1992 Nicaragua earthquake

Last updated

1992 Nicaragua earthquake
Relief map of Central America.jpg
UTC  time1992-09-02 00:16:01
ISC  event 270936
Local dateSeptember 2, 1992 (1992-09-02)
Local time6:16
Magnitude7.7 Mw [1]
Depth45 km (28 mi)
Epicenter 11°44′31″N87°20′24″W / 11.742°N 87.340°W / 11.742; -87.340 [1]
Areas affected Nicaragua
Casualtiesat least 116 killed [1]

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.



The 1992 Nicaragua earthquake was the first tsunami earthquake to be captured on modern broadband seismic networks. [2] The initial surface wave magnitude was estimated at 7.2. [3] The shock occurred on the subduction interface between the Cocos and Caribbean Plates, an active zone of stress and deformation, [3] and due to the absence of sediment on the ocean floor off Nicaragua, the slip propagated up-dip all the way to the trench bottom, a creator of large tsunamis. [2] This occurrence of slip of a plate interface filled with soft subducted sediments caused the rupturing process to be slower than the average subduction zone thrust earthquakes [2] while the focus of the earthquake was much shallower than the typical subduction zone earthquake. [3]

Damage and casualties

The first shock of the earthquake occurred at 0:16 GMT and was followed by several strong aftershocks. [4] The quake was most widely felt in the Chinandega and León departments of Nicaragua, though it was also felt elsewhere in Nicaragua at El Crucero, Managua and San Marcos and at San José in Costa Rica. [1] It was the strongest seismic event to hit Nicaragua since the earthquake of 1972. [4]

At least 116 people were killed, most being children sleeping in their beds, [5] with more than 68 missing and over 13,500 left homeless in Nicaragua. [1] At least 1,300 houses and 185 fishing boats were destroyed along the west coast of Nicaragua. [1] Total damage in Nicaragua was estimated at between 20 and 30 million U.S. dollars. [1]

According to the Augusto César Sandino Foundation, the most affected were "inhabitants of small poor communities who live from diverse subsistence activities. Their houses, located beside the sea, were almost entirely destroyed. These people have lost their livelihoods, poor peasants who grow basic grains for their own consumption in marginal areas, and fisherpeople who have lost their fishing equipment, boats, storage sheds and warehouses. Their already extreme poverty has been exacerbated." [6]


Most of the casualties and damage were caused by a tsunami affecting the west coasts of Nicaragua and Costa Rica, and it was one of three tsunamis to occur within a span of six months. [5] Runup heights were measured shortly after the earthquake [7] and reached heights of up to 9.9 meters, though the average height was 3 to 8 meters. [8] [9] The tsunami was disproportionately large for its surface wave magnitude, or Ms, [2] and the duration of the rupture process was 100 s, unusually long for its size. [8] The moment magnitude was 7.6, larger than the 20-s Ms of 7; this MsMw difference is a characteristic of tsunami earthquakes. [2] Tide gages were set up at Corinto and Puerto Sandino, which showed an impulsive tsunami originating 61 minutes after the earthquake. [8] It ran inland 1,000 meters to Masachapa, [1] the hardest hit major town of all, with 9 fatalities. [4]

Relief efforts

From the onset of the disaster authorities provided initial assistance. [4] President Violeta Chamorro stated in her speech to her nation on September 2, 1992, that no international assistance was needed. [4] However, the Red Cross did assist in some operations while the National Civil Defence carried out much of the relief operations, with wounded people being transported to the Hospital Leon and Lenin-Fonseca Hospital. [4]

See also

Related Research Articles

Subduction A geological process at convergent tectonic plate boundaries where one plate moves under the other

Subduction is a geological process that takes place at convergent boundaries of tectonic plates where one plate moves under another and is forced to sink due to high gravitational potential energy into the mantle. Regions where this process occurs are known as subduction zones. Rates of subduction are typically measured in centimeters per year, with the average rate of convergence being approximately two to eight centimeters per year along most plate boundaries.

Convergent boundary Region of active deformation between colliding lithospheric plates

A convergent boundary is an area on Earth where two or more lithospheric plates collide. One plate eventually slides beneath the other causing a process known as subduction. The subduction zone can be defined by a plane where many earthquakes occur, called the Benioff Zone. These collisions happen on scales of millions to tens of millions of years and can lead to volcanism, earthquakes, orogenesis, destruction of lithosphere, and deformation. Convergent boundaries occur between oceanic-oceanic lithosphere, oceanic-continental lithosphere, and continental-continental lithosphere. The geologic features related to convergent boundaries vary depending on crust types.

Juan de Fuca Plate small tectonic plate in the eastern North Pacific

The Juan de Fuca Plate is a tectonic plate generated from the Juan de Fuca Ridge that is subducting under the northerly portion of the western side of the North American Plate at the Cascadia subduction zone. It is named after the explorer of the same name. One of the smallest of Earth's tectonic plates, the Juan de Fuca Plate is a remnant part of the once-vast Farallon Plate, which is now largely subducted underneath the North American Plate.

Cascadia subduction zone Convergent plate boundary that stretches from northern Vancouver Island to Northern California

The Cascadia subduction zone is a convergent plate boundary that stretches from northern Vancouver Island in Canada to Northern California in the United States. It is a very long, sloping subduction zone where the Explorer, Juan de Fuca, and Gorda plates move to the east and slide below the much larger mostly continental North American Plate. The zone varies in width and lies offshore beginning near Cape Mendocino Northern California, passing through Oregon and Washington, and terminating at about Vancouver Island in British Columbia.

Manila Trench Oceanic trench in the Pacific Ocean, west of Luzon and Mindoro in the Philippines

The Manila Trench is an oceanic trench in the Pacific Ocean, located west of the islands of Luzon and Mindoro in the Philippines. The trench reaches a depth of about 5,400 metres (17,700 ft), in contrast with the average depth of the South China Sea of about 1,500 metres (4,900 ft). It is created by subduction, in which the Sunda Plate is subducting under the Philippine Mobile Belt, producing this almost N-S trending trench. The convergent boundary is terminated to the north by the Taiwan collision zone, and to the south by the Mindoro terrane. It is an area pervaded by negative gravity anomalies.

2006 Pangandaran earthquake and tsunami earthquake

The 2006 Pangandaran earthquake and tsunami occurred on July 17 at 15:19:27 local time along a subduction zone off the coast of west and central Java, a large and densely populated island in the Indonesian archipelago. The shock had a moment magnitude of 7.7 and a maximum perceived intensity of IV (Light) in Jakarta, the capital and largest city of Indonesia. There were no direct effects of the earthquake's shaking due to its low intensity, and the large loss of life from the event was due to the resulting tsunami, which inundated a 300 km (190 mi) portion of the Java coast that had been unaffected by the earlier 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami that was off the coast of Sumatra. The July 2006 earthquake was also centered in the Indian Ocean, 180 kilometers (110 mi) from the coast of Java, and had a duration of more than three minutes.

A slow earthquake is a discontinuous, earthquake-like event that releases energy over a period of hours to months, rather than the seconds to minutes characteristic of a typical earthquake. First detected using long term strain measurements, most slow earthquakes now appear to be accompanied by fluid flow and related tremor, which can be detected and approximately located using seismometer data filtered appropriately. That is, they are quiet compared to a regular earthquake, but not "silent" as described in the past.

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.

1963 Kuril Islands earthquake

The 1963 Kuril Islands earthquake occurred at 05:17 UTC, on October 13. The earthquake had a magnitude of 8.5 and was followed by a Mw=7.8 event seven days later. Both earthquakes triggered tsunamis that were observed around the northern part of the Pacific ocean.

1978 Miyagi earthquake earthquake

The 1978 Miyagi earthquake occurred at 17:14 local time on 12 June. It had a surface wave magnitude of 7.7, JMA magnitude 7.4, and triggered a small tsunami. The earthquake reached a maximum intensity of Shindo 5 in Sendai and caused 28 deaths and 1,325 injuries.

1996 Chimbote earthquake

The 1996 Chimbote earthquake occurred on February 21 at 07:51 local time about 130 km off the coast of northern Peru, near the Peru–Chile Trench. It was an earthquake of magnitude Mw 7.4.

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.

1958 Ecuador–Colombia earthquake

The 1958 Ecuador–Colombia earthquake struck the coastal regions of Ecuador and Colombia on January 19 with a surface wave magnitude of 7.6 at 9:07 local time. Approximately 30 percent of Esmeraldas (Ecuador) was destroyed, including the children's department of the hospital, where three children died. In all, 111 persons died and 45 were injured as a result of the earthquake. Water mains were broken and power transmission lines were damaged. The Esmeraldas-Quito highway collapsed at many places. Many other roads of the country were made impassable by cracks and fallen trees. According to press reports, a landslide from the slopes of the Andes at Panado village buried a hundred people. The earthquake was destructive in the cities on the northern coast of the country and was strong from Latacunga to Quito, Ibarra and Tulcán. It was felt at Guayaquil.

1942 Guatemala earthquake

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, and it was one of the strongest earthquakes ever recorded there.

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.

1979 Tumaco earthquake

The 1979 Tumaco earthquake occurred at 02:59 local time on 12 December with a moment magnitude of 8.2 and a maximum Mercalli intensity of IX (Violent). The epicenter was just offshore from the border between Ecuador and Colombia, near the port city of Tumaco. It triggered a major tsunami, which was responsible for most of the estimated 300–600 deaths. The hardest hit area was Colombia's Nariño Department.

1942 Peru earthquake

The 1942 Peru earthquake occurred on August 24 at 17:50 local time and was located near the border of the departments of Ica and Arequipa, Peru. It had a magnitude of Mw 8.2 or Ms 8.4.

1907 Sumatra earthquake

The 1907 Sumatra earthquake occurred on January 4 at 05:19:12 UTC. The estimated magnitude is 7.5–8.0 Ms, with an epicentre close to Simeulue, off Sumatra. It triggered a widespread and damaging tsunami that caused at least 2,188 deaths. The low observed intensity compared to the size of the tsunami has led to its interpretation as a tsunami earthquake. Higher levels of shaking observed on Nias are attributed to a large aftershock, less than an hour later. The tsunami gave rise to the S'mong legend, which is credited with saving many lives during the 2004 earthquake.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Significant Earthquakes of the World in 1992 Archived 2009-09-12 at the Wayback Machine United States Geological Survey
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Kanamori, Hiroo; Kikuchi, Masayuki (1993). "The 1992 Nicaragua earthquake: a slow tsunami earthquake associated with subducted sediments". Nature . 361 (361): 714–716. Bibcode:1993Natur.361..714K. doi:10.1038/361714a0.
  3. 1 2 3 Pararas-Carayannis, G. (2007). "The Earthquake and Tsunami of 2 September 1992 in Nicaragua". Archived from the original on 17 May 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-09.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Nicaragua Earthquake/Tsunami Situation Reports 1 – 7 United Nations Department of Humanitarian Affairs
  5. 1 2 Folger, Tim (1992). "Waves of destruction – tsunamis – Cover Story". Discovery. FindArticles.com. Archived from the original on 2005-01-25. Retrieved 2008-06-06.
  6. Hinman, Pip (1992-09-09). "Aid for Nicaragua". Green Left.
  7. Kikuchi, M.; Kanamori, H. (1995). "Source characteristics of the Nicaragua Tsunami Earthquake of September 2, 1992" (PDF). Pure and Applied Geophysics. 144 (3–4): 441–453. Bibcode:1995PApGe.144..441K. doi:10.1007/bf00874377. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-02-22. Retrieved 2014-02-16.
  8. 1 2 3 Satake, Kenji (1995). "Linear and nonlinear computations of the 1992 Nicaragua earthquake tsunami". Pure and Applied Geophysics. 144 (3–4): 455–70. Bibcode:1995PApGe.144..455S. doi:10.1007/BF00874378. hdl: 2027.42/43193 .
  9. Fernández-Arce, Mario; Alvarado-Delgado, Guillermo (2005). "Tsunamis and Tsunami Preparedness in Costa Rica, Central America" (PDF). ISET Journal of Earthquake Technology. Paper No. 466. 42 (4): 203–212. ISSN   0972-0405.