New Report Indicates Increased Short-Term Risk for Earthquakes in New Madrid Seismic Zone
In its first One-Year Seismic Hazard Forecast, the United States Geological Survey indicates an increased short-term risk for natural earthquakes in the New Madrid seismic zone for 2016. The forecast is also the first to show potential ground-shaking hazards from both human-induced and natural earthquakes.
Research scientist Stephen Horton of the Center for Earthquake Research and Information at the University of Memphis says the USGS produced the one-year forecast in response to a “dramatic increase” in seismicity in the central U.S. due to human-induced earthquakes, which result from injecting wastewater from gas and oil production into deep underground wells.
Horton says the increase of induced earthquakes in places like Oklahoma does not affect the New Madrid area.
“They’re far enough away that there’s probably no increase in the… stress from the earthquakes to increase the probability of having an earthquake in the New Madrid seismic zone,” Horton said.
USGS research geophysicist Morgan Moschetti helped author the report. He says the forecast's higher short-term earthquake risk for the New Madrid area is based on an increase in the number of small earthquakes in the region over the past few years. Horton says it is normal for the rate to fluctuate over time and adds that the long-term rate remains generally consistent.
The USGS says the report can help government officials and engineers develop emergency response plans and evaluate the earthquake safety of buildings and infrastructure. The organization usually produces 50-year forecasts but says it chose to supplement the long-term reports with short-term forecasts because induced earthquake activity can increase or decrease with commercial and policy decisions.