American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers
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Subsurface Mapping of Agricultural Landforms Impacted by the New Madrid Earthquakes of 1811-12
Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan www.asabe.org
Citation: Paper number 062222, 2006 ASAE Annual Meeting . @2006
Authors: Robert S. Freeland, John T. Ammons
Keywords: Earthquake, Geophysics, New Madrid Seismic Zone, Paleoliquefaction, Sand Blow
The broad alluvial plains encompassing the Missouri Bootheel have been shattered by
catastrophic earthquakes—most recently the 1811-1812 New Madrid Earthquakes. Powerful seismic
waves ejected sands from deep beneath the surface, opening fissures and erupting tall geysers of
sand, charcoal, and sulfurous steam.
The subsurface remnants from these eruptions are now affecting the dynamics of ground and
surface waters throughout the New Madrid Seismic Zone (NMSZ). Sand-filled subterranean dikes act
as rapid water-channeling networks extending from just beneath the surface into the subsurface
sands, allowing for very high-volume water flow rates between the ground surface and water table.
On these landforms, production fields may drain much more rapidly than expected when first
adopting winter flooding or furrow irrigation practices.
The project’s objective is to develop a mapping protocol to highlight and pinpoint the subsurface
features allowing for rapid water drainage into the subsurface. Focusing on the New Madrid Seismic
Zone of the upper Mississippi Delta, survey areas are across agricultural production fields in the 20-
100 ha range.
We are now precisely mapping the locales of these seismic features across large acreages using
mobile ground-penetrating radar combined with RTK-GPS and GIS. When located, the features are
either remediated or isolated from artificial winter flooding practices.