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Earthquakes & The New Madrid Fault

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Essay / Research Paper Abstract

An 8 page research paper that examines the most dangerous geological feature of the North American heartland. While most Americans think of California whenever the topic of earthquakes comes up, the residents of New Madrid, Missouri suffered through the worst series of quakes in the known history of North America during an eight-week period in the winter of 1811 to 1812. The three principal shocks have been determined to have had a magnitude of 8.0 or higher. Additionally, ten of the aftershocks reached or exceeded a magnitude of 6.0, and at least three may have reached 7.0. Scientists now believe that eyewitness stories of the Mississippi flowing backward, and waterfalls on the Mississippi are true. The writer discusses what is now known about what happened during this dramatic eight-week period. Bibliography lists 8 sources.

Page Count:

8 pages (~225 words per page)

File: D0_Madridf.doc

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Unformatted sample text from the term paper:

threatened to capsize his craft rudely awakened him. "Speed" was lucky. He managed to cut his boat loose and reach the relative safety of the middle channel of the undulating river without being crushed by falling trees. At daybreak, "Speed" and his companion could see the devastation of a town that had once been New Madrid, Missouri. "There was scarcely a house left entire" was his eyewitness account (Monastersky, 1996 362). Americans tend to think of California when the topic of earthquakes comes up; however, the largest series of quakes in the history of the contiguous United States hit right in the middle of the continents supposedly stable heartland and quite a distance from the edges of the crustal plate that carries North America (Monastersky, 1990 246). The New Madrid fault is the "most active fault zone in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains" (Goldstein 3). The New Madrid fault is thought to be an "aulacogen-the failed arm of a plate tectonic rift system" (Goldstein 3). History The earthquake that nearly killed "Speed" capped off an eight-week period that started on December 16, 1811 (Monastersky, 1996 362). The region surrounding the town of New Madrid, Missouri underwent three major earthquakes, more than a dozen large aftershocks, and literally thousands of small-but unnerving, by all reports-tremors that kept the earth undulating and shimmering like Jell-O (Monastersky, 1996 362). These were the largest series of seismic shocks in the recorded history of North America-bar none (Monastersky, 1996 362). Windows rattled as far away as New York City, which lies nearly 1,500 kilometers to the northeast. Van Arsdale reports that the quakes could be felt as far north as Montreal, Canada (16). Nevertheless, these huge earthquakes occurred in a very sparsely inhabited ...

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