Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Is the Entire Caribbean Plate on the move?

Lost among all the human tragedy and triumph in the wake of the Haitian Earthquake a few headlines have been catching my eye in the last week:

Jan 12 Earthquake in Haiti (mag 7.0)
Jan 15 Earthquake on coast of Venezuala (mag 5.4)
Jan 18 Earthquake off coast of Guatemala (mag 6.0)
and the latest, today:
Jan 19 Cayman Islands earthquake (mag 5.8)

Looks like I'm not the only one noticing the trend. But I'm wondering, is this "cluster" of reported earthquakes in the media all around the periphery of the Caribbean Plate just a case of heightened media awareness or an indication of much more significant things shaking out deep below?

These are just the bigger quakes - I notice from the USGS that there was a somewhat smaller quake (mag. 4.7) in Panama/Costa Rica today; another mag 4.7 in Columbia on Saturday, and a dozen or so in the Leeward Islands (just to the East of Haiti/ Dominican Republic).  Those in proximity to Hispaniola may be close enough to the Hatian epicenter (in time and space) to be considered aftershocks - I don't know.  But it's looking like it's own little mini- "Ring of Fire" down in the Caribbean lately.

While I certainly don't want to wish any more destruction on anyone, my Inner Geek is waiting to see where the next round of activity comes from. My bet? The active volcanoes along the eastern subduction zone (Lesser Antilles) on Montserrat, Martinique, etc.

I watched a documentary about recent theories involving "earthquake storms" that speculate, in short that slippage along a fault at one location causes additional stress to build up further along and can trigger a series of earthquakes one after another.  Sometimes within hours, other times years apart.  This makes perfect sense to me and I like to envision tectonic plates/faults as the vertebrae along the backbone of Mother Earth, and earthquakes as her natural spinal adjustments. In my mind, it's just like when I go to the chiropractor and they "crack" one pivotal, tension-filled spot and the release of that tension triggers the release of several other adjacent vertebrae, resulting in that ever-satisfying "crack crack crack" up and down my spine.

Anyway, I hope for the sake of everyone in the Caribbean that Mother nature is done shrugging her shoulders. 


sandraj said...

Thanks for the Geography leson. I was wondering about a small ring of fire in the Caribbean.

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