List of earthquakes in Guatemala

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Plate tectonics in the Americas
Motagua Fault (green line) and the Middle America Trench (pink line)

Earthquakes are relatively frequent occurrences in Guatemala.[1] The country lies in a major fault zone known as the Motagua and Chixoy-Polochic fault complex, which cuts across Guatemala and forms the tectonic boundary between the Caribbean plate and the North American plate. In addition, along Guatemala's western coast line, the Cocos plate pushes against the Caribbean plate, forming a subduction zone known as the Middle America Trench located approximately 50 km off Guatemala's Pacific coast. This subduction zone led to the formation of the Central America Volcanic Arc, and is an important source of offshore earthquakes.[2] Both these major tectonic processes have generated deformations within the Caribbean plate and produced secondary fault zones, like the Mixco, Jalpatagua, and Santa Catarina Pinula faults.[3]

The most destructive earthquake in recent Guatemalan history was the 1976 quake with a magnitude of 7.5 Mw and a hypocenter depth of just 5 km. This shallow-focus earthquake, originating from the Motagua Fault, caused 23,000 fatalities, leaving 76,000 injured and causing widespread material damage. Surprisingly, the 7.9 Mw earthquake of 1942, though higher in magnitude, was much less destructive, in part because of its substantially deeper hypocenter depth of 60 km.[4]

A number of earthquakes with low magnitudes caused major damage in very localized areas, which may in part be explained by their relatively shallow depth. This was the case with the 1985 Uspantán earthquake of 5.0 Mw with a depth of 5 km, which destroyed most buildings in the town of Uspantán, but caused little or no damage in the rest of the country.[5]

Earthquakes[edit]

Guatemala is in constant earthquake activity. However, there are some earthquakes that are more notable due to the damage they've caused. Notable earthquakes in recent Guatemalan history include the following:[4]

Date Event Location Mag. MMI Deaths Notes
1717-09-29 1717 Guatemala earthquake Antigua Guatemala 7.4 Mi IX
1751 1751 Guatemala earthquake Antigua Guatemala IX
1765-10-24 1765 Guatemala earthquake Ostuncalco, Quetzaltenango 7.6–8.2 Mi VII Duration of shaking reported at 7–8 minutes.
1773-07-29 1773 Guatemala earthquake Antigua Guatemala 7.5 Mw VII–VIII 500–600 Severe damage in Antigua Guatemala and left most of the city in rubble.[6][7]
1816-07-22 1816 Guatemala earthquake Alta Verapaz 7.5 Mw IX 23 see also Chixoy-Polochic Fault
1902-04-18 1902 Guatemala earthquake Quetzaltenango, Guatemala City 7.5 Mw IX 800–2,000 see also Santa María volcano eruption
1914-03-08 1913 Guatemala earthquake Cuilapa 5.0 Ms 60 Destroyed the town of Cuilapa
1917-12-26 1917 Guatemala earthquake Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala City 5.6 Mw VII–IX 250
1918-01-04 1918 Guatemala earthquake Guatemala City 6.0 Mw VI
1942-07-06 1942 Guatemala earthquake Escuintla 7.7 Mw IX 38 Landslides.
1959-02-20 1959 Guatemala earthquake Ixcán
1976-02-04 1976 Guatemala earthquake Guatemala City 7.5 Mw IX 23,000 Extreme damage,
see also Motagua Fault
1976-03-12 March 1976 Guatemala earthquake[8] Chimaltenango 5.1 Mw VII 4 Aftershock.
1978-07-29 1978 Patzún earthquake[8] Patzún 4.5 Ms 17
1979-10-27 1979 Guatemala earthquake[8] Chimaltenango 6.8 Mw 4
1985-10-11 1985 Guatemala earthquake Uspantán 5.0 Mw VII Major damage in Uspantán
1988-11-03 1988 Guatemala earthquake San Vicente Pacaya 6.0 Mw VI 5
1991-09-11 1991 Guatemala earthquake Pochuta 5.3 Mw VII 25 Major damage in San Miguel Pochuta
1993-09-10 1993 Chiapas earthquake San Marcos 7.2 Mw 1 Landslide/Rockslide.
1995-12-19 1995 Guatemala earthquake Tucurú 5.3 Mw IV 1
1998-01-10 1998 Guatemala earthquake Santo Domingo Suchitepéquez 6.6 Mw VI–VIII Buildings damaged in Quezaltenango and San Marcos
2001-01-13 January 2001 El Salvador earthquake San Miguel 7.7 Mw VIII 8 Epicenter in San Miguel, El Salvador
2011-09-19 2011 Cuilapa earthquake[8] Cuilapa 5.6 Mw VI 1
2012-11-07 2012 Guatemala earthquake Retalhuleu 7.4 Mw VII 39 Heavy damage in San Marcos
2013-09-07 2013 Guatemala earthquake[8] Quetzaltenango 6.7 Mw VI 1
2014-07-07 2014 Mexico–Guatemala earthquake Antigua Guatemala 6.9 Mw VIII 5
2017-06-14 2017 Guatemala earthquake San Marcos 6.9 Mw VI 5 Landslide

MM = Intensity on the Modified Mercalli scale

See also[edit]

Map all coordinates using: OpenStreetMap 
Download coordinates as: KML · GPX

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Studies related to seismicity and seismic hazard in Guatemala: seismic sources, past events and monitoring". Michigan Technological University. Retrieved 2010-03-15.
  2. ^ Cáceres, 2003
  3. ^ INSIVUMEH. "Marco tectónico para Guatemala".
  4. ^ a b INSIVUMEH. "Principales eventos sísmicos del siglo XX en Guatemala".
  5. ^ INSIVUMEH. "Marco tectónico para Guatemala".
  6. ^ Moncada 2003
  7. ^ "Terremoto de 1773 Guatemala". Provincia San Vicente Ferrer. Dominicos en Centroamérica. Retrieved 2010-02-27.
  8. ^ a b c d e "Significant earthquakes in Guatemala". World data.info. Retrieved 2020-04-22.

Sources[edit]

External links[edit]