Earthquakes: How common are they in Arkansas?

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- In the last 24 hours, there have been two separate earthquakes that have shaken parts of the Natural State.

Wednesday night around 8:50 PM a 4.0 magnitude earthquake shook parts of southern Missouri and northern Arkansas. For more details on that earthquake click here.

Then around noon on Thursday, there was another weaker 2.8 magnitude earthquake near Prattsville, Arkansas. There have not been any damage or injury reports from either of the quakes.

According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS) earthquakes won’t cause any damage until the magnitude is 5.0 or greater, so it is unlikely we will receive any reports of damage from these earthquakes.

Credit: USGS

These may have been relatively weak earthquakes, but there have been stronger ones in Arkansas’s past.

In the early 1800s, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake rocked parts of northeast Arkansas. According to the Arkansas Geological Survey, cabins collapsed, and parts of the surface of the earth visibly shifted. This earthquake and the majority of the earthquakes that affect Arkansas are located over the New Madrid seismic zone. The New Madrid seismic zone is a fault system that stretches from Illinois to eastern Arkansas.

Credit: Arkansas Geological Survey

The Arkansas Geological Survey says powerful earthquakes like the ones that shook the Natural State in the 1800s could happen again. The most recent earthquake to cause damage was a 5.0 earthquake on March 24, 1976, in Poinsett County. That quake could be felt from an area of 174,000 square miles.

The New Madrid seismic zone does make Arkansas a potential hot spot for damaging earthquakes, but we are still far from being as active as western parts of the United States.

The USGS took recordings of all the seismic activity from 2010 to 2015. That data shows that Alaska feels the most earthquakes with between 1000 and 3000 magnitude 3.0 or higher. California is second with between 100 and 600 each year.

Credit: USGS

That data shows that Arkansas saw between 0 and 50 earthquakes each year. While that doesn’t seem like much, it is a lot more than states like Florida, Georgia, and Massachusetts who regularly see no earthquakes magnitude 3.0 or higher.

More recently parts of Oklahoma, Texas, and Kansas have seen an increase in the number of earthquakes. These are man-caused earthquakes that are caused by fracking.

Click here to see where the most recent earthquakes have struck.

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