Mexico's strongest earthquake in a century recorded at Mt. Rainier

By: Ashli Blow, KIRO 7 News Digital Producer

Updated:

Seismic stations on Mount Rainier recorded Mexico’s magnitude 8.1 earthquake, the strongest to hit the country in nearly a century.

The deadly earthquake’s epicenter was in the Pacific Ocean nearly 74 miles off the coast of Mexico. The Chiapas and Oaxaca states – home to 9 million people – were closest to the epicenter, and they are left with casualties and rubble of collapsed buildings in its wake.

On the other side of the continent, some of the 11 seismograph stations on Mount Rainier picked up distant recordings of the powerful earthquake. 

The recording picked up on Mount Rainier stations. Image: PNSN

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“The whole mountain was ringing from this earthquake,” said Pacific Northwest Seismic Network director of communication and outreach Bill Steele,

Distant recordings are not unusual. 

Sensitive international seismographs, such as the ones on Mount Rainier, pick up events with magnitudes of about 4.5 or greater. The tools magnify ground motion – the movement of the earth's surface from earthquakes or explosions – as it travels through the earth and along its surface.

As the instruments have the ability to measure local seismic events, it can also take what's called teleseismic recordings. That's when an earthquake is measured more than 1,000 kilometers from the actual event 

These distant recordings contribute to global research in disasters such as the one in Mexico. Local seismologists observe the events and then collaborate on real-time data. 

Image of M8.1 quake's epicenter. Image: USGS

“A scientist in Japan and Mexico can use that data in real time for research to study that earthquake ... The data is shared freely in the USGS," Steele said. “First arrivals from around the world create a picture of how the fault broke and slipped by going backward to image where the energy was and how it was processed."

As it does with every big earthquake, the United States Geological Survey is providing preliminary impact information and interactive maps on this resource page about the devastating Mexico quake so that the public can better understand the events leading up to the event.

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