During late May and early June of 1993, we conducted two shallow, high-resolution seismic reflection surveys (Mini-Sosie method) across the southern escarpment of the Benton Hills segment of Crowleys Ridge. The reflection profiles imaged numerous post-late Cretaceous faults and folds. We believe these faults may represent a significant earthquake source zone. The stratigraphy of the Benton Hills consists of a thin, less than about 130 m, sequence of mostly unconsolidated Cretaceous, Tertiary and Quaternary sediments which unconformably overlie a much thicker section of Paleozoic carbonate rocks. The survey did not resolve reflectors within the upper 75-100 ms of two-way travel time (about 60-100 m), which would include all of the Tertiary and Quaternary and most of the Cretaceous. However, the Paleozoic-Cretaceous unconformity (Pz) produced an excellent reflection, and, locally a shallower reflector within the Cretaceous (K) was resolved. No coherent reflections below about 200 ms of two-way travel time were identified. Numerous faults and folds, which clearly offset the Paleozoic-Cretaceous unconformity reflector, were imaged on both seismic reflection profiles. Many structures imaged by the reflection data are coincident with the surface mapped locations of faults within the Cretaceous and Tertiary succession. Two locations show important structures that are clearly complex fault zones. The English Hill fault zone, striking N30??-35??E, is present along Line 1 and is important because earlier workers indicated it has Pleistocene Loess faulted against Eocene sands. The Commerce fault zone striking N50??E, overlies a major regional basement geophysical lineament, and is present on both seismic lines at the southern margin of the escarpment. The fault zones imaged by these surveys are 30 km from the area of intense microseismicity in the New Madrid seismic zone (NMSZ). If these are northeast and north-northeast oriented fault zones like those at Thebes Gap they are favorably oriented in the modern stress field to be reactivated as right-lateral strike slip faults. Currently, earthquake hazards assessments are most dependent upon historical seismicity, and there are little geological data available to evaluate the earthquake potential of fault zones outside of the NMSZ. We anticipate that future studies will provide evidence that seismicity has migrated between fault zones well beyond the middle Mississippi Valley. The potential earthquake hazards represented by faults outside the NMSZ may be significant.
Additional publication details
Shallow seismic reflection profiles and geological structure in the Benton Hills, southeast Missouri