That red smear actually is a series of dots representing the 4,000 earthquakes in the zone since 1976.
A 4.0 earthquake within the New Madrid Seismic Zone gently shook southeast Missouri Tuesday morning at 3:58 a.m. The quake was centered about nine miles east of Sikeston, Missouri, and no damage or injuries were reported.
Just ten days ago, engineers, scientists, emergency first responders and earthquake history fans gathered at Saint Louis University for an event commemorating the two-hundredth anniversary of the mighty New Madrid Earthquake of 1811 and 1812. That quake, estimated to be an eight on the Richter scale, wrought devastation throughout the New Madrid Zone of Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Tennessee and Kentucky. This is the quake that famously made the Mississippi River run backward -- the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2010 was magnitude ten, by way of comparison.
So, is this morning's temblor a precursor to something larger? No one can say. Some researches, such as Seth Stein (author of Disaster Deferred
), believe the New Madrid Fault is shutting down, and we'll never have that devastating quake. Still, in May FEMA is holding a national-level emergency response drill in the New Madrid Seismic Zone that will simulate a catastrophic earthquake. Better to be prepared than caught unaware.