1942 Guatemala earthquake

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1942 Guatemala earthquake
Relief map of Central America.jpg
UTC  time1942-08-06 23:37:02
ISC  event 900408
Local dateAugust 6, 1942
Local time17:37
Magnitude Mw 7.7 [1]
Ms 7.9 [2] [3]
Depth35 km (22 mi)
Epicenter 13°47′N90°55′W / 13.78°N 90.91°W / 13.78; -90.91 Coordinates: 13°47′N90°55′W / 13.78°N 90.91°W / 13.78; -90.91
Areas affected Guatemala
Casualties38 killed

The 1942 Guatemala earthquake occurred at 17:37 local time on August 6 and had ratings of 7.7 on the moment magnitude scale and 7.9 on the surface wave magnitude scale. The epicenter was located off the southern coast of Guatemala, [4] and it was one of the strongest earthquakes ever recorded there.

The moment magnitude scale is a measure of an earthquake's magnitude based on its seismic moment, expressed in terms of the familiar magnitudes of the original "Richter" magnitude scale.

The surface wave magnitude scale is one of the magnitude scales used in seismology to describe the size of an earthquake. It is based on measurements in Rayleigh surface waves that travel primarily along the uppermost layers of the Earth. It is currently used in People's Republic of China as a national standard for categorising earthquakes.

Guatemala Republic in Central America

Guatemala, officially the Republic of Guatemala, is a country in Central America bordered by Mexico to the north and west, Belize and the Caribbean to the northeast, Honduras to the east, El Salvador to the southeast and the Pacific Ocean to the south. With an estimated population of around 16.6 million, it is the most populated country in Central America. Guatemala is a representative democracy; its capital and largest city is Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción, also known as Guatemala City.


The earthquake caused widespread damage in the west-central highlands of Guatemala. Thirty-eight people died in the earthquake. Landslides caused by the combination of the earthquake and the heavy seasonal rains destroyed roads, the Inter-American Highway, and telegraph lines. In Tecpán Guatemala, more than 60% of the houses were demolished. Damage was reported in some buildings in Antigua Guatemala, including the Palacio de Los Capitanes Generales and some catholic churches. [5] [6] The earthquake could also be felt strongly in Mexico and El Salvador. [7]

Inter-American Highway

The Inter-American Highway (IAH) is the Central American section of the Pan-American Highway and spans 5,470 kilometers (3,400 mi) between Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, and Panama City, Panama.

Tecpán Guatemala Municipality and town in Chimaltenango, Guatemala

Tecpán Guatemala is a municipality in the department of Chimaltenango, in Guatemala, on the Inter-American Highway CA-1.

Antigua Guatemala City in Sacatepéquez, Guatemala

Antigua Guatemala, commonly referred to as just Antigua or la Antigua, is a city in the central highlands of Guatemala famous for its well-preserved Spanish Baroque-influenced architecture as well as a number of ruins of colonial churches. It served as the capital of the Kingdom of Guatemala. It has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.

This earthquake was a lower crustal intraplate earthquake with a compressional focal mechanism. [3] [8] [ page needed ] Tensional activity has been dominant along the down-dip edge along the 1942 rupture zone. [9] It was estimated that earthquakes near the Middle America Trench with magnitudes of about 7.5~8.0 occurred at intervals of 94 ± 54 yrs in southwestern Guatemala. Such historical earthquakes included the earthquakes in 1765, 1902, and 1942. [10]

Focal mechanism

The focal mechanism of an earthquake describes the deformation in the source region that generates the seismic waves. In the case of a fault-related event it refers to the orientation of the fault plane that slipped and the slip vector and is also known as a fault-plane solution. Focal mechanisms are derived from a solution of the moment tensor for the earthquake, which itself is estimated by an analysis of observed seismic waveforms. The focal mechanism can be derived from observing the pattern of "first motions", that is, whether the first arriving P waves break up or down. This method was used before waveforms were recorded and analysed digitally and this method is still used for earthquakes too small for easy moment tensor solution. Focal mechanisms are now mainly derived using semi-automatic analysis of the recorded waveforms.

Middle America Trench A subduction zone in the eastern Pacific off the southwestern coast of Middle America

The Middle America Trench is a major subduction zone, an oceanic trench in the eastern Pacific Ocean off the southwestern coast of Middle America, stretching from central Mexico to Costa Rica. The trench is 1,700 miles (2,750 km) long and is 21,880 feet at its deepest point. The trench is the boundary between the Rivera, Cocos, and Nazca plates on one side and the North American and Caribbean plates on the other. It is the 18th-deepest trench in the world. Many large earthquakes have occurred in the area of the Middle America Trench.

See also

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Hiroo Kanamori is a Japanese seismologist who has made fundamental contributions to understanding the physics of earthquakes and the tectonic processes that cause them.

An interplate earthquake is an earthquake that occurs at the boundary between two tectonic plates. Earthquakes of this type account for more than 90 percent of the total seismic energy released around the world. If one plate is trying to move past the other, they will be locked until sufficient stress builds up to cause the plates to slip relative to each other. The slipping process creates an earthquake with relative displacement on either side of the fault, resulting in seismic waves which travel through the Earth and along the Earth's surface. Relative plate motion can be lateral as along a transform fault boundary, vertical if along a convergent boundary (i.e. subduction or thrust/reverse faulting) or a divergent boundary (i.e. rift zone or normal faulting), and oblique, with horizontal and lateral components at the boundary. Interplate earthquakes associated at a subduction boundary are called megathrust earthquakes, which are the most powerful earthquakes.

Seismic magnitude scales are used to describe the overall strength or "size" of an earthquake. These are distinguished from seismic intensity scales that categorize the intensity or severity of ground shaking (quaking) caused by an earthquake at a given location. Magnitudes are usually determined from measurements of an earthquake's seismic waves as recorded on a seismogram. Magnitude scales vary on what aspect of the seismic waves are measured and how they are measured. Different magnitude scales are necessary because of differences in earthquakes, the information available, and the purposes for which the magnitudes are used.

1902 Guatemala earthquake earthquake struck Escuintla Department, Guatemala on April 19, 1902

The 1902 Guatemala earthquake occurred on April 18 at 8:23 pm with a moment magnitude of 7.5 and a maximum Mercalli intensity of VIII (Severe). The rupture initiated at a depth of 25 km (16 mi) and the duration was 1 to 2 minutes.

1992 Nicaragua earthquake September 1992 earthquake in Nicaragua

The 1992 Nicaragua earthquake occurred off the coast of Nicaragua at 6:16 p.m. on September 2. Some damage was also reported in Costa Rica. At least 116 people were killed and several more were injured. The quake was located in an active zone of stress and deformation. It created tsunamis disproportionately large for its surface wave magnitude.

1946 Nankai earthquake

The 1946 Nankai earthquake was a great earthquake in Nankaidō, Japan. It occurred on December 21, 1946, at 04:19 JST. The earthquake measured between 8.1 and 8.4 on the moment magnitude scale, and was felt from Northern Honshū to Kyūshū. It occurred almost two years after the 1944 Tōnankai earthquake, which ruptured the adjacent part of the Nankai megathrust.

1896 Sanriku earthquake one of the most destructive seismic events in Japanese history

The 1896 Sanriku earthquake was one of the most destructive seismic events in Japanese history. The 8.5 magnitude earthquake occurred at 19:32 on June 15, 1896, approximately 166 kilometres (103 mi) off the coast of Iwate Prefecture, Honshu. It resulted in two tsunamis which destroyed about 9,000 homes and caused at least 22,000 deaths. The waves reached a then-record height of 38.2 metres (125 ft); this would remain the highest on record until waves from the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake exceeded that height by more than 2 metres.

1906 Ecuador–Colombia earthquake earthquake struck off the coast of Ecuador and Colombia on January 31, 1906

The 1906 Ecuador–Colombia earthquake occurred at 15:36 UTC on January 31, off the coast of Ecuador, near Esmeraldas. The earthquake had a moment magnitude of 8.8 and triggered a destructive tsunami that caused at least 500 casualties on the coast of Colombia.

1965 Rat Islands earthquake

The 1965 Rat Islands earthquake occurred at 05:01 UTC, on 4 February. It had a magnitude of 8.7 and triggered a tsunami of over 10 m on Shemya Island, but caused very little damage.

1982 El Salvador earthquake

The 1982 El Salvador earthquake occurred southeast of San Salvador on 19 June at 00:21 local time. This undersea earthquake struck offshore in the Pacific Ocean and had a surface wave magnitude of 7.2 and a maximum Mercalli intensity of VII. Occurring adjacent to a subduction zone at the Middle America Trench, this normal-slip shock left at least 16 and as many as 43 people dead, and many injured, and also inflicted $5 million in damage.

1994 offshore Sanriku earthquake earthquake

The 1994 offshore Sanriku earthquake occurred on December 28, 1994, at 12:19 UTC. This was a magnitude Mw 7.7 earthquake with epicenter located in the Pacific Ocean at about 180 km east of Hachinohe, Aomori. Three people were reported dead and more than 200 injured; 48 houses were completely destroyed. Road damage and power outages were reported. Liquefaction occurred in the Hachinohe Port area. The intensity reached shindo 6 in Hachinohe, Aomori, about 187.6 km from epicenter. It could be felt in Tokyo, about 632.9 km from epicenter, with shindo 2. The Japanese Meteorological Agency put the magnitude at MJMA 7.5. Slip associated with this earthquake continued for more than a year and it has been termed an 'ultra-slow earthquake'.

A tsunami earthquake triggers a tsunami of a magnitude that is very much larger than the magnitude of the earthquake as measured by shorter-period seismic waves. The term was introduced by Hiroo Kanamori in 1972. Such events are a result of relatively slow rupture velocities. They are particularly dangerous as a large tsunami may arrive at a coastline with little or no warning. A tsunami is a sea wave of local or distant origin that results from large-scale seafloor displacements associated with large earthquakes, major submarine slides, or exploding volcanic islands.

1928 Talca earthquake

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1937 Orizaba earthquake earthquake in Mexico

The 1937 Orizaba earthquake occurred on July 26 at 03:47 UTC, near Orizaba, Veracruz, Mexico. It had a magnitude of 7.3 on the surface wave magnitude scale. Thirty four people were reported dead. Damage was reported in Esperanza, Puebla. This was an intraplate earthquake within the subducting Cocos Plate.

1971 Solomon Islands earthquakes

The 1971 Solomon Islands earthquakes occurred in the northern part of the Solomon Islands, within Papua New Guinea as a doublet earthquake. The first large shock occurred on July 14 at 06:11 UTC with a magnitude of Mw 8.0. The second large event occurred on July 26 at 01:23 UTC with a magnitude of Mw  8.1. The initial event on July 14 caused a tsunami, which was observed in Rabaul. The earthquake of July 26 triggered a tsunami with a 3.4 m (11 ft) runup in New Britain.

1964 Guerrero earthquake

The 1964 Guerrero earthquake occurred on July 6 at 01:22 local time in Guerrero, Mexico. The magnitude of this earthquake was given as Ms 7.4, or ML 7.2.

1981 Playa Azul earthquake October 1981 earthquake in Mexico

The 1981 Playa Azul earthquake occurred on October 24, 1981, at 21:22 local time. It was located near Playa Azul, Michoacán, Mexico. The magnitude of the earthquake was Mw 7.2, or Ms 7.3. Three deaths were reported, two from Michoacán and one from Mexico City. Some buildings were damaged in both Michoacán and Mexico City. A small tsunami was registered in Acapulco with a maximum height of 9 cm.

1982 Ometepec earthquake

The 1982 Ometepec earthquake that struck Mexico's southwestern coast near Ometepec (Guerrero) on 7 June was a doublet earthquake that ruptured in two steps. The first happened at 06:52 UTC, the second five hours later at 10:59 UTC. Estimated magnitudes are 6.9 and 7.0 on the Ms scale, and 5.8 and 6.0 on the mb scale. The maximum MM intensities were VII and VIII, respectively.


  1. Engdahl, E. R.; Vallaseñor, A. (2002), "Global seismicity: 1900–1999" (PDF), International Handbook of Earthquake & Engineering Seismology, Part A, Volume 81A (First ed.), Academic Press, p. 678, ISBN   978-0124406520
  2. Dmowska & Lovison 1988, p. 657
  3. 1 2 Astiz, Luciana; Kanamori, Hiroo (1984), "An earthquake doublet in Ometepec, Guerrero, Mexico" (PDF), Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors, Elsevier, 34 (1–2): 41, Bibcode:1984PEPI...34...24A, doi:10.1016/0031-9201(84)90082-7, archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-07-23, retrieved 2012-08-04
  4. Monzón-Despang, Héctor (February 1996), La construcción y el uso del terreno en Guatemala : Su vulnerabilidad sísmica (PDF), Asociacion Guatemalteca de Ingenieros Estrucurales, pp. 107–121, retrieved August 3, 2012[ permanent dead link ]
  5. ABC (August 11, 1942). "Mundo Hispanoamericano – Fuerte seísmo en Guatemala. Ocho muertos y cuarenta heridos". ABC . p. 17. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
  6. "Sismología". Instituto Nacional de Sismología, Vulcanología, Meteorología e Hidrología . Retrieved August 3, 2012.
  7. "Historic Earthquakes — Guatemala, 1942 August 06 23:36 UTC". United States Geological Survey. Archived from the original on 2016-04-30. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
  8. Dmowska & Lovison 1988
  9. Lay, Thorne; Astiz, Luciana; Kanamori, Hiroo; Christensen, Douglas (1989). "Temporal variation of large intraplate earthquakes in coupled subduction zones" (PDF). Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors. Elsevier. 54 (3–4): 273. Bibcode:1989PEPI...54..258L. doi:10.1016/0031-9201(89)90247-1.
  10. White, Randall A.; Ligorría, Juan Pablo; Cifuentes, Ines Lucia (2004). "Seismic history of the Middle America subduction zone along El Salvador, Guatemala, and Chiapas, Mexico: 1526–2000". GSA Special Papers. Geological Society of America. 375: 379–396. doi:10.1130/0-8137-2375-2.379. ISBN   978-0-8137-2375-4.


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