Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Conder, James


The New Madrid Seismic Zone is well known for its historical seismicity, most notably the 1811-12 New Madrid, MO earthquakes and to a lesser extent the 1895 Charlston, MO earthquake. It has been 124 years since an earthquake larger than M 5.1 occurred in the area. The debate of whether the New Madrid Seismic Zone is an active system or a system in decline has remained a contentious topic when interpreting the intricacies and challenges of an intraplate seismic system. This thesis focuses on an overlooked parameter in the already complex issue regarding the seismic hazard of the New Madrid Seismic Zone. In the early part of the 20th century the Little River Drainage District excavated 9.7 x 109 metric tons of overburden and drained approximately 5000 km2 from within the New Madrid Seismic Zone. Our model demonstrates that the Little River Drainage District resulted in a likely perturbation of the seismic system. The overburden removal, coupled with a reduction of the water column has moved the system away from failure when interpreted in the context of regional stress orientation in relation to the geographic orientation of the Little River Drainage District. This potentially explains the apparent lack of moderate to large events over the past century in the New Madrid Seismic Zone.




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