Geological Survey Program
Geologic and Related Hazards in Missouri
Earthquakes, Sinkholes, Landslides and Abandoned Mines
The department’s Missouri Geological Survey provides technical assistance to the citizens of Missouri by evaluating the causes and repercussions of landslide development and sinkhole and mine collapse. Staff perform visual reconnaissance to determine if collapse or landslide is attributed to a natural karst feature or is associated with the failure of a man-made feature.
Visit our Earthquakes in Missouri page for more information abour earthquakes in Missouri.
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 timeframe from 2000-2009.
Sinkholes are depressed or collapsed areas formed by dissolution of carbonate bedrock or collapse of underlying caves. They range in size from several square yards to hundreds of acres and may be very shallow or hundreds of feet deep. Sinkholes are part of what is called “karst” topography, which also includes caves, spring and losing streams. We provide assistance to the citizens of Missouri by evaluating the causes and impacts of sinkhole formation and collapse. Geologists perform geologic and hydrologic evaluation to determine if collapse is attributed to a natural karst feature or is associated with the failure of a man-made feature. Learn more.
Landslides, slumps and rockfalls are potential geologic hazards throughout Missouri and can occur where there are bluffs or steep slopes. They often can be triggered when surficial materials are moved or modified by man. In general, the higher and steeper the slope, the farther and faster the slide will travel. Read more in the Geologic Hazards brochure.
Visit our Missouri Mine Maps page for information about the Missouri Mine Map Repository
Abandoned mines are found throughout Missouri. They include both surface pits and underground mines. These mines produced a variety of economic, industrial and energy minerals and provided raw materials that helped build Missouri and the nation. Some abandoned mines date back to the original French settlers in the 1700s and are a major part of Missouri’s history. Read more in the Geologic Hazards brochure.