Unrevealing the History of Earthquakes and Tsunamis of the Mexican Subduction Zone
Monday, 15 December 2014
The great earthquakes and tsunamis of the last decades in Sumatra, Chile, and Japan remind us of the need for expanding the record of history of such catastrophic events. It can’t be argued that even countries with extensive historical documents and tsunami sand deposits still have unsolved questions on the frequency of them, and the variables that control them along subduction zones. We present here preliminary results of a combined approach using historical archives and multiple proxies of the sedimentary record to unrevealing the history of possible great earthquakes and their tsunamis on the Mexican Subduction zone. The Mexican subduction zone extends over 1000 km long and little is known if the entire subduction zone along the Middle American Trench behaves as one enormous unit rather than in segments that rupture at different frequencies and with different strengths (as the short instrumental record shows). We searched on historical archives and earthquake databases to distinguish tsunamigenic events registered from the 16th century to now along the Jalisco-Colima and Guerrero-Oaxaca coastal stretches. The historical data referred are mostly from the 19th century on since the population on the coast was scarce before. We found 21 earthquakes with tsunamigenic potential, and of those 16 with doubtful to definitive accompanying tsunami on the Jalisco-Colima coast, and 31 tsunamigenic earthquakes on the Oaxaca-Guerrero coast. Evidence of great earthquakes and their tsunamis from the sedimentary record are scarce, perhaps due poor preservation of tsunami deposits in this tropical environment. Nevertheless, we have found evidence for a number of tsunamigenic events, both historical and prehistorical, 1932 and 1400 AD on Jalisco, and 3400 BP, 1789 AD, 1979 ad, and 1985 AD on Guerrero-Oaxaca. We continue working and a number of events are still to be dated. This work would aid in elucidating the history of earthquakes and tsunamis on the Mexican subduction zone.