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Scientists to conduct seismic experiments near Memphis

Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the Center for Earthquake Research and Information (CERI) at The University of Memphis will create two artificial earthquakes in the New Madrid Seismic Zone to learn how the thick layers of sand and clay sediments react to seismic waves. By detonating 2,600-pound and 5,000-pound explosions about 120-feet deep near Marked Tree, Arkansas on October 28 and Mooring, Tennessee on October 29, scientists will discover how the ground shakes during an

This experiment proposes to create earthquake or ‘seismic’ waves by using artificial sources (explosions) instead of waiting for an earthquake. The explosions will impart energy directly into the sediments, and the resulting recordings will provide direct observations of how the layers amplify the shaking and prolong it — information critical for assessing the hazard earthquakes pose in this and other sediment-covered regions of the country. This information is essential to builders, developers, and the insurance industry to ensure that the hazard potential of sediment deposits are factored into land use planning.

To minimize interfering ground motions caused by activities such as vehicular traffic, people and livestock moving about, vibrations from pumps, etc., the experiment will be conducted at night, between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. Although these explosions might be felt within a few miles, they will not be large enough to cause damage to buildings and it is unlikely they will even create any significant noise. The near surface blasts may be equivalent to a very small earthquake with a magnitude of about 2.0.
The largest detonations will be similar in size to freeway-construction or mining blasts and pose no greater hazard to triggering earthquakes than they do.