This is somewhat of an old story, and I’m not sure it got much press in the storied Iron Bowl rivalry media coverage. But while conducting some research on potential seismic zones that could threaten dams, levees and other important infrastructure projects west of the Mississippi, I ran across this piece on Discovery.com regarding what’s known as the New York – Alabama Lineament.
A little background—I do a lot of disaster planning and disaster response consulting and I have been in this business for about 25 years. I knew there were some areas of seismic risk in the eastern US, including the Eastern Tennessee Seismic Zone (ETSZ) and the New York – Alabama Lineament (NYAL). The NYAL is an ancient magnetic anomaly discovered in 1978, and runs in a nearly straight line from northern Alabama to the mountains of upstate New York. While it’s never been determined to be an active fault, it bears striking geological similarities to the much younger and much more active San Andreas Fault in California.
Anyway, one of the most engaged researchers on the NYAL is Dr. Mark Steltenpohl. However, the Discovery.com story thinks there is only one major research university in the state of Alabama [Emphasis mine]:
A more recent aerial magnetic survey of the Alabama end of the line suggests that it's probably a 500-million-year-old San Andreas-style fault that appears to have slipped 137 miles (220 kilometers) to the right in the distant past.
If so, it's no surprise that the most dangerous part of the eastern Tennessee seismic zone is right next to part of this magnetic line and has the second-highest earthquake frequency in the eastern United States.
"It's most likely a strike-slip fault," said Mark Steltenpohl of the University of Alabama at Auburn. "But it's all buried."
The fault is invisible from the surface and there is very little information about it because no one has actually drilled down through it to investigate, Steltenpohl told Discovery News.
Whoops. The dude is the Chair of the Department of Geology and Geography at Auburn University.
Steltenpohl really is a respected researcher and a recognized expert on NYAL. Whether NYAL ever results in a devastating earthquake that threatens the numerous dams that populate the region along the Appalachians remains to be seen. Most researchers, including Steltenpohl, have the risk as quite low.
The real temblor comes at the fact that a national media organization has, as often happens, shown that there really is only ONE University of Alabama.
Of the NYAL, "It's almost a needle in a haystack," said Steltenpohl.
Apparently, so is the number of journalists who can find the “University of Auburn” on a map.
This article made me LOL. I hope it makes you do the same. Go mash the link if you’ve never heard of NYAL.