Monday, April 2, 2012

Another 6.3 Quake Hits Mexico

A magnitude 6.3 quake struck the Oaxaca region of Mexico today, near the area where the large mag 7.6 quake hit a couple weeks ago. This is the largest aftershock thus far from the 7.6 tremblor. Housing and property were damaged by the large quake, however injuries and fatalities were thankfully very low due to citizens being well prepared for evacuating. Mexico, like the West Coast of the US, is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, an arc of subduction faults and volcanoes spanning the rim of the Pacific plate.

The quake was centered in the Western corner of the state of Oaxaca, approximately 2 miles away from the epicenter of the 7.6 quake. The quake was felt as far away as Mexico City due to the composition of the earths crust (a mix of clay sediments, and volcanic ash), which is a good conductor for seismic waves.

No volcanic unrest has been associated with these quakes. Several rumors were circulated that Popocatepetl might have been 'disturbed' by the shaking, however the volcano continues to act normally, only occasionally puffing our steam, or small amounts of ash.

Mexico is very familiar with earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Central Mexico is home to thousands of cinder cones, vents, stratovolcanoes, and calderas. Popocatepetl is Mexico's most active volcano, having erupted fairly regularly in historical time.

The current seismicity is associated with the collision and subduction of the Pacific Plate and the North American plate, and is not volcanically related. Some quakes can and do disturb volcanoes, and can destabilize magma chambers, but most volcanoes in Mexico are long dormant, or too far from the quake epicenter to be affected in any serious way, so there is probably no risk of heightened volcanic activity as a result of the recent quakes.

*****UPDATE*****
The quake was downgraded to a 6.0 later by USGS. No reports of damage or injuries have been made apparent.

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