On Tuesday afternoon, a major magnitude 7.7 earthquake struck off the coast of Jamaica. The shaking could reportedly be felt on land and tsunami warnings went up for Belize, the Cayman Islands, Cuba, Honduras, Mexico, and Jamaica.
The U.S. Geological Survey issued a report on the quake just before 2:30 p.m. local time. It was recorded 77 miles north of Lucea, Jamaica and occurred at a depth of 6.2 miles. The agency has received 288 reports from users who felt the earthquake.
In response, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issue tsunami warnings across the region. Any tsunamis are forecast reach from 0.3 to 1 meters (1-3 feet) above average the normal tide. The low tsunami risk is largely due to the type of quake known as a slip-strike earthquake.
The M7.7 Jamaican quake produced sideways motion on the fault, so the tsunami risk is low. (Seafloor should move up to make tsunami.) But if I'm ever at the beach and feel strong shaking, I move to high ground. Downside is I lose a day at the beach. The upside could be my life.
— Dr. Lucy Jones (@DrLucyJones) January 28, 2020
Data kept by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows this was one of the strongest earthquakes on record for the region. The last earthquake stronger than this occurred in 1946 off the coast of the Dominican Republic.
The Caribbean has been fairly active over the past month. This earthquake follows weeks of activity in Puerto Rico, including a quake that knocked out power to the entire island. The territory is still reeling from it and the aftershocks. The government announced on Tuesday that nearly 63,000 people are still in shelters. Schools reopened this week, though just 20 percent of the island’s schools have been deemed safe enough to be opened.
The earthquake off Jamaica is much stronger than the ones that have rattled Puerto Rico, though it was far enough out to sea that there were not any immediate reports of damage. While in the same region, the earthquakes in Puerto Rico and Jamaica appear to have struck on separate faults. So no, it’s probably not a sign of impending doom.
Featured image: USGS