5:56 AM – Light Earthquake West of Trinidad

At 5:56 AM Tuesday 16th June 2020, a preliminary Magnitude 4.0 (Md or Mt) earthquake occurred 24 km SW of Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, 40 km NW of San Fernando, Trinidad and Tobago and 47 km WSW of Arima, Trinidad and Tobago.

This event occurred at a depth of 10 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 M4.0 Earthquake west of Trinidad.
Preliminary information from the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Centre concerning the M4.0 Earthquake west of Trinidad.

This event was not widely reported felt. 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 74 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 of 4.5 in 1973. All other quakes, except 4 events, in the past have registered below magnitude 4.0. Depths of earthquakes in this area occur between 0-25 kilometer depth but quakes, as deep as 115 KM, have occurred.

This quake occurred along one of the many strike-slip faults in the Gulf of Paria, in Seismic Zone Three.

The Gulf of Paria is yet another very faulted, seismically complex area surrounding Trinidad. At this zone, the extension of the Los Bajos fault from southwestern Trinidad, and the Warm Springs Fault from Central Trinidad meets the El Pilar fault. This complex network of faults also includes small, conjugate, or perpendicular faults.

High levels of seismic activity occur in this zone, with both shallow and moderate depth earthquakes, generally remaining less than 50 kilometers depth. The UWI SRC has stated during a Q&A of the earthquake swarm between January and February 2018, this location is capable of generating a magnitude 6.5 or greater earthquake.

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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