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Earthquake/Tsunami Hazard in Caribbean Higher Than Previously Thought



Earthquake/Tsunami Hazard in Caribbean Higher Than Previously Thought

Enough strain may be currently stored in an earthquake zone near the island of Guadeloupe to cause a magnitude 8 or larger earthquake and subsequent tsunami in the Caribbean, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey study.

USGS and French researchers studying the plate boundary in the Lesser Antilles region—the area where 20 of the 26 Caribbean islands are located—estimate that enough unreleased strain may have accumulated offshore of Guadeloupe to potentially create a magnitude 8.0-8.4 earthquake. A magnitude 7.5-8.5 quake in 1843 killed several thousand people in Guadeloupe, and a similar quake in the future could cause several tens to several hundreds of fatalities, and hundreds of millions to billions of U.S. dollars in damages. The paper was recently published in the Geophysical Journal International.

“Perception that a mega quake can occur in the Caribbean is low because none have been observed over the past century, and the rate at which the tectonic plates converge is fairly slow,” said USGS scientist Gavin Hayes, lead author of the paper. “Nevertheless, we show that enough unreleased strain may have accumulated on the subduction zone since the 19th century to generate a mega quake in the future.”

The impacted areas in Guadeloupe are of concern because these islands are popular with tourists.

The shaking hazard from the scenario earthquake is predominantly limited to Guadeloupe, though other islands could be affected by earthquake hazards from more local sources. Because of the thrusting style of the earthquake modeled, a tsunami could result, which would significantly impact Guadeloupe and would be hazardous in other areas around the Caribbean. The impact of the tsunami would likely be fairly minimal on the east coast of the U.S.  

Based on historic strain release computations and previous research, the research team modeled several scenario earthquakes in the 7.5-8.5 magnitude range, using a variety of potential earthquake rupture areas and utilizing the USGS ShakeMap and PAGER software packages. Strong ground shaking during the scenario earthquake would likely cause loss of life and costly damages.

USGS Newsroom



More information

Parameter Value Description
Magnitude mb The magnitude for the event.
Longitude ° East Decimal degrees longitude. Negative values for western longitudes.
Latitude ° North Decimal degrees latitude. Negative values for southern latitudes.
Depth km Depth of the event in kilometers.
Place Textual description of named geographic region near to the event. This may be a city name, or a Flinn-Engdahl Region name.
Time 1970-01-01 00:00:00 Time when the event occurred. UTC/GMT
Updated 1970-01-01 00:00:00 Time when the event was most recently updated. UTC/GMT
Timezone offset Timezone offset from UTC in minutes at the event epicenter.
Felt The total number of felt reports
CDI The maximum reported intensity for the event.
MMI The maximum estimated instrumental intensity for the event.
Alert Level The alert level from the PAGER earthquake impact scale. Green, Yellow, Orange or Red.
Review Status Indicates whether the event has been reviewed by a human.
Tsunami This flag is set to "1" for large events in oceanic regions and "0" otherwise. The existence or value of this flag does not indicate if a tsunami actually did or will exist.
SIG A number describing how significant the event is. Larger numbers indicate a more significant event.
Network The ID of a data contributor. Identifies the network considered to be the preferred source of information for this event.
Sources A comma-separated list of network contributors.
Number of Stations Used The total number of Number of seismic stations which reported P- and S-arrival times for this earthquake.
Horizontal Distance Horizontal distance from the epicenter to the nearest station (in degrees).
Root Mean Square sec The root-mean-square (RMS) travel time residual, in sec, using all weights.
Azimuthal Gap The largest azimuthal gap between azimuthally adjacent stations (in degrees).
Magnitude Type The method or algorithm used to calculate the preferred magnitude for the event.
Event Type Type of seismic event.
Event ID Id of event.
Event Code An identifying code assigned by, and unique from, the corresponding source for the event.
Event IDS A comma-separated list of event ids that are associated to an event.

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