Earthquake Researchers Say Severe New Madrid Quakes Still Possible

JUNE 23, 2005 - Posted at 3:23 p.m. CDT

MEMPHIS, TN - University of Memphis researchers say the New Madrid seismic zone remains under enough strain to unleash devastating earthquakes.

The Memphis research team's study published in the journal Nature rebuts the conclusions of a Northwestern University researcher's 1998 report that the dangers of the seismic zone had been "vastly overstated."

The Memphis team studied the network of faults branching from near Cairo, Illinois, to Marked Tree, Arkansas, through Global Positioning Systems satellite measurments of the earth's surface.

The study showed that the crust of the earth is "deforming" or pressing in on portions of the seismic zone a few millimeters anually.

Earthquakes can happen as a result of the built-up strain that occurs as two pieces of the crust rub together.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)