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While the recent earthquake disaster in Haiti remains fresh on many people’s minds, Missouri continues to be aware of concerns surrounding its own New Madrid fault line. A national research program is now underway, and will include the Springfield area. KSMU’s Theresa Carter spoke with local experts and files this report.
Last week, Missouri’s Governor Jay Nixon held a roundtable discussion in the town of New Madrid, which sits at the epicenter of the fault line. In the winter of 1811-12 a record earthquake took place there that was believed to have been a magnitude of 8.0 on the Richter Scale. However, at the time the area was not as heavily populated as it is now. Many experts believe that another big quake will eventually happen, so it’s important to learn about it so they can be better prepared.
A nationwide research program called Earthscope is underway to better understand the earth’s structure and activity. Missouri is participating in this program. Hylan Beydler, works with the Department of Natural Resources Division of Geology and Land Survey.
"We are participating with a program known as Earthscope. It is part of Incorporated Research Institute for Seismology, and the National Science Foundation. They're conducting a 15 year program to place a dense network of portable seismography across the continential United States. Locally this willbe in southern Greene County and into Christian County." said Beydler.
Dr. Kevin Mickus, professor of Geology at Missouri State University, is one of the local experts participating in the project. Mickus explains that it’s important to understand the earth’s crust and upper mantel. This gives scientists a better idea of how the earth is moving and what are the potential risks for earthquakes.
"On the seismic part they are trying to determine the whole lithospheric structure of the United States. That's important in the New Madrid area mainly for locating earthquakes. Really to locate the earthquakes precisely, you need to know the velocity structure of the rocks. And we don't know that completely. The Earthscope project is going to help a lot." said Mickus.
Governor Nixon has declared the month of February to be Earthquake Awareness Month in Missouri. The State Emergency Management Agency has been participating in a series of events around the state designed to increase awareness and preparedness.
As many as 4 to 5 earthquakes happen every week here in Missouri, however most are never felt by residents. Beydler explains a few simple things people can do in their homes to better secure items in the event of an earthquake.
"We want to get the information out so that people are earthquake aware. There are a lot of things people cand do to prepare just in the event of shaking, like securing water heaters and shelving units." Beydler said.
Click here for more information about events and earthquake awareness.
For KSMU News, I’m Theresa Carter.