Increased stress along Mexico’s seismic faults caused by September’s two large earthquakes may have more than doubled the chance of another powerful quake striking next year, a noted seismologist suggested this week.
“Earthquakes tend to beget earthquakes,” Ross Stein said during a presentation of his research at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union, reported The Washington Post.
The longtime United States Geological Survey scientist and CEO and co-founder of the earthquake awareness company Temblor explained that while the twin earthquakes relieved stress on the faults that slipped, they added stress to other faults, bringing them closer to eventual failure.
A previous prediction of a 25% chance that Mexico will experience another significant earthquake of magnitude 7 or more in 2018 could now be as high as 55%, Stein warned.
Scientists from Mexico and Japan who collaborated to develop a new network to monitor the Guerrero seismic gap also believe that an accumulation of energy in that region will likely eventually trigger a significant earthquake. Two tectonic plates are grinding together in the area, making it particularly prone to seismic activity.
However, the seismologist added that there is no evidence that the September 7 and September 19 earthquakes were connected despite the likelihood of two large temblors occurring within such a brief period out of sheer coincidence being just one in 200.
The probability of the September 19 earthquake occurring on the exact same day as the even more destructive 1985 earthquake was far lower, at just one in 900,000, but “we have to remember coincidences do happen,” Stein said.
National Autonomous University (UNAM) seismologist Xyoli Pérez Campos agreed that the two earthquakes were unconnected but added that the country remains susceptible and shaky.
There have been more than 13,000 aftershocks of the September 7 earthquake and seismic activity in the south of the country, especially the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region, is virtually a daily occurrence.
Given that predicting exactly when another earthquake may occur continues to be extremely difficult, Stein hopes that rather than causing fear and alarm the increased probability of another big quake will encourage people to better prepare for the eventuality, adding that the quality of infrastructure is crucial.
“If we can build right, earthquakes will take no lives and do no damage,” he said.
As rebuilding efforts continue in several states across Mexico, authorities will do well to heed his advice.
There has been no shortage of innovative ideas with bamboo, PVC piping, PET bottles, aluminum and even adobe all put forward as alternative and resilient materials with which to build sustainable, quake-resistant homes.
Close to 500 people died in the two earthquakes including residents of one relatively new Mexico City apartment building, further underscoring the importance of not only strict building codes but also ensuring that they are complied with.
Source: The Washington Post (en)