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Mexico studies old earthquakes to determine new ones

Mexico City, Mexico — Mexico will be the third country in the world to implement state-of-the-art technology to study old earthquakes and tsunamis in order to predict new ones.

María Teresa Ramírez Herrera, researcher at the Institute of Geography, said that Mexico is the third country to use the  Geoslicer  for the study of ancient earthquakes and tsunamis.

The technology is capable of “detecting seismic and tidal hazards in the so-called Guerrero breach, where large earthquakes have not occurred since 1911, and where a major earthquake could occur.”

The tool will allow scientists to know ahead of time of the possibility of earthquakes with magnitude greater than 7 while providing information that determines possible distances and maximum flood heights caused by tsunamis.

With this information, risk prevention and mitigation actions can be taken to protect the population during such disasters. “It will also be possible to corroborate the historical information on earthquakes and tsunamis documented in the last centuries,” explained the researcher.

According to data, the largest earthquake to ever hit Mexico occurred in 1787. “It is estimated to have been a magnitude 8.6 that it caused a very large tsunami that, according to historical documents, could have flooded up to five kilometers inland and reached a flood height of up to 20 meters,” said Ramírez Herrera.

She says the Geoslider has been donated to Mexico by Japan as part of the Alliance for Research in Science and Technology for Sustainable Development. It is part of the Assessment of the danger associated with large earthquakes and tsunamis in the Mexican Pacific coast for disaster mitigation project led by Yoshihiro Ito of the Kyoto University and Víctor Cruz Atienza of the Institute of Geophysics of the University of Mexico.

Their project is supported by the Agency of International Cooperation of Japan. A team of scientists is already doing analysis of samples with members of the Geography and Geophysics institutes in Mexico. The University of Kyoto will also participate.

The results will be sent to two laboratories in the United States to determine when the earthquakes occurred. In May, more measurements will be taken in the field and results produced later this year. The only other country to implement the Geoslicer aside from Mexico and Japan is the United States.

Mexico is hit with dozens of earthquakes each year and thousands of aftershocks, most of which occur along the Pacific Coast. The most recent was the 4.2 magnitude quake southwest of Los Cabos in March.