Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Stalagmites May Predict Next Big One along the New Madrid Seismic Zone

Small white stalagmites lining caves in the Midwest may help scientists chronicle the history of the New Madrid Seismic Zone (NMSZ) – and even predict when the next big earthquake may strike, say researchers at the Illinois State Geological Survey and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

While the 1811-12, magnitude 8 New Madrid earthquakes altered the course of the Mississippi River and rung church bells in major cities along the East Coast, records of the seismic zone’s previous movements are scarce.

Thick layers of sediment have buried the trace of the NMSZ and scientists must search for rare sand blows and liquefaction features, small mounds of liquefied sand that squirt to the surface through fractures during earthquakes, to record past events. That’s where the stalagmites come in.

The sand blows are few and far between, said Keith Hackley, an isotope geochemist with the Illinois State Geological Survey. In contrast, caves throughout the region are lined with abundant stalagmites, which could provide a better record of past quakes. “We’re trying to see if the initiation of these stalagmites might be fault-induced, recording very large earthquakes that have occurred along the NMSZ,” he said.

Hackley and co-workers used U-Th dating techniques to determine the age of stalagmites from Illinois Caverns and Fogelpole Cave in southwestern Illinois. They discovered that some of the young stalagmites began to form at the time of the 1811-12 earthquakes.

Hackley is scheduled to present preliminary results of the study in a poster on Sunday, 5 October, at the 2008 Joint Meeting of the Geological Society of America (GSA), Soil Science Society of America (SSSA), American Society of Agronomy (ASA), Crop Science Society of America (CSSA), and Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies (GCAGS), in Houston, Texas, USA.

Water slowly trickles through crevices in the ceiling of a cave and drips onto the floor. Each calcium carbonate-loaded drip falls on the last, and a stalagmite slowly grows from the bottom up. Time is typically recorded in alternating light and dark layers – each pair represents a year.

When a large earthquake shakes the ground, old cracks may seal and new ones open. As a result, some groundwater seeping through the cave ceiling traces a new pattern of drips – and, eventually, stalagmites – on the cave floor. Thus it is possible that each new generation of stalagmites records the latest earthquake.

The scientists use fine drills, much like those used by dentists, to burrow into the stalagmites to collect material for dating. In addition to the 1811-12 earthquakes, their investigation has recorded seven historic earthquakes dating as far back as almost 18,000 years before the present. Understanding the NMSZ’s past, including whether quakes recur with any regularity, will help the scientists predict the potential timing of future quakes.

In coming months, Hackley and his colleagues plan to expand the study, collecting stalagmites from caves across Indiana, Missouri and Kentucky. They hope that the new data will help to fill in more of the missing history of the NMSZ.

Sunday, 5 October, 8:00 AM – 4:45 PM (authors scheduled from 3:00-4:45 PM)
George R. Brown Convention Center: Exhibit Hall E (poster, booth 136).
View abstract, paper 147-8, at “Paleo-Seismic Activity from the New Madrid Seismic Zone Recorded in Stalagmites. A New Tool for Paleo-Seismic History”
For on-site assistance during the 2008 Joint Annual Meeting, 5-9 October, contact Christa Stratton or Sara Uttech in the Newsroom, George R. Brown Convention Center, Room 350B, +1-713-853-8329.
After the meeting, contact:
Keith Hackley
Isotope Geochemistry, Illinois State Geological Survey

Christa Stratton | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Wandering greenhouse gas
16.03.2018 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

nachricht Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System
14.03.2018 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

Im Focus: Radar for navigation support from autonomous flying drones

At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.

Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

International Virtual Reality Conference “IEEE VR 2018” comes to Reutlingen, Germany

08.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Wandering greenhouse gas

16.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region

16.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'

16.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>