January 27, 2014
After wreaking havoc 200 years ago with huge earthquakes that made the Mississippi River flow backwards, the New Madrid Seismic Zone has continued to rattle the Midwest with about 200 quakes every year.
Whether these tiny quakes mean the fault is old and dying or locking and loading for another massive earthquake has sparked a long and lively debate among scientists.
A new study suggests recent reports of the “death” of the New Madrid Seismic Zone were premature. Based on statistical computer models, which predict how many aftershocks from the 19th century quakes should hit the region, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists think the past two centuries of earthquakes suggest the New Madrid Seismic Zone is popping more often than expected. Instead of slowing down, earthquake activity on the Reelfoot Fault continues at a sprightly pace.