List of earthquakes in Guatemala
Earthquakes are relatively frequent occurrences in Guatemala. The country lies in a major fault zone known as the Motagua and Chixoy-Polochic fault complex, which cuts across Guatemala and forms the tectonic boundary between the Caribbean plate and the North American plate. In addition, along Guatemala's western coast line, the Cocos plate pushes against the Caribbean plate, forming a subduction zone known as the Middle America Trench located approximately 50 km off Guatemala's Pacific coast. This subduction zone led to the formation of the Central America Volcanic Arc, and is an important source of offshore earthquakes. Both these major tectonic processes have generated deformations within the Caribbean plate and produced secondary fault zones, like the Mixco, Jalpatagua, and Santa Catarina Pinula faults.
The most destructive earthquake in recent Guatemalan history was the 1976 quake with a magnitude of 7.5 Mw and a hypocenter depth of just 5 km. This shallow-focus earthquake, originating from the Motagua Fault, caused 23,000 fatalities, leaving 76,000 injured and causing widespread material damage. Surprisingly, the 7.9 Mw earthquake of 1942, though higher in magnitude, was much less destructive, in part because of its substantially deeper hypocenter depth of 60 km.
A number of earthquakes with low magnitudes caused major damage in very localized areas, which may in part be explained by their relatively shallow depth. This was the case with the 1985 Uspantán earthquake of 5.0 Mw with a depth of 5 km, which destroyed most buildings in the town of Uspantán, but caused little or no damage in the rest of the country.
Guatemala is in constant earthquake activity. However, there are some earthquakes that are more notable due to the damage they've caused. Notable earthquakes in recent Guatemalan history include the following:
|1717 Guatemala earthquake||
1717-09-29||Antigua Guatemala||7.4 Mi||~IX||Modified Mercalli intensity estimated at IX|
|1751 Guatemala earthquake||
|1765 Guatemala earthquake||
1765-10-24||Ostuncalco (Quetzaltenango)||7.6-8.2 Mi||~VII||Modified Mercalli intensity estimated at VII. Duration of shaking reported at 7–8 minutes, which may indicate possible rupture up to Chiapas.|
|1773 Guatemala earthquake||
1773-07-29||Antigua Guatemala||7.5 Mi||~VIII||On July 29 of 1773, and the following months, a series of strong earthquakes shook Antigua Guatemala and left most of the city in rubble. Also called Santa Marta earthquakes.|
|1816 Guatemala earthquake||
1816-07-22|| Alta Verapaz
|7.5 Mi||~VII||Modified Mercalli intensity estimated at VII, covering 13,000 km2|
|1902 Guatemala earthquake||
| 14°54′N 91°30′W / 14.90°N 91.50°W
|7.5 Ms||25 ||See also: 1902 Guatemala earthquake. This earthquake may be related to the colossal eruption of the Santa María volcano on 24-10-1902, which killed at least 5000 people.||800-2000|
|1913 Guatemala earthquake||
| near Cuilapa
|5.0||6.5 km||Destroyed the town of Cuilapa||60|
|1917 Guatemala earthquake||
|Guatemala City||5.6||VII-IX||Several foreshocks since November 27, 1917 have preceded this quake.||250|
|1918 Guatemala earthquake||
04:30.10 and 04:32.25 LT
|near Guatemala City||6.0||VI||Magnitude estimate by INSUVIMEH|
|1942 Guatemala earthquake||
| 13°54′N 90°48′W / 13.9°N 90.8°W
|7.9||60 km||8.3 Ms, according to Insivumeh. 38 deaths, many injured, and widespread material damage. Additional damage due to landslides.||38|
|1959 Guatemala earthquake||
| 15°56′N 90°35′W / 15.94°N 90.59°W
|1976 Guatemala earthquake||
| 15°19′N 89°06′W / 15.32°N 89.10°W
|7.5||X||5 km||Activated destructive aftershocks in the Mixco Fault near Guatemala City. See also:1976 Guatemala earthquake||23,000|
|1985 Guatemala earthquake||
| 15°18′N 90°54′W / 15.3°N 90.9°W
|5.0||VII||5 km||Major damage in the town of Uspantán (80% of buildings affected)|
|1988 Guatemala earthquake||
| 13°52′52″N 90°27′00″W / 13.881°N 90.450°W
San Vicente Pacaya
|6.0||VI||69 km||5 casualties||5|
|1991 Guatemala earthquake||
| 14°24.12′N 91°03.06′W / 14.40200°N 91.05100°W
|5.3||VII||32 km||Destroyed 80% of the town of San Miguel Pochuta||25|
|1993 Chiapas earthquake||
| 14°43′01″N 92°38′42″W / 14.717°N 92.645°W
offshore Chiapas, San Marcos department
|7.2||34 km||Caused 1 casualty and considerable material damage in southwestern Guatemala where some roads were blocked due to rockslides. Some damage in parts of Chiapas.||1|
|1995 Guatemala earthquake||
| 15°18′04″N 90°09′14″W / 15.301°N 90.154°W
|1998 Guatemala earthquake||
| 14°22′26″N 91°28′23″W / 14.374°N 91.473°W
Santo Domingo Suchitepéquez
|6.6||VII, VI||33 km||16 people injured in Quezaltenango, 3 injured in San Marcos, 5 injured in Guatemala city. Buildings damaged in the Quezaltenango and San Marcos Departments. A number of houses destroyed in Solola Department.|
|1998 Guatemala earthquake (March)||
| 13°52.92′N 91°52.38′W / 13.88200°N 91.87300°W
offshore Pacific Ocean
|5.6||V, III||33 km|
|2007 Guatemala earthquake||
| 13°37′23″N 90°47′49″W / 13.623°N 90.797°W
offshore Pacific Ocean
115 km southwest of Guatemala City
|6.7||23 km||See also: 2007 Guatemala earthquake||0|
|2008 Guatemala earthquake||
| 13°42′54″N 90°55′16″W / 13.715°N 90.921°W
offshore Pacific Ocean
120 km southwest of Guatemala City
|2009 Guatemala earthquake||
| 14°35′N 91°05′W / 14.58°N 91.08°W
South of Patzún
55 km (35 miles) ESE of Quezaltenango
|2010 Guatemala earthquake||
| 15°59′02″N 91°23′10″W / 15.984°N 91.386°W
20 km north of San Mateo Ixtatán
|5.6||10 km||The earthquake was preceded by a magnitude 5.3 quake on February 23, 2010 at 10:52:15 UTC with its epicentre located at 16°02′53″N 91°13′48″W / 16.048°N 91.230°W (10 km depth) A magnitude 5.3 quake followed in the same region on March 20, 2010, at 16°02′49″N 91°14′10″W / 16.047°N 91.236°W (82.4 km depth).|
|2011 Guatemala earthquake||
| 14°19′55″N 90°08′31″W / 14.332°N 90.142°W
53 km south-east of Guatemala City
|5.8||VII||9 km||The earthquake was preceded by a magnitude 4.8 quake about 30 minutes earlier, and followed by two smaller quakes.||3|
|2012 Guatemala earthquake||
|13°59′13″N 91°57′54″W / 13.987°N 91.965°W||7.4||VII||24.1 km||The earthquake was preceded by 3 magnitude 4-5 quakes the prior week.||42|
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- Seismic data of Guatemala, Retrieved on July 28, 2008
- details on Historic Earthquakes in Guatemala. Retrieved on July 28, 2008.
- Instituto Nacional de Sismología, Vulcanología, Meteorología e Hidrolagía (INSIVUMEH)
- Guatemala - Earthquake information by Earthquake Engineering Research Institute