|English: Map of northern part of Gulf of Mexico. Major physiogeographic features of the northern part of Gulf of Mexico outer continental shelf.|
Those are legitimate questions.
Nearly 200 years ago, earthquakes rattled the New Madrid fault line that were so powerful that they are still talked about today. Fortunately, at the time the areas impacted were not highly populated so the damage was minimal. But similar earthquakes today would impact millions of people.
The truth is that there were four earthquakes in 1811 and 1812 along the New Madrid fault that were estimated to have been magnitude-7.0 or greater. It was reported that those quakes opened deep fissures in the ground and that they were felt as far away as Boston.
There are even those who believe that someday an earthquake will strike the New Madrid fault that will be so powerful that it will rip a hole in the center of the United States and will allow the Gulf of Mexico to pour in and create a new body of water in the middle of the continental United States.
Now, let's hope that such a thing will not happen in our lifetimes, but according to scientists, the potential for a nightmarish earthquake in the area of the New Madrid fault is very real.
But what does that have to do with the Gulf of Mexico?
Well, a retired Texaco geologist-geophysicist named Jack M. Reed who has been studying the geology of the Gulf of Mexico for over 40 years believes that the Gulf of Mexico is currently tectonically active.
In fact, Reed believes that it is the Gulf of Mexico that is the likely origin for New Madrid seismic activity.
According to Reed, there is evidence that the New Madrid seismic zone is directly connected with geological features in the Gulf of Mexico....
"This northeast trending earthquake zone appears to connect with the northeast trending Monroe Uplift, the LaSalle Arch and, possibly, to an active seismic zone located in and around Sabine Lake on the Texas-Louisiana border."
Not only that, but Reed believes that the key to unlocking the mystery behind the New Madrid fault zone lies in examining the "deeply buried tectonics" in the Gulf....
"This entire zone through the United States is suffering some type of tectonic activity that I believe is tied to the deeply buried tectonics in the Gulf of Mexico."
So has BP disturbed those "deeply buried tectonics" by drilling such a deep well?
Let's hope not.
Because if the "Big One" does hit the New Madrid fault, the cities of Memphis, Tennessee and St. Louis, Missouri will essentially be destroyed. In addition, there would be devastation in a host of surrounding states including Illinois, Kentucky, Mississippi, Indiana, Alabama, Missouri, Arkansas and Tennessee.
So just how bad would the damage be?
Well, according to a study publicly released this week by the University of Illinois, it is projected that a 7.7-magnitude earthquake along the New Madrid fault would leave 3,500 people dead, more than 80,000 injured and more than 7 million homeless.
And that is just what a 7.7-magnitude earthquake would do.
If the "Big One" ever hit the New Madrid fault it would be "game over".
So let us hope that the "oil volcano" that BP's very deep drilling has unleashed will not cause any significant geological events.
Because it if does, the results could be absolutely catastrophic.
Even a weak earthquake on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico could send a tsunami hurtling towards the Gulf shore that could kill thousands and which could push oil and water miles inland.
The truth is that we have been monkeying with geological forces that we do not truly understand and that we cannot control.
Let us just hope that the damage that we have done is not too great. [more on the article]