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The Lost History of the New Madrid Earthquakes$
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Conevery Bolton Valencius

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780226053899

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226053929.001.0001

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The Science of Deep History

The Science of Deep History

Old Accounts and Modern Science of New Madrid

(p.273) 7 The Science of Deep History
The Lost History of the New Madrid Earthquakes

Conevery Bolton Valencius

University of Chicago Press

In 1912, United States Geological Survey researcher Myron L. Fuller published an account of the New Madrid earthquakes. This report languished until seismologist Otto Nuttli re-focused scientific attention in 1973. Still, New Madrid science remained on the fringe, partly because of a sensationalized, false prediction by Iben Browning in 1990. Slowly, researchers at CERI (Center for Earthquake Research and Information) and interdisciplinary efforts in paleoseismology assembled evidence for the quakes. Yet the science remained contested. In the early twenty-first century, researchers debated magnitude estimates and likely recurrence. By the New Madrid Bicentennial, consensus surrounded the need for disaster planning in mid-continent, through the efforts of CUSEC (Central U.S. Earthquake Consortium) and related agencies. Planners and scientists increasingly looked to worldwide parallels, just as people had in 1812. In attention to local knowledge, first-person accounts, and bodily experience, contemporary New Madrid science began to draw in surprising ways on historical roots.

Keywords:   Myron L. Fuller, United States Geological Survey, Otto Nuttli, Iben Browning, CERI (Center for Earthquake Research and Information), paleoseismology, earthquake magnitudes, CUSEC (Central United States Earthquake Consortium), New Madrid Bicentennial, New Madrid earthquakes

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