Friday, April 15, 2011

Speculative Analysis: "Apocalypse and the New Madrid Fault"

"Apocalypse and the New Madrid Fault"
by Barracuda

Author's Note: "This is an un-numbered installment in an ongoing "Newsvine" series investigating "End Times" theories. Part One, the introduction, can be found here. When I originally envisioned this series, I decided on a 10-instalment structure, and have written an outline that accomodates each of the aspects of the subject I wanted to address. Since then, I have become aware of another scenario - apocalyptic in its own right - and due to its potentially urgent nature, I've decided to address it now, as an Eleventh Installment in the series. As a side note, I am hopeful that getting this installment published, it will break the writer's block I've been suffering, and has caused a hiatus in the progress of this series.

On March 9, beginning in the Big Bend region of Florida, reports filtered in from various sources, reporting a strange rumbling noise. The sound was described by witnesses as being similar to a freight train. Over the next 10 days or so, the sounds were reported all over the eastern United States, and even globally. The National Weather Service, in an attempt to explain the sounds, suggested it was a phenonemon known as 'ducting', in which thunder bounces off a stable atmospheric layer above the ground, and causing sound to travel great distances.

Eventually, some of these noises were captured on video and posted on YouTube, eerie slices of mysterious life that prompted speculation on alternative news boards the world over. One such board, Above Top Secret, created entire discussion threads surrounding the phenomenon, with one user, screen-named 'Under Water' creating a preliminary map of the incidents in the U.S. The first YouTube video I saw, along with this map, caused the blood to freeze in my veins. The sound of the phenomenon reminded me of something I'd heard before.

To explain, I need to take a step back to the beginning of the millenium, and a friend who was engaged in a Caribbean cruise. I often visited him in those days, and one of the islands he visited was Montserrat in the Lesser Antilles, about 30 miles southwest of Antigua. Once an idyllic Caribbean paradise, the island was changed forever on August 6, 1997, with the eruption of the Soufriere Hills volcano. To this day, the capital, Plymouth, remains a moonscape of geological devastation.

The story of Montserrat made a deep impression on me, and over following years, I followed accounts of the event. One of these reports, on the program 'Seconds From Disaster', included the same sound I heard on YouTube. The same sound dismissed by the National Weather Service as 'ducting'. (Here is the video. The sound in question can be heard at 4:09.) The sound, a herald of unimaginable disaster, was the noise made by a phreatic eruption. "Phreatic eruptions are steam-driven explosions that occur when water beneath the ground or on the surface is heated by magma, lava, hot rocks, or new volcanic deposits (for example, tephra and pyroclastic-flow deposits). The intense heat of such material (as high as 1,170° C for basaltic lava) may cause water to boil and flash to steam, thereby generating an explosion of steam, water, ash, blocks, and bombs." - U.S. Geological Survey

This makes the map, showing the rumbling sounds travelling from north to south, roughly following the Appalachians, so chilling. Particularly when one compares the map to the vicinity of the New Madrid Fault. Is it possible that, somehow, magma chambers of the sort that heat the water that make Hot Springs, Arkansas a spa 'hotspot' have been coming into physical contact with water of some sort? Is it possible that the rumbling noises being heard are the resulting phreatic explosions. And if so, where is the water coming from?

Clues may perhaps be found in the work of maverick geologist Jack M. Reed, who has theorized "the apparent connection of the New Madrid seismic zone with the Gulf rift features to the south": "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," he said. This complex of doming and seismic centers is similar to another Cretaceous age triple juncture located in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico Basin. Doming of the DeSoto Canyon High during the Jurassic to Cretaceous created this triple juncture, which includes the Cretaceous Shelf Edge, the Suwannee Strait and the West Florida Escarpment. Clearly, in Reed's opinion, there are geological connections between the New Madrid seismic zone and the Gulf of Mexico. And those connections are characterized by friable salt domes.

This notion reminded me of the excellent illustrations produced by Newsviner BK Lim as part of his coverage of the Gulf oil spill disaster last year, caused when the Macondo/Deepwater Horizon blowout occurred. His diagrams make extremely clear the degree to which the "rock beds are highly fractured and permeable in the vicinity of the Salt Dome, due to stress and deformation as the Salt Dome thrusted upwards into the country rocks millions of years ago." So, how likely is it that this fractured, permeable rock is allowing the transmission of seawater into contact with magma in the vicinity of the New Madrid fault, causing phreatic eruptions? How likely is it that the Deepwater Horizon disaster is serving as a 'smoking gun' for a yet-to-happen disaster?

BK Lim, at least, has hypothesized something similar. Besides lateral stresses, vertical stresses also developed between the upper and lower section of the tectonic blocks due to differential upper and lower slide movement. The abnormal occurrences of hundreds of shallow and low magnitude earthquakes since the Macondo blowout are the direct consequence of the continual release of these pent-up stress zones.

And it may be that he is not the only one. In May, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will kick off National Level Exercise 2011 (NLE 2011), "the first NLE to simulate a natural hazard": "NLE 2011 will simulate the catastrophic nature of a major earthquake in the central United States region of the New Madrid Seismic Zone (NMSZ). The year 2011 is the bicentennial anniversary of the 1811 New Madrid earthquake, for which the NMSZ is named."

And, it seems, even FEMA's parent body, the Department of Homeland Security, is not completely convinced that the event will be entirely simulated. How else to explain their issuance on FedBizOpps of a Request for Information (RFI) for Meals, Ready to Eat (MRE) to feed 7 million survivors of a New Madrid earthquake? And, more disturbingly, why has an RFI been issued for underwater body bags (DHS AEL no. 03WA-01-BAGB) for use by "public resource dive teams within the emergency responder community"?

Could it be that FEMA knows something we don't? Or maybe FEMA's leadership is comprised of devotees of the late American prophet Edgar Cayce, who forecast what became known as "Earth Changes"...changes that have become a common topic of discussion among some of the more apocalyptic voices in the New Age movement... "Portions of the now east coast of New York, or New York City itself, will in the main disappear. The waters of the Great Lakes will empty into the Gulf,rather than the waterway over which such discussions have been recently made. It would be well if the waterway were prepared, but not for that purpose for which it is at present being considered." Is it possible that Cayce predicted a massive New Madrid seismic event that will devastate North America, flooding it from the Gulf of Mexico to New York? Apocalypse, indeed."

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