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AGS / Geohazards / Earthquakes / Historic Earthquakes


Explore historic earthquake activity in Arkansas with the map below. Filter by magnitude, county, and/or year - not all query combinations will necessarily retrieve a result. Twenty-one counties have no recorded seismic events. Black markers indicate magnitude of quake is unknown.



New Madrid Seismic Zone

Art work on the New Madrid Earthquake of 1811-1812On December 16, 1811 residents living in the region near New Madrid, Missouri were jolted awake at 2:15 AM by a major earthquake. Cabins collapsed, people were frightened, and the land surface was severely changed by liquefaction. The shaking was felt as far away as New England and Canada. Scientists estimate that this event measured over a M7.0 (Johnston and Schweig, 1996). This marked the first of a series of powerful earthquakes that spanned a three-month period. Hundreds of aftershocks were reported for over a year.

            Since that time, at least 20 damaging earthquakes have occurred in the NMSZ (Nuttli, 1982). An estimated M6.0 earthquake was reported near the town of Marked Tree, Arkansas on January 4, 1843. This earthquake caused the land to subside forming new lakes and did damage to chimneys and brick structures (Jackson, 1979). A M5.0 earthquake was recorded on March 24, 1976 in Poinsett County. This earthquake was felt over an area of 174, 000 sq. miles (280,000 sq. kilometers) bounded by Centralia, Illinois; Hopkinsville, Kentucky; Nashville and Clifton, Tennessee; Birmingham, Alabama; Little Rock, Arkansas; and Jefferson City, Missouri. In Arkansas, multiple cities reported an Intensity VI. Power outages, downed telephone lines in Jonesboro, broken windows in Paragould, cracked plaster in Marked Tree, roof damage and fallen ceiling tile as far away as  Decatur, Arkansas (Jackson, 1979).

            The most recent events to rattle the residents of northeast Arkansas were felt near the towns of Caraway and Manila, Arkansas in Poinsett County in 2005. Both of these earthquakes registered a M4.1 with an Intensity V. Although significant damage has not been reported in recent years, the NMSZ is still considered active and is potentially capable of generating powerful earthquakes.

The following is an excerpt from “The New Madrid Earthquake” by Myron Fuller:

“The evening of December 15, 1811, the New Madrid area was clear and quiet, with no unusual conditions which could be regarded as portending the catastrophe soon to take place. A little after 2 o’clock in the morning of December 16, the inhabitants of the region were suddenly awakened by the groaning, creaking, and cracking of the timbers of the houses and cabins in which they were sleeping, by the rattle of furniture thrown down, and by the crash of falling chimneys. In fear and trembling they hurriedly groped their way from their houses to escape the falling debris, and remained shivering in the winter air until morning, the repeated shocks at intervals during the night keeping them from returning to their weakened of tottering dwellings. Daylight brought little improvement to their situation, for early in the morning another shock, preceded by a low rumbling and fully as severe as the first, was experienced. The ground rose and fell as earth waves, like a long, low swell of the sea, passes across its surface, tilting the trees until their branches interlocked and opened the soil in deep cracks as the surface was bent. Landslides swept down the steeper bluffs and hillsides: considerable areas were uplifted, and still larger areas sunk and became covered with water emerging from below through fissures or little “craterlets” or accumulating from the obstruction of the surface drainage. On the Mississippi great waves were created, which overwhelmed many boats and washed others high on the shore, the return current breaking off thousands of trees and carrying them out into the river. High banks caved and were precipitated into the river, sand bars and points of islands gave way, and whole islands disappeared."

New Madrid Seismic Zone of Norhteast Arkansas New Madrid Seismicity Map

This map depicts the locations and magnitudes of selected seismic events in New Madrid seismic zone of Northeast Arkansas. On December 16, 1811 residents living in the region near New Madrid, Missouri were jolted awake at 2:15 AM by a major earthquake. The shaking was felt as far away as New England and Canada. Scientists estimate that this event measured over a M7.0 (Johnston and Schweig, 1996). This marked the first of a series of powerful earthquakes that spanned a three-month period. Hundreds of aftershocks were reported for over a year.

Since that time, at least 20 damaging earthquakes have occurred in the NMSZ (Nuttli, 1982). An estimated M6.0 earthquake was reported near the town of Marked Tree, Arkansas on January 4, 1843. This earthquake caused the land to subside forming new lakes and did damage to chimneys and brick structures (Jackson, 1979). A M5.0 earthquake was recorded on March 24, 1976 in Poinsett County. This earthquake was felt over an area of 174, 000 sq. miles (280,000 sq. kilometers) bounded by Centralia, Illinois; Hopkinsville, Kentucky; Nashville and Clifton, Tennessee; Birmingham, Alabama; Little Rock, Arkansas; and Jefferson City, Missouri. In Arkansas, multiple cities reported an Intensity VI. Power outages, downed telephone lines in Jonesboro, broken windows in Paragould, cracked plaster in Marked Tree, roof damage and fallen ceiling tile occurred as far away as Decatur, Arkansas (Jackson, 1979).

Other recent events in northeast Arkansas were felt near the towns of Caraway and Manila, Arkansas in Poinsett County in 2005. Both earthquakes registered a M4.1 with an Intensity V. Although significant damage has not been reported in recent years, the NMSZ is still considered active and is potentially capable of generating powerful earthquakes.

Video - New Madrid: The Earthquakes of 1811-1812



The Enola Swarm Area

Adapted from John David McFarland III

Enola Swarm Area - Faulkner County, Arkansas Enola Swarm Map

The Enola swarm was initiated by a magnitude 1.2 earthquake recorded on January 12, 1982 near the town of Enola in Faulkner County, Arkansas. Since then, over 40,000 seismic events have been recorded in the Enola area. Most of the recorded seismic events are microquakes, but at least 93 earthquakes have been felt in the local area by at least one person during the first year of seismic activity. Earthquake magnitudes have not exceeded a 4.5, which occurred on Jan. 21, 1982. No structural damage has ever occurred, although there have been reports of broken china.

This map represents only a small sampling of seismic events that have occurred in the Enola swarm area since 1982. Events that are more recent include a magnitude 4.4 on May 4, 2001 followed by aftershocks greater than magnitude 2.0 over several days. Approximately 2,500 seismic events were recorded in 2001 on a portable seismic network. The most recent seismic event was a magnitude 2.8 on October 17, 2006.

These earthquakes are not associated with the New Madrid seismic zone of northeast Arkansas and there is no history or research that suggests any cause/effect relationship between the two regions.

More information about earthquakes in Arkansas




References

Chiu, J., Johnston, A.C., Metzeger, A.G., Haar, L. and Fletcher, J., 1984, Analysis of analog and digital records of the 1982 Arkansas earthquake swarm: Bull. Seismol. Soc. Am., 74: 1721-1742.

Jackson, K. C., 1979, Earthquakes and earthquake history of Arkansas: Arkansas Geological Commission, Information Circular no. 26.

Johnston, A., et al, 1982, The Central Arkansas earthquake swarm: Tennessee Earthquake Information Center (TEIC) Special Report # 8, parts 1, 2.

Johnston A., and Schweig, E., 1996, The Enigma of the New Madrid earthquakes of 1811-1812: Annual Review, Earth and Planetary Sciences, Vol. 24, p. 339-384.

McFarland, J. D., 2001, Faulkner County Earthquakes: Arkansas Geological
Commission, Open-File Report.

Nuttli, O. T., 1982, Investigations of the New Madrid Earthquake Regions: Damaging Earthquakes of the Central Mississippi Valley, Geological Survey, Professional Paper 1236-B.


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