New Takes on Historic Quakes

Two centuries on, scientists revisit the magnitudes of New Madrid’s biggest rumbles

By Science News, 11:17 AM November 17, 2011

In the autumn of 1811, the United States was barely 35 years old. The fledgling nation included only 17 states, all east of the Mississippi River, but it boasted a lot of new territory thanks to the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. Neither the buyers nor the sellers knew that the recent addition’s basement contained a seismic time bomb nearly ready to go off.

At around 2:15 a.m. on December 16, 1811, a series of massive earthquake pummeled what is now southeastern Missouri and northeastern Arkan...

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