Central Mexico and Gulf of California Earthquakes: M6.9


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Location of the Gulf of California earthquake April 2012: Image courtesy of USGS

Three significant earthquakes off the coast of Mexico on the 11 and 12 April 2012 are the latest in a series of tremors to occur alongthe country’s Pacific coast. An earthquake of magnitude 6.5 (M6.5) off central Mexico was followed by two of M6.2 and M6.9 which occurred in the Gulf of California  hundreds of miles further north (United States Geological Survey).

Recent Earthquake Activity in Mexico

USGS earthquake listings show that between December 2011 and April 2012, Mexico saw a number of significant earthquakes (>M5.0), mostly located just off the Pacific coast within a relatively restricted area in Guerrero Province. The M6.5 follows a significant (M7.4) tremor which occurred on 24 March 2012 and a major aftershock of M6.0 on 2 April 2012. By comparison, the Gulf of California has seen no earthquakes of any significance in this period.

Mexico’s Tectonic Setting: Were the Earthquakes Linked?

Earthquakes commonly occur in clusters, as movement transfers stress along fault lines. The most significant tremor in the cluster (the mainshock) is identified as the earthquake, while those before and after are known as foreshocks and aftershocks (a foreshock or aftershock to a major earthquake may be bigger than a mainshock elsewhere).  In order to understand whether the most recent Mexico earthquakes are linked, we must consider the tectonic setting.

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