This past Monday 7 July 2014, 1:23:55 UTC, 60 km beneath the Earth’s surface the constant bump and grind of the Cocos tectonic plate as it continuously subducts under the North American plate triggered a M6.9 earthquake near its boundary with the Caribbean plate. Just 2 km NNE of Puerto Madero, Mexico and 204 km west of Guatemala City, Guatemala.
Initial reports indicate injuries, possible loss of life, and significant damage to buildings and residences in the immediate area, and as far away as Guatemala City. We await further reports from search and rescue operations, and damage assessments, before we may determine just how serious the impact of this seismic event really was.
The region where this event took place is part of the well-known Ring-of-Fire that circumscribes the Pacific Ocean from the southernmost tip of South America up the continent to Central America, Mexico, and Alaska, and around Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia, numerous South Pacific islands, all the way to New Zealand.
The region around the point of impact of the & July earthquake is one of the most active, having generated twelve M7.0 or greater earthquakes since 1902, a rather high annual probability of 10.7%. The historical record shows a M7.4 as recently as December 2012, a M7.7 in 1942 and a M7.8 in 1902.
Seismicity maps show how vulnerable that region is, so no one should be surprised if it continues to shake into the foreseeable future.
As long as the natural process of plate tectonics is ongoing this region, and the entire periphery of the Ring-of-Fire will continue to experience some persistent level of shaking punctuated here and there, at some intervals, by those M7.0 and higher events. What is clear is that our M6.9 on 7 July was not the big one or anywhere near it.
The Sun above will soon reach the limit of the northern tropics marking the advent of summer 2012 in the northern hemisphere, and the ocean-atmosphere below are already showing the results of all the additional solar energy being absorbed by way of large areas of disturbed weather, storms, increased rain, warmer sea surface waters, and other signs that the heat exchange process is actively underway.
Three ocean basins in particular, have been showing increased signs of weather instability as we approach the change in seasons, the central/northeastern Indian Ocean, the Northwestern Pacific, and of more interest to us in Florida because of its proximity: the Easter North Pacific basin.
In a pattern that has become prevalent over the past 2-3 years, the region ranging from northern South America, mainly Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador to Panama, Central America, Southern Mexico and a vast expanse of the eastern Pacific Ocean adjacent to these coastlines, has seen a nearly continuous transit of tropical waves coming in from the Atlantic, and the generation of tropical waves and cells of disturbed weather over Pacific Ocean waters offshore Central America and southern Mexico. In 2012 this pattern of tropical activity became noticeable toward the end of March and even more so in April and May, and it has already generated tropical storm Aletta that was active from 14 May through the 19th, and major hurricane Cat. 3 Bud from 21 May through the 26th of the same month.
So far during the month of June 2012 the Eastern North Pacific basin appears to have entered a new phase of even higher activity. Sea surface waters in some areas of the basin have been above 30 degrees Celsius, tropical wave generation has been abundant leading to numerous instances of extreme rain and thunderstorms events in Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Southern Mexico, with some flash flooding events as well. As of 11 June there were two areas of disturbed weather to the west of Nicaragua and Guatemala that exhibited some potentially cyclonic characteristics warranting close monitoring.
Elsewhere in the northern tropics, tropical storm GUCHOL in the northwestern Pacific is moving west by northwest in the general direction of the Philippines and Taiwan, and the Indian ocean, the Indian subcontinent and southeast Asia have been experiencing large amounts of rain as the onset of the Asia Monsoon takes hold of that vast region.
The Atlantic basin has been a different story in 2012. On the one hand the 2012 Atlantic Hurricane Season got an early start when trow tropical storm Alberto and Beryl developed to the west of central Florida and southeast of Georgia, with Beryl actually moving westward and coming over land before veering northward and eventually making a full 180 degree turn toward the northeast. Since then the overall basin has been rather quiet with respect to tropical cyclone activity, although the Gulf and the northern Caribbean have seen plenty of disturbed, stormy weather over the course of several weeks. Looking farther east toward the eastern Atlantic and equatorial Africa the combined tropical wave assembly line – hurricane alley have remain mostly quiet despite sporadic flare-ups of storm cells overland and along the ‘alley’. It should be noted that the northern Atlantic’s surface waters remain much cooler than in previous years at this time, with a rather large region extending well south of the Cape Verde Islands where sea surface temperatures are in the low to mid 20 Celsius; this can be observed in the image below:
13 June 2012:Latest News
Quite interesting! Just as I was about to publish this brief post the National Hurricane Center issued an advisory for this sub-basin indicating tropical storm CARLOTTA, the 3rd named storm of the eastern Pacific 2012 hurricane season, has developed near the coast of southern Mexico. There are now two active tropical cyclones in the larger Pacific Ocean basin!
Also in the Eastern North Pacific sub-basin, there is an area of low pressure to the west of Tropical Storm CARLOTTA’s current location that may warrant close monitoring as it exhibits some characteristics that might lead to further development.
15 June 2012: Latest News
CARLOTTA is now a category 1 hurricane moving northwest with maximum sustained winds of 130 kph near the Pacific coast of Mexico. Per the latest discussion emanating from the National Hurricane Center a Hurricane Hunter airplane was in route to get a fix on the latest intensity and tracking data, but based on previous advisories CARLOTTA appears to be continuing to intensify, while its track has shifted closer to the Mexican coast where it might make landfall some time in the morning of Saturday 16 June. Various atmospheric features are at play to the north and west of the system’s current location, which may alter its course over the next 24-36 hours. This is definitely one to monitor closely by all communities along the Mexican Pacific coastal region.