LITTLE ROCK, Ark. AP — A series of small earthquakes that rattled central Arkansas in recent weeks could be a sign of something much bigger to come.
By this weekend, seismologists hope to install three measurement devices to gather data about future temblors in the area. That information could show whether the rumbles come from heat-related geological changes or from an undiscovered fault — which could mean a risk of substantial earthquakes in the future.
"The potential for generating a high-magnitude earthquake is real," said Haydar Al-Shukri, director of the Arkansas Earthquake Center at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
Five earthquakes ranging in magnitude from 2.2 to 2.7 have hit central Arkansas this month. Quakes with a magnitude of 2.5 to 3 are typically the smallest felt by people.
While hundreds of earthquakes occur each year, including several in Arkansas, the location of the recent ones give Al-Shukri pause. Arkansas quakes generally occur in the state's northeast corner, part of the New Madrid Seismic Zone, where three temblors with magnitudes of around 8 struck during the winter of 1812 and smaller ones continue today.
But central Arkansas does not have any seismic history, Al-Shukri said.
"It is abnormal. It is significant," he said. "We need to carefully watch this activity."