new madrid earthquake 1811 magnitude

This shock followed the first earthquake by six hours and was similar in intensity; 23 January 1812 (7.3-7.6), epicenter in the Missouri bootheel; 7 February 1812 (7.5-8.0), epicenter near New Madrid John P. Rafferty writes about Earth processes and the environment. Rev. Giant waves rose up and swept north, giving the impression that the river was actually flowing backwards. Three of the earthquakes are on the list of America's top earthquakes: the first one on December 16, 1811, a magnitude of 8.1 on the Richter scale; the second on January 23, 1812, at 7.8; and the third on February 7, 1812, at as much as 8.8 magnitude. And far beyond, too: at magnitude 8.2 on the Richter scale, that earthquake reverberated over an area of more than 50,000 square miles, rattling windows as far away as Washington, D.C., and New Orleans. The frontier was not then California but the valley of the continent's greatest river, the Mississippi, and the sequence was the New Madrid earthquakes of the winter of 1811–1812. Following is a short summary of the New Madrid Earthquakes that occurred between December 16, 1811 to February 7, 1812. Published March 13, 2020; Last updated March 19, 2020, Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommerical-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0), The encyclopedia is freely provided with support from. The … “A World Convulsed: Earthquakes, Authority and the Making of Nations in the War of 1812 Era.” PhD diss., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2013. On land the impact of the earthquakes was no less horrific. At dawn’s first light Pierce beheld the full extent of devastation wrought by the nighttime shocks: “the earth, river &c torn with furious convulsions, opened in huge trenches whose deep jaws were instantaneously closed: there through a thousand vents sulphureous streams gushed from its very bowels leaving vast and almost unfathomable caverns. No appreciable damage to residences was reported; however, landscape changes, similar to those that occurred during the December 16 event, are thought to have taken place. At nearby Little Prairie the devastation was so severe that the entire population abandoned the town and headed northward, where the damage was rumored to have been less serious. Magnitude Estimates of Two Large Aftershocks of the 16 December 1811 New Madrid Earthquake. During the winter of 1811 to 1812, the sparsely populated New Madrid, Mo., area was jolted by a series of three powerful earthquakes now estimated to have been of magnitude 7.5 to 8.3. This region had 4 major 8.0+ magnitude earthquakes from December 1811-February 1812, during the Dalton Minimum (which included the “Year Without a Summer” of 1816), as well as during other periods of intense seismic activity during solar grand minima. The backwoods claimant of spiritual knowledge feared that these ominous occurrences might portend the approach of the end times. The law limited such claimants to 640 acres of new land, and it prohibited them from relocating on mineral lands. Abstract Continental North America's greatest earthquake sequence struck on the western frontier of the United States. The January 23 event was the smallest of the three principal earthquakes. In 2011 the results of a report prepared by the USGS noted that residents within an area of approximately 232,000 square miles (about 600,000 square km) experienced very strong ground shaking, and people living in an area of roughly 965,000 square miles (about 2,500,000 square km) experienced shaking that was intense enough to frighten them. Since the area was sparsely populated there are few eye-witness accounts. Although the relief measure had been designed to alleviate suffering in the devastated region, most Missourians believed that the law’s principal beneficiaries had been the speculators. There were thousands of aftershocks, of which 1,874 were large enough to be felt in Louisville, Kentucky, about 190 miles (300 km) away. Corrections? Reports indicate that between December 1811 and March 1812, there were over 2000 earthquakes and aftershocks along the New Madrid fault. The main shock occurred at 9:15 am, and its magnitude was estimated at 7.5. In the known history of the world, no other earthquakes have lasted so long or produced so much evidence of damage as the New Madrid earthquakes. Eyewitnesses reported that shaking from this temblor was severe, especially in New Bourbon, Missouri, but not as strong as the main shock. Although many people think of California’s San Andreas fault, which birthed the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, as the most dangerous in North America, the quakes from 1811 to 1812 that erupted from the New Madrid Seismic Zone were the most destructive. Residents throughout the Ohio valley and people in places as distant as New York City and Charleston, South Carolina, experienced the tremors in varying degrees. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. The location of the earthquake’s epicentre is controversial, but it is thought to have been located in the vicinity of New Madrid, Missouri, along a fault that runs perpendicular to the Reelfoot Fault. The relocated refugee Cherokee bands once again abandoned their farms, cattle, and property and headed farther west, where they encountered resistance from the nearby Osage population. The earthquakes and their aftershocks took place within a large region called the New Madrid Seismic Zone (NMSZ)—an area of high earthquake risk running from northeastern Arkansas and northwestern Tennessee to southeastern Missouri and southwestern Kentucky. Valencius, Conevery Bolton. Landslide trench and ridge in the Chickasaw Bluffs east of Reelfoot Lake, Tennessee, that resulted from the New Madrid earthquakes (1811–12). 69, passed by the 13th Session of Congress on February 25, 1814, … Bradbury, who viewed these events from a scientific perspective, chose not to challenge the settler’s firmly held beliefs. Another local citizen echoed her sentiments: “we were awakened by a most tremendous noise, while the house danced about and seemed as if it would fall on our heads.” As the earthquakes persisted, the river town’s terrified inhabitants fled their rolling and jostling homes and established encampments on higher ground to avoid the dangers of flooding. Of greater importance is the resulting legislation, Bill No. Every where Nature itself seemed tottering on the verge of dissolution.”. The December 1811 earthquakes were merely a prelude to what lay ahead. Some areas sank, while others were uplifted. The maximum documented intensity for both earthquakes on December 16, 1811, is MM intensity VIII at Richmond, Kentucky. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013. There also was an aftershock of magnitude 7.4 on the same day. Initially, they suspected that hostile Indians had caused the mischief by unleashing their tethered vessel from its moorings, but a succession of shocks soon alerted them to the true source of the mayhem. Those initial tremors and the sporadic ones that followed for nearly two months reshaped the landscape, altered regional settlement patterns, and prompted unnerved residents to contemplate the mysterious forces of nature capable of wreaking so much havoc. They remain the most powerful earthquakes to hit the contiguous United States east of the Rocky Mountains in recorded history. The upthrusting of the land some 15 miles (24 km) to the south of the epicentre pushed water into a basin that dropped 5 to 20 feet (1.5 to 6 metres) and created Reelfoot Lake, which is located near Tiptonville, Tennessee. Huge cracks split the ground. Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article. He serves currently as the editor of Earth and life sciences, covering climatology, geology, zoology, and other topics that relate to... Map of the New Madrid earthquakes of 1811–12. John Bradbury, the English naturalist and explorer of North America’s interior regions, had no such hesitation about the cause of his boat’s sudden and powerful convulsions on that fateful night. Magnitude estimates for each of the three events associated with the 1811–12 earthquake sequence vary widely, largely because they rely on historical accounts and analyses of the present-day landscape rather than data provided by modern seismic instrumentation. Bradbury wisely opposed that course, and after dispensing glasses of spirits persuaded the uneasy crew to remain on board and continue downriver in deep water. A second series of tremors started on January 23, 1812, and the final and most severe set of shocks followed on February 7. In the spring of 1815, speculators poured into the New Madrid area seeking to purchase titles to damaged lands from unsuspecting residents before they learned about the new federal compensation law. Updates? The recent minor tremors of the Mississippi valley recall the New Madrid earthquakes of 1811-12. January 23, 1812, a magnitude 7.3 to 7.6 quake with an epicenter in the Missouri Bootheel struck at around 9:00 a.m. Get exclusive access to content from our 1768 First Edition with your subscription. The potential for earthquakes in the New Madrid region continues to the present day. Joseph Charless, the editor of the Missouri Gazette, momentarily thought that a volcanic eruption farther west might have been responsible for the clamor of windows, doors, and furniture in motion that interrupted his sleep. https://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/events/1811-1812newmadrid/summary.php. The Lost History of the New Madrid Earthquakes. Damage to the landscape included the warping of the ground through subsidence (sinking) and uplift, sand blows, ground cracking, landslides, and stream bank calving. See Magnitude - replaces Richter scale. The first earthquake of this series on December 16, 1811, was located in northeast Arkansas. Amid the deafening din of crashing trees, collapsing riverbanks, and screaming wild birds, he sought to reassure the frightened crewmen eager to abandon the boat for the perceived safety of the shore. The New Madrid fault system was responsible for the 1811–12 New Madrid earthquakes, and has the potential to produce large earthquakes in the future. Ground motions from the three principal events were felt in places as far away as Canada, New England, and the coast of South Carolina. These events include clusters of large earthquakes that have been dated to 2350 bce, 900 ce, and 1450 ce. The US government did not provide victims of the destructive earthquakes with relief until the War of 1812 had ended. In American settlements and on Native ground alike, people debated the earthquakes’ causes and struggled to discover the cataclysms’ larger meanings and purposes. When the quakes finally ended, the most adversely affected areas were in shambles: buildings collapsed, great fissures appeared in the earth’s surface, some land sank and other land uplifted, sand blows deposited subsurface sediment over large areas, rivers and streams altered their courses, the Mississippi briefly reversed its flow, large new lakes were formed, and entire forests were toppled. The magnitude of the December 16, 1811, event ranged from 6.7 to 8.1, whereas the ranges for the earthquakes of January 23 and February 7, 1812, were 6.8–7.8 and 7.0–8.8, respectively. The New Madrid region continues to have the highest level of seismicity activity in the United States east of the Rockies. By late spring the aftershocks had gradually diminished, but in the forlorn New Madrid district, only the hardiest souls remained. Hundreds of aftershocks were felt in 1813. of the 1811-1812 New Madrid earthquakes Susan E. Hough U.S. Geological Survey, Pasadena, California John G. Armbruster and Leonardo Seeber Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, Palisades, New York Jerry F. Hough Department of Political Science, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina Abstract. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1981. They were among the most intense earthquakes in US history and by far the largest to occur east of the Rocky Mountains. Between December 16, 1811, and February 7, 1812, seven earthquakes of magnitude 6.0 to 7.5 on the Richter scale and numerous lesser aftershocks ravaged the affected area. A number of earthquakes that happened near the town of New Madrid, in late 1811, and early 1812 are known as the 1811–12 New Madrid earthquakes today. The location of this event is not well constrained, but the available accounts suggest an epicenter beyond the southern end of the New Madrid Seismic Zone. Shortly after the earthquake began, ground shaking was felt as far away as Canada in the north and the Gulf Coast in the south. The exodus of the area’s inhabitants alarmed territorial secretary Frederick Bates, who worried that with all of the adverse publicity about earthquakes, Indians, and epidemics, Missouri would in a few years “be nothing but a place of exile for Robbers & Outlaws.” Bates exhibited no such concern for Native Americans previously displaced from their eastern homelands and now forced to move for a second time to escape their suddenly uninhabitable lands along the St. Francis River. Fissures opened in the ground; some were filled with water from the nearby Mississippi River or wetlands, which was later expelled high into the air when the fissures closed. The 1811–12 New Madrid earthquakes were an intense intraplate earthquake series beginning with an initial earthquake of moment magnitude 7.5‑7.9 on December 16, 1811 … Nuttli, O. W. (1973). US Geological Survey. The 1811 – 12 New Madrid earthquakes were an intense intraplate earthquake series beginning with an initial earthquake of moment magnitude 7.5 ‑ 7.9 on December 16, 1811 followed by a moment magnitude 7.4 aftershock on the same day. A slightly different version of this essay, “Turbulence and Terror: The New Madrid Earthquakes, 1811–1812,” appeared in the November 2017 issue of We Proceeded On, published by the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation. Attempts to link the bright and long-appearing comet of 1811 to the onset of the North American earthquakes were commonplace among Euro-American and Native American observers alike. In Louisville, Kentucky, a man who had homemade recording instruments reported a total of 1,874 shocks between December 11, 1811, and March 16, 1812. Despite the strength of the tremors, only minor damage to human-made structures was reported: from collapsing chimneys, falling trees, and cracking timbers in houses. The 1811-1812 New Madrid earthquake sequence has been described in numerous ways: by Mitchell (1815) in terms of a series of disconnected historical vignettes, by Fuller (1912) in terms of far-field intensities and near-field geomorphic effects, by Nuttli (1973) anf magnitude, and by Johnston (1996c) in terms of seismic moment. 1812, January 23, 15:00 UTC, New Madrid, Missouri Magnitude ~7.0 - 7.8 This is the third principal shock of the 1811-1812 sequence. Omissions? Let us know if you have suggestions to improve this article (requires login). Feared that these ominous occurrences might portend the approach of the New Madrid,,... Most seriously impacted areas, raised or sunken lands, fissures, sand blows, and.... Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox two aftershocks! Comet’S two horns and was now attempting to dislodge itself located in northeast Arkansas and fell like great... 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