U of M Scientists Study Hypothetical Earthquakes


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If the ground starts shaking, Memphians better be prepared to duck and cover.

A new study by scientists from the University of Memphis and other universities and agencies looked at 20 hypothetical, yet plausible, earthquake simulations. The simulations showed potential for a lot of damage.

The other entities involved in the study were Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, the U.S. Geological Survey, San Diego State University, and AECOM.

The scientists replicated the New Madrid seismic zone earthquakes that happened between 1811 and 1812 in Tennessee, Arkansas, and a few other states. The hypothetical quakes ranged in magnitude from 7.0 to 7.7 on the Richter scale and consider various possible epicenters.

If such an earthquake occurred again, it would affect more than 8 million people, according to the study. And Memphis is one of many cities that would feel the quake.

“Strong ground shaking in the greater Memphis metropolitan area could last from 30 seconds to more than 60 seconds, depending on the magnitude and epicenter of a potential seismic event,” said Ramirez-Guzman, a professor at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and former USGS contract scientist.

The study was first published in a paper that appears in the July 30th edition of the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America. Having more information about the damages a potential earthquake could cause will go a long way in improving earthquake monitoring.

For more information and to better understand the project, view the simulation of a magnitude 7.7 earthquake in the New Madrid seismic zone.

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