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U of M Researchers Identify Recent Activity Along Meeman-Shelby Fault

For release: July 9, 2013
For press information, contact Gabrielle Maxey, 901/678-2843

Dr. Beatrice Magnani
Dr. Beatrice Magnani

July 9, 2013 – Dr. Beatrice Magnani, a seismologist with the University of Memphis Center for Earthquake Research and Information (CERI), recently led a team of earth scientists from the U of M and the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics to uncover new information related to the size, orientation and rupture history of the Meeman-Shelby Fault (MSF). The 30-mile long fault runs below the Mississippi River along Shelby Forest and the Shelby County border.

Magnani concluded that the MSF may have generated earthquakes as large as magnitude 6.9 over the last 10,000 to 130,000 years, and might do so again in the future. More research has been proposed to better understand the recurrence interval between large earthquakes on the fault.  

Magnani’s research team used state-of-the-art seismic reflection techniques based on land and on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers marine vessels along the Mississippi River to produce high-resolution images of the Earth’s shallow crust down to a depth of a half mile. These images allow the researchers to propose a chronology of displacement along the MSF and better understand the risk it may pose to the region.

This research was supported by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Memphis.

“Dr. Magnani's research has shown that there are other faults in the region outside of the New Madrid Seismic Zone that appear to be geologically identical to the New Madrid faults that moved in 1811-1812,” said Dr. Chuck Langston, CERI director. “It is a scientific puzzle why no small earthquakes currently occur on these newly discovered faults as they do near New Madrid. This might mean that large earthquakes occur in widely different spots around the Mid-South over time scales of tens of thousands of years. Activity at New Madrid over the past 5,000 years may just be the latest outbreak of seismic activity.”

For more information, contact Magnani or Langston at 901-678-2007.

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