PGS: New Madrid

The February meeting of the Potomac Geophysical Society will be held February 17th at the Fort Myer Officers’ Club in Arlington, VA in the Campaign Room. This month’s talk will be: Earthquake Hazards in the New Madrid Seismic Zone (NMSZ) by Dr. Theron J. (Joe) Bennett, SAIC, McLean.

During a short time interval in 1811-1812, the region of southeastern Missouri, northeastern Arkansas, western Kentucky and Tennessee, experienced three of the largest earthquakes ever to occur in the continental United States. Because of the lack of instrumentation at the time and sparse population in the epicentral area, understanding the relationship to geologic structure, tectonics, and potential for recurrence has been somewhat enigmatic. Although recurrence of large earthquakes in the region has been limited, the area currently experiences more earthquakes (100-200 instrumentally detected per year) than any other part of the U.S. east of the Rocky Mountains. Furthermore, recent paleoseismic studies based on extent and dating of sandblows in the region indicate that comparably large earthquakes have occurred here prior to European settlement and have had a tendency to cluster in time. Based on these factors, the USGS has concluded that the NMSZ represents a high earthquake hazard. High efficiency of seismic propagation and limitations of the aging infrastructure throughout the region indicate a need to plan for possible future catastrophic effects from such events.

Biographical Information:
Dr. Theron J. (Joe) Bennett is a Senior Staff Scientist with SAIC. He received his PhD in Geophysics from St. Louis University, where he investigated earthquakes in the midcontinent and seismic observations for characterization of nuclear explosions. He subsequently worked for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on assessing earthquake risk to nuclear power plants. More recent work at SAIC has focused on seismic monitoring of nuclear explosions and support of national activities related to earthquake preparedness in the NMSZ.

Dinner Menu

Breast of Chicken Florentine (House salad & vegetables, rolls and butter)
New York style Cheese Cake
Coffee / tea
A vegetarian meal can be substituted by request.

Reception at 6:30. Dinner at 7:30. Talk at 8:30 PM. Please note that the talk starts earlier than the usual time. Allow 15 minutes for security entering Ft. Myer as all civilian vehicles are searched. To ensure access to and from Fort Myer use the Hatfield Gate, open 24 hours a day. If you wish to attend dinner ($25), please make reservations with Joydeep Bhattacharyya at 571-269-8432 or via E-mail at If you wish, please feel free to attend the talk without dinner. Non-members and guests are welcome. Visit the PGS web site at for new meeting announcements, etc. Please send changes of address or email to


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