Did Hurricane Irma Cause The Mexico Earthquake? It All Comes Down To The "Ring Of Fire"


This has not been a good week for natural disasters, with three hurricanes in the Atlantic, one of them the strongest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded, and now a magnitude 8 earthquake off the coast of Mexico. No matter how strong that monster storm is, though, Hurricane Irma did not cause the earthquake in Mexico. There's been a lot of research done on the subject, but scientists have been unable to find any connection between earthquakes and the weather. While there is some speculation that strong hurricanes can cause fault slippage leading to seismic waves, Hurricane Irma could not have produced such an effect given how far away it was from the epicenter of the Mexico earthquake.

You may have already connected Hurricane Irma to earthquakes earlier this week, when it was reported that Irma was strong enough to register on seismometers, or the machines that measure earthquakes. What that meant, however, was simply that the waves, wind, and shaking trees and structures that Irma was causing on various Caribbean islands were causing the ground to shake minutely. This essentially created background noise that the seismometers picked up — but Irma did not actually cause any earthquakes. And if it were to induce minor fault slippage that could cause earthquakes, it would only happen in the area subjected to the hurricane's strongest winds — which Mexico's Chiapas state is decidedly not.

If you study earthquakes, it's not too difficult to figure out what caused the Mexico earthquake. Encircling much of the Pacific Ocean is the so-called "Pacific Ring of Fire," a vaguely horseshoe-shaped arc of fault lines and seismic activity. The earth's crust is formed from tectonic plates, and these plates are constantly moving past, over, and under one another. When enough pressure builds up along the fault line, or the meeting of these tectonic plates, the rock there breaks and it causes an earthquake. The plates along the Pacific Ring of Fire are extremely active, which means that there are a lot of earthquakes and volcanoes along that ring. To be exact, 90 percent of all earthquakes occur along the Ring of Fire, and you can find 75 percent of the world's active volcanoes somewhere there as well.

The epicenter of the Mexican earthquake, very close to its southern border with Guatemala, lies right along the Pacific Ring of Fire. While Mexico doesn't often feel such strong earthquakes — the last time it suffered one of this magnitude was in 1985 — it's not at all out of the ordinary for there to be a major earthquake along that particular fault line.

So, while it may seem like the world is coming to an end and Poseidon is stirring up the seas and ground with his trident, both the earthquake and Hurricane Irma are just extraordinarily strong versions of normal, natural occurrences, with no connection to each other.