthquakes in late 1811 and early 1812, however, did permanently change the course of the Mississippi River and created the Reelfoot Lake in the northwest corner of Tennessee.
Missourians should be aware of the reality of earthquake hazards in our state. However, we must also understand that an earthquake measuring as large as magnitude 10.5 as depicted in disaster films, are probably only fiction. Some scientists predict that there is about a 10 percent chance of a magnitude 7-8 earthquake in the New Madrid Seismic Zone in a 50 year time interval; which is a more realistic estimation of the size of a large earthquake that may occur in our state. The most valuable lesson we can learn from watching natural disaster movies is that knowledge and preparation are key. We should channel the energy associated with an increased awareness level into positive activities that will help prepare for actual earthquake risk associated with the New Madrid Seismic Zone. The Missouri Geological Survey has worked cooperatively with the U.S. Geological Survey for several decades to increase the knowledge base about earthquakes in the central United States.
Geologic Mapping for Natural Disasters
The Missouri Geological Survey partnered with the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) to create two series of maps to assist Missourians in their planning and response to a disaster. The Geologic Hazards Map Series highlights the potential for geologic and natural hazards, while the Debris Management Map Series helps to provide guidance for the management of waste debris following a disaster. Mapping potential geologic hazards and determining preliminary site suitability for disposal of debris provide emergency planners and responders with vital information needed in the response of a disaster. The maps are available for viewing and downloading. Learn more.
- The New Madrid Seismic Zone
- Facts About New Madrid Seismic Zone
- History of Earthquakes in Missouri
- Understanding Earthquakes
- Measuring Earthquakes
- Relationship of Increasing Magnitudes
- Relationship Between Richter Magnitude and Modified Mercalli Intensity
- Recent Earthquakes from the Center for Earthquake Research and Information, at the University of Memphis
- What to do before, during and after an earthquake
- Earthquake Hazard in the New Madrid Seismic Zone Remains a Concern
- Photos from 1904 Earthquakes
- High Resolution Photos from 1904 Earthquakes
- U.S. National Seismic Hazard Maps – USGS Fact Sheet
- Eyewitness Accounts of the 1811-12 New Madrid Earthquakes
- Did you feel it?
- Missouri Seismic Safety Commission
- Additional Links
Articles, maps and more
- Earthquake Hazard in the New Madrid Seismic Zone Remains a Concern
There is broad agreement in the scientific community that a continuing concern exists for a major destructive earthquake in the New Madrid Seismic Zone.
- Explore the suite of animations and interactive rollovers from Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology.
- Earthquakes in the News A list of news articles (searchable) compiled by the Central United States Earthquake Consortium.
- Make a commitment to being "Earthquake Prepared" – From MEI, a publication by Associated Industries of Missouri.
- Earthquake Hazards Maps
- Read the POPSCI article announcing EarthScope as one of the Universe's Ten Most Epic Projects.
- Arkansas earthquakes – Recent activity in Arkansas. Updates from the Arkansas Geological Survey