1:53 PM – Minor Earthquake Jolts St. Kitts & Nevis

At 1:53 PM Tuesday 24th March 2020, a preliminary Magnitude 3.2 (Md or Mt) earthquake occurred 12.78 KM E of Basseterre, St. Kitts & Nevis, 73.11 KM NW of Brades, Montserrat and 87.75 KM WNW of St. John’s, Antigua & Barbuda.

This event occurred at a depth of 20.78 Kilometers. This information (above) is preliminary from the U.W.I. Seismic Research Centre, the authority for seismic and volcanological information in the Eastern Caribbean. Quake parameters such as location, depth, and magnitude may change upon review from a seismologist at the SRC.

Preliminary information from the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Centre concerning the M3.2 earthquake east of St. Kitts

This event was felt in St. Kitts. You can submit felt reports to the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Centre.

There is no tsunami threat.

There are four conditions necessary for an earthquake to cause a tsunami:

  1. The earthquake must occur beneath the ocean or cause material to slide in the ocean.
  2. The earthquake must be strong, at least magnitude 6.5.
  3. The earthquake must rupture the Earth’s surface and it must occur at shallow depth – less than 70 KM below the surface of the Earth.
  4. The earthquake must cause vertical movement of the seafloor (up to several meters).

None of these conditions occurred.

Note that across the globe, different seismic monitoring agencies use different methods, or several methods, for processing quake parameters. Each method has its limitations and will likely produce different results within the ranges of the uncertainty of that data. This is generally accepted within the scientific community.

Seismicity in this area is not uncommon, with 30 quakes occurring with 10 kilometers of the epicenter of this quake since 1960. The strongest event occurring within this 10-kilometer area was a magnitude 5.8 on November 8th, 1961. All other quakes in the past have generally registered below magnitude 5.0. Depths of earthquakes in this area are variable, generally occurring between 100-200 kilometer depth within the subducting slab of the North American plate under the Caribbean plate, but few quakes have occurred between 0-50 kilometers deep.

Earthquakes *cannot* be predicted – meaning the precise time, date, magnitude, depth, etc. cannot be known ahead of time based on current research and technology.

Generally, across the Eastern Caribbean, a seismically active area, earthquakes of this magnitude, up to M8.0 and greater, are possible and this statement has been repeated by seismologists at the U.W.I. Seismic Research Centre for decades.

Each year, over 2,200 seismic events are recorded in the Eastern Caribbean. On average, the Eastern Caribbean has seen a pattern of major (M7.0-M7.9) quakes every 20 to 30 years. That pattern has stayed true. The last major (M7.0-7.9) quake occurred north of Martinique in 2007. 

Historical patterns indicate great quakes (M8.0+) on the Richter Scale have occurred every century or so in the region. The probability of another event at that level is high since the last >M8.0 earthquake occurred in 1843.

Now is the time to create or go over your earthquake preparedness plan and know what to do during, before and after an earthquake. See here for more details.

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