Mexico Earthquake Caused Waves at California’s Death Valley: A cave in Death Valley is surrounded by 4-foot waves caused by an earthquake in Mexico. The quake, which struck Colima and Michoacán in western Mexico on September 19, had a magnitude of 7.6.
The repercussions of the earthquake’s vibrations could be observed in Death Valley’s Devil’s Hole over a thousand miles distant in the form of big waves in the cave’s water. On the California/Nevada border, some 130 miles west of Las Vegas, is Death Valley, the location of the warmest temperature ever recorded on Earth.
Death Valley can become as hot as 134 degrees Fahrenheit and only receives 2.2 inches of rain annually, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. While the park is typically arid, Devil’s Hole is a network of wet geothermal caverns.
According to the National Park Service, only 100 and 180 Devil’s Hole pupfish are left in the wild. This oasis is their only remaining natural habitat. Even though Devil’s Hole is almost 430 feet deep, pupfish only live in the top 80 feet.
The water in Devil’s Hole is often calm, abundant in carbonate, and low in oxygen. It is about 93 degrees Fahrenheit on average. The algae that grow in the warm, quiet waters is what the pupfish rely on.
However, this week’s earthquake was so strong that, 22 minutes after the original tremor in Mexico, its shockwaves caused 4-foot-high waves to crash across the cave system.
At 11:05 a.m. local time, a 7.6-magnitude earthquake occurred close to the Colima-Michoacan border (PDT; 1:05 p.m. at the epicenter). Staff from the National Park Service (NPS) who did the study on-site saw the results firsthand.
The normally motionless pool water started to move slowly after five minutes and soon developed into waves several feet high. In a Facebook post, the Death Valley National Park noted.
In Devil’s Hole, standing waves from the 2012 Guerrero-Oaxaca, the 2018 Gulf of Alaska, and the 2019 Ridgecrest earthquakes swept algae from the rocks, including eggs and larva, disrupting the fishes’ access to food. Following these earthquakes, a similar population surge took place.
Other unusual water-related weather occurrences have occurred in Death Valley recently, including severe rains that followed the California heat wave at the beginning of September, which generated flash flooding and waterfalls that were so devastating that they seriously damaged the road infrastructure.
NPS believes that even if the fish are threatened and accustomed to their calm pool, the waves may encourage spawning, leading to more fish being born in Devil’s Hole.
— KSNV News 3 Las Vegas (@News3LV) September 22, 2022
According to Death Valley National Park, “the very Devil’s Hole pupfish (Cyprinodon diabolis) has fortunately evolved with these types of periodic natural shocks, and they were fine and swimming (happily?) afterward.”
Staff anticipates an increase in spawning activity over the coming days, which should ideally result in even more recruits joining the population, keeping with past observations.