Earthquake Insight Field Trip Tours New Madrid Fault Zone

May 31, 2007 - Posted at 9:00 p.m. CDT

YARBRO, AR -- Researchers have been studying the 1811-1812 earthquakes that hit the New Madrid fault zone for decades, trying to understand the earthquake risk in Region 8.

A field trip of insurance, finance and business executives learned firsthand Thursday about how earthquakes in the past can help better prepare us for the future.

About fifty people braved the Arkansas heat in order to take a visit to a field just outside of Yarbro.

"I think there is a tremendous amount to be learned and a lot of people have only heard about this, they have never seen about these themselves," said geologist Eugene Schweig of the United States Geological Survey.

The group was actually checking out buried tree stumps that show what has happened to the land surface since the 1811-1812 New Madrid earthquakes.

"It's an opportunity for those who need information to interact one on one with the persons who work in this field day in and day out," said Jim Wilkinson of the Central United States Earthquake Consortium.

"We provide reinsurance to a raft of primary companies that practice their businesses throughout this region and I think it's quiet important that we keep abreast of the latest scientific reports and studies that have taken place in the area," said Ken Slack of Swiss Reinsurance.

The New Madrid fault zone is one of the highest earthquake risk areas in the central United States...giving participants a chance to use the past to predict the future.

Arleen Hill, Associate Professor for the Department of Earth Sciences for the University of Memphis commented, "By looking at the past, by looking at experiences that residents had in the past and really taking lessons from other examples we can help to prepare and make some of the science relevant to decisions we make today."

"Everything we learn helps us build a better model for reducing the risk and that's what we are after.  We are not trying to discourage economic prosperity but we are trying to learn from the past because it will help us build for the future," said Wilkinson.

The earthquake insight field trip continues tomorrow as the group will visit the New Madrid museum and then travel to the Columbus, Kentucky to see evidence of landslides that were triggered by the 1811-1812 earthquakes.