Viral video claims Mississippi River is draining into the New Madrid Fault

Thanks to viewer “Jake” for letting me know about a video online that claims that the contents of the Mississippi River are draining into cracks in the New Madrid Fault. The video, uploaded to YouTube, has received more than a third of a million views, in just the past few weeks!

Take a look.

Instead of using scientific evidence, there are little bits of plausible theories and then one, big conclusion: the river is draining into the New Madrid Fault and an earthquake is imminent.

Within the YouTube video, photos of a nearly-empty riverbed are given as evidence that the river has run completely dry. A quick check of the river gauges from the Quad Cities to Memphis shows that while the river is quite low, there are no stretches of dry river and barges are still traversing the river. Looking at historical records, the Mississippi River was at a much lower level in the late Fall and early Winter of 2012.

What is happening on the Mississippi River has happened before and will happen again during times of drought. Not to mention, late-Summer and Fall are typically the area’s “dry season.”

Magnitude 3.7 Earthquake shakes New Madrid Fault this past Sunday 

If the river isn’t draining into the fault-cracks of the New Madrid Fault, where is the water going? There are actually two reasons: It’s not only been unusually dry across much of the Midwest, it’s been extremely sunny. Sunny, dry conditions accelerate evaporation of the water in the river.¬†It’s illogical to conclude that the water is escaping into the earth. The scientific explanation: the water’s escaping into the atmosphere.

As a Meteorologist whose emphasis in college was hydrology and stream-flow management, I’m not aware of a situation where the Mississippi River has lost water due to a crack in the earth.

Waterfall in Minnesota drains into the earth

Below the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers at Cairo, Illinois, the water also remains lower-than-normal. That is due to drier than normal conditions in the Ohio River Basin, upriver to Louisville and Cincinnati.

-Meteorologist Eric Sorensen