UCSB Science Line
Sponge Spicules Nerve Cells Galaxy Abalone Shell Nickel Succinate X-ray Lens Lupine
UCSB Science Line
How it Works
Ask a Question
Search Topics
Our Scientists
Science Links
Contact Information
Is the earthquake which recently took place in Mexico City related to the previous one close to the Ithsmus of Tehuantepec?
Question Date: 2017-10-07
Answer 1:

Seismologists have long sought to understand the correlations between earthquakes. There is some evidence that a large earthquake at one location can trigger and earthquake in a more distant region. This is because when a large quake occurs it modifies the distribution of stress in the earth’s crust… and if a fracture exists somewhere that is CLOSE to failure (movement) then the stress waves from the distant quake can actually trigger movement. This is a small effect however.

Answer 2:

Great question! Mexico is highly susceptible to earthquakes because it is located near three fault lines. Fault lines are places where tectonic plates meet one another. Tectonic plates are the large masses of crust that make up the surface of Earth, and can shift around Earth's surface like jigsaw puzzle pieces. As these plates push, pull, and scrape past each other, they build up large amounts of pressure, and occasionally that pressure ruptures and those plates suddenly shift positions. That energy is released as waves that travel through Earth, and can be felt as an earthquake at Earth's surface. The recent earthquake that devastated Mexico City occurred where the Cocos Plate is pushing underneath the North American Plate.

The Isthmus of Tehuantepec is also along the boundary of the Cocos Plate pushing underneath the North American Plate. Though it is unlikely these two earthquakes were related because they occurred along very different portions of the fault lines. However, seismologists will continue to study the aftershocks and propagation patterns to better understand if the earlier earthquake off the southern coast added more stress to the fault that was already about to rupture near Mexico City.

There is a great article covering the relationship between these two earthquakes in Science Magazine Mexico earthquake . I encourage you to check it out!


Answer 3:

Mexico City is part of the central Mexican volcanic belt, which is created by the Cocos plate subducting underneath the North American plate. This subduction causes both earthquakes and volcanoes, and the moving magma under the volcanoes causes more earthquakes. The quake under Mexico City is more likely related to the volcanoes while the quake under Tehuantepec was more likely related to the subduction itself, but yes, they are part of the same fault system, just as the earthquakes in Los Angeles, California are created by the same fault system that creates the Sierra Nevada mountains in California, which in turn causes more quakes around Reno, Nevada.

Answer 4:

No, the 2 earthquakes in Mexico are probably not related. They're too far away, and they're on different fault lines of the tectonic plate.

Here's an article that tells more:
read here

Answer 5:

The two earthquakes to recently strike near Mexico City and off the coast of Mexico are indeed related. Along the western edge of Mexico lies the Middle American Trench, which is a subduction zone. The earth is made up of a bunch of moving plates (called tectonic plates) and a subduction zone is a type of plate boundary in which one of these plates is diving beneath another plate. The region near Mexico is a great example of this because southwest of Mexico (southwestern side of the Middle American Trench) an oceanic plate is diving beneath the plate that Mexico sits upon (the northeastern side of the trench)! The two figures below show the locations of the two earthquakes in and near Mexico, shown as yellow stars.

figure one
figure two

In the figures, you can also see a red line just off the coast of Mexico that is tracing the Middle American Trench. This trench is the result of the subduction zone where one plate is diving beneath the other plate.

As one plate dives beneath the other, the two plates scrape against each other and this scraping and movement of one plate beneath the other causes shaking at the surface of Earth that are the very large earthquakes that we have recently seen near Mexico. You can read more about these earthquakes by visiting

for the Mexico City earthquake and for the earthquake off the coast of Mexico .

Answer 6:

Both the earthquake near Itsmo de Tehuantepec and Mexico City formed in rock from the Pacific Ocean. The rock from the ocean is moving towards Mexico and Guatemala and diving below them. But the rock can only bend so much. So parts of the continent or the rock from the Pacific break and cause earthquakes.

I usually imagine a long loaf of bread. If you bend the loaf or stretch it, parts of it will make cracks. In this case, the rock from the Pacific is the bread and the cracks are places where the rocks break and make earthquakes.

Click Here to return to the search form.

University of California, Santa Barbara Materials Research Laboratory National Science Foundation
This program is co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation and UCSB School-University Partnerships
Copyright © 2020 The Regents of the University of California,
All Rights Reserved.
UCSB Terms of Use