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 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]

Recent 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]

Name Date Epicentre M MM Depth Notes Deaths
1717 Guatemala earthquake 1717092900001717-09-29
Antigua Guatemala[6] 7.4 Mi ~IX Modified Mercalli intensity estimated at IX
1751 Guatemala earthquake 1773072900001751
Antigua Guatemala . . . . .
1765 Guatemala earthquake 1765102400001765-10-24
Ostuncalco (Quetzaltenango)[6] 7.6-8.2 Mi ~VII Modified Mercalli intensity estimated at VII. Duration of shaking reported at 7–8 minutes, which may indicate possible rupture up to Chiapas.[6]
1773 Guatemala earthquake 1773072900001773-07-29
Antigua Guatemala 7.5 Mi ~VIII On July 29 of 1773, and the following months, a series of strong earthquakes shook Antigua Guatemala and left most of the city in rubble.[7][8] Also called Santa Marta earthquakes.
1816 Guatemala earthquake 1816072200001816-07-22
Alta Verapaz[9]
(Chixoy-Polochic Fault)
7.5 Mi ~VII Modified Mercalli intensity estimated at VII, covering 13,000 km2
1902 Guatemala earthquake 1902041808551902-04-18
20:23:50 hrs
14°54′N 91°30′W / 14.90°N 91.50°W / 14.90; -91.50
Quetzaltenango
7.5 Ms 25 [60] See also: 1902 Guatemala earthquake. This earthquake may be related to the colossal eruption of the Santa María volcano on 24-10-1902, which killed at least 5000 people. 800-2000
1913 Guatemala earthquake 191303082012501913-03-08
08:55 hrs
near Cuilapa
Jalpatagua Fault[10]
5.0 6.5 km Destroyed the town of Cuilapa 60
1917 Guatemala earthquake 2001062300001917-12-26
05:21:00 hrs
Guatemala City 5.6 VII-IX Several foreshocks since November 27, 1917 have preceded this quake. 250
1918 Guatemala earthquake 1918010400001918-01-04
04:30.10 and 04:32.25 LT
near Guatemala City 6.0 VI Magnitude estimate by INSUVIMEH[4]
1942 Guatemala earthquake 1942080600001942-08-06
23:36.98 UTC
13°54′N 90°48′W / 13.9°N 90.8°W / 13.9; -90.8[4]
Western Guatemala[11]
7.9 60 km 8.3 Ms, according to Insivumeh.[4] 38 deaths, many injured, and widespread material damage. Additional damage due to landslides. 38
1959 Guatemala earthquake 1959022000001959-02-20
18:16.33 UTC
15°56′N 90°35′W / 15.94°N 90.59°W / 15.94; -90.59
Ixcán
48 km
1976 Guatemala earthquake 1976020400001976-02-04
09:01 UTC
15°19′N 89°06′W / 15.32°N 89.10°W / 15.32; -89.10
Motagua Fault
7.5 X 5 km Activated destructive aftershocks in the Mixco Fault near Guatemala City. See also:1976 Guatemala earthquake 23,000
1985 Guatemala earthquake 1985101100001985-10-11
03:39.17 hrs
15°18′N 90°54′W / 15.3°N 90.9°W / 15.3; -90.9
Uspantán
5.0 VII 5 km Major damage in the town of Uspantán (80% of buildings affected)
1988 Guatemala earthquake 1988110314471988-11-03
14:14.10 hrs
13°52′52″N 90°27′00″W / 13.881°N 90.450°W / 13.881; -90.450
San Vicente Pacaya
6.0 VI 69 km 5 casualties[12] 5
1991 Guatemala earthquake 1991091100001991-09-11
03:48:13 hrs
14°24.12′N 91°03.06′W / 14.40200°N 91.05100°W / 14.40200; -91.05100
Pochuta
5.3 VII 32 km Destroyed 80% of the town of San Miguel Pochuta 25
1993 Chiapas earthquake 1993091100001993-09-10
19:12:54 hrs
14°43′01″N 92°38′42″W / 14.717°N 92.645°W / 14.717; -92.645
offshore Chiapas, San Marcos department
7.2 34 km Caused 1 casualty and considerable material damage in southwestern Guatemala where some roads were blocked due to rockslides. Some damage in parts of Chiapas.[13] 1
1995 Guatemala earthquake 1995121900001995-12-19
14:56:06 hrs
15°18′04″N 90°09′14″W / 15.301°N 90.154°W / 15.301; -90.154
Tucurú
5.3 IV 10 km 1
1998 Guatemala earthquake 1998011000001998-01-10
02:20:10 hrs
14°22′26″N 91°28′23″W / 14.374°N 91.473°W / 14.374; -91.473
Santo Domingo Suchitepéquez
6.6 VII, VI 33 km 16 people injured in Quezaltenango, 3 injured in San Marcos, 5 injured in Guatemala city. Buildings damaged in the Quezaltenango and San Marcos Departments. A number of houses destroyed in Solola Department.[14]
1998 Guatemala earthquake (March) 1998030200001998-03-02
20:24:46 LT
13°52.92′N 91°52.38′W / 13.88200°N 91.87300°W / 13.88200; -91.87300
offshore Pacific Ocean
5.6 V, III 33 km
2007 Guatemala earthquake 2007061300002007-06-13
02:29:41 hrs
13°37′23″N 90°47′49″W / 13.623°N 90.797°W / 13.623; -90.797
offshore Pacific Ocean
115 km southwest of Guatemala City
6.7 23 km See also: 2007 Guatemala earthquake 0
2008 Guatemala earthquake 2008052700002008-05-27
11:28:01 UTC
13°42′54″N 90°55′16″W / 13.715°N 90.921°W / 13.715; -90.921
offshore Pacific Ocean[15]
120 km southwest of Guatemala City
5.7 78 km
2009 Guatemala earthquake 2009050316212009-05-03
16:21:47 UTC
14°35′N 91°05′W / 14.58°N 91.08°W / 14.58; -91.08
South of Patzún
55 km (35 miles) ESE of Quezaltenango[16]
6.2 124 km
2010 Guatemala earthquake 20100202315162010-02-23
15:16:00 UTC
15°59′02″N 91°23′10″W / 15.984°N 91.386°W / 15.984; -91.386
20 km north of San Mateo Ixtatán[17]
5.6 10 km The earthquake was preceded by a magnitude 5.3 quake on February 23, 2010 at 10:52:15 UTC with its epicentre located at 16°02′53″N 91°13′48″W / 16.048°N 91.230°W / 16.048; -91.230 (10 km depth)[18] A magnitude 5.3 quake followed in the same region on March 20, 2010, at 16°02′49″N 91°14′10″W / 16.047°N 91.236°W / 16.047; -91.236 (82.4 km km depth).[19]
2011 Guatemala earthquake 2011091918342011-09-19
18:34:00 UTC
14°19′55″N 90°08′31″W / 14.332°N 90.142°W / 14.332; -90.142
53 km south-east of Guatemala City[20]
5.8 VII 9 km The earthquake was preceded by a magnitude 4.8 quake about 30 minutes earlier, and followed by two smaller quakes.[21] 3[21]
2012 Guatemala earthquake 201207112012-11-07
16:35:47 UTC
13°59′13″N 91°57′54″W / 13.987°N 91.965°W / 13.987; -91.965 (2012 M7.4)[22] 7.4 VII 24.1 km The earthquake was preceded by 3 magnitude 4-5 quakes the prior week. 42[23]
M = Moment magnitude scale, unless stated otherwise
MM = Intensity on the Modified Mercalli scale

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Sources[edit]

Cáceres Calix, José Diego (2003). Earthquake Sources and Hazard in Northern Central America (pdf). Upsala: Uppsala University. ISBN 91-554-5615-4. 
Marshall, Jeffrey S. (2007). "The Geomorphology and Physiographic Provinces of Central America" (pdf). In Bundschuh, Jochen & Guillermo E. Alvarado (Eds). Central America: Geology, Resources and Hazards. Taylor & Francis. pp. 1–30. ISBN 978-0-415-41647-4. 
Moncada Maya, J. Omar (5 May 2003). "En torno a la destrucción d la Ciudad de Guatemala, 1773. Una carta del Ingeniero Militar Antonio Marín". Biblio 3W. Revista Bibliográfica de Geografía y Ciencias Sociales (Universidad de Barcelona) VIII (444). ISSN 1138-9796. Retrieved 2010-02-28. 
Olvera, Carlos (1996). "Terremotos anteriores en Guatemala" (pdf). In Villagrán, Juan Carlos (Eds). Diagnóstico de la prevención de desastres naturales en Guatemala con motivo del XX aniversario del terremoto del 4 de febrero de 1976 (in Spanish). Guatemala: CIG, CONE, INSIVUMEH. pp. 367–76. 
Tucker, Brian E., Mustafa Erdik, Christina N. Hwang (Eds.) (1994). Issues in Urban Earthquake Risk. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers. ISBN 0-7923-2914-7. 
White, Randall A. (1985). "The Guatemala earthquake of 1816 on the Chixoy-Polochic fault". Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America (http://www.seismosoc.org/: Seismological Society of America) 75 (2): 455–473. 
White, Randall A.; Juan Pablo Lígoria; Ines Lucía Cifuentes (2004). "Seismic history along the Middle America subduction zone along El Salvador, Guatemala and Chiapas, Mexico: 1526-2000". In Rose, William Ingersol (et al.) (Eds). Natural Hazards in El Salvador. Geological Society of America, Special Paper 375. pp. 379–96. ISBN 0-8137-2375-2. 

External links[edit]