Facts about the New Madrid Zone

The New Madrid Seismic Zone the most active seismic area in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains. Read more.

Most Missourians are familiar with the large 1811-1812 earthquakes that occurred in the New Madrid Seismic Zone (NMSZ) in southeast Missouri and it extends into a multi-state area. 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. 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. Learn what to do before, during and after an earthquake.

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 measured between Magnitude 2.0 and Magnitude 3.9 shook southeast Missouri from 2009-2011.
  • Two hundred thirty-six earthquakes that measured between Magnitude 2.0 and Magnitude 3.9 shook southeast Missouri in the 10-year time frame from 2000-2009.

Recent Earthquakes

Recent Earthquakes Seismographs are instruments that record the earth's movement. The movement along the fault system in the NMSZ 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.

Missourians should be aware of the reality of earthquake hazards in our state. However, we also must understand that an earthquake measuring as large as magnitude 10.5 as depicted in disaster films probably are fiction, 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.

Earthquake Science

Earthquake Awareness and Preparedness

Earthquake Maps, Tools and Locators


Partner Organizations


2017 Earthquake Insight Field Trip - New Madrid Region

The 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 information, contact Phyllis J. Steckel, RG; PO Box 2002; Washington, MO 63090; 636-239-4013; psteckel@charter.net.