UofM’s CERI specialists traveling to North Carolina to monitor aftershocks of magnitude 5.1 earthquake

August 13, 2020 - Specialists from the University of Memphis’ Center for Earthquake Research and Information (CERI) will be traveling to monitor aftershocks of the magnitude 5.1 earthquake that occurred two miles southeast of Sparta, N.C., at 8:07 a.m. EDT Sunday. As seen on the accompanying U.S.Geological Survey intensity map, the event was felt over an area larger than 50,000 square miles. Aftershocks may continue for hours, days or weeks.

CERI, with assistance from the North Carolina Emergency Management and Geological Survey, and in partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey, has rapidly deployed four portable seismograph stations in a tightly controlled pattern around the M 5.1 mainshock to record aftershocks as shown in the attached photo.

Currently, at least 12 aftershocks have been recorded on the temporary network near Sparta. Additionally, eight small foreshocks have been identified by CERI beginning on Aug. 8.

According to CERI director Dr. Chuck Langston, aftershock monitoring allows the team “to detect smaller earthquakes to determine the extent of faulting during the main event and to increase the accuracy of the location of the main shock. Precisely located aftershocks for the Sparta earthquake may allow geologists to discover surface ruptures and other near-surface damage.”

Real-time seismographs from the Sparta aftershock monitoring effort can be viewed at http://folkworm.ceri.memphis.edu/heli_temp/. Updates on the aftershock deployment will be posted at memphis.edu/ceri.

The East Tennessee Seismic Zone is the second most active natural source of U.S. earthquakes east of the Rockies, producing about 80 small earthquakes per year. The Aug. 9 M 5.1 earthquake was the largest event to have occurred in this area since 1916. Additional information on this, and other, significant earthquakes is available from the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program.