About five minutes after a magnitude 7.6 earthquake struck off the southwest coast of Mexico on Monday, normally calm waters in a cave in Death Valley National Park began to hit the surrounding limestone rock.
The echo from an earthquake more than 1,500 miles away has led experts to call a “desert tsunami” that on Monday produced 4-feet-high waves in the cave, known as the Devil’s Hole, about 10 feet wide, 70 feet of water. has a pool. Amargosa Valley, feet long in the nave and more than 500 feet deep.
According to the National Park, the water in the partially filled cave has become an “unusual indicator of seismic activity” worldwide, with earthquakes as well as Japan, Indonesia and Chile – causing water to spill into Devil’s Hole . service website.
Interestingly, the 6.8-magnitude quake, which also struck Mexico’s southwest coast early Thursday — not far from Monday’s epicenter — did not stir the waters nor cause any ripples in Devil’s Hole, said Kevin Wilson. , said the National Park Service Aquatic Ecologist. An earthquake struck at least 1 a.m. on Thursday outside the small town of Aguilla in the western state of Michoacán, killing at least two people. Two people were also killed in Monday’s quake, the epicenter of the quake was also in Michoacan, albeit to the east.
“It depends on depth, magnitude and location across the globe,” Wilson said. Typically earthquakes that reach magnitude 7 or higher will be recorded in Devil’s Hole, along the Pacific’s “ring of fire,” he said.
Devil’s Hole is home to the endangered pup, a unique breed that can face short-term challenges following a geological event, technically called a satch. Wilson said the waves in the cave stir up the sediment and drive away the algae growing on the shallow shelf on which the pupae depend to feed, and may even break some pupal eggs.
But, he said, in the long term, the movement from the earthquake helps to remove the build-up of organic material, which over time can suck oxygen from the unique ecosystem.
“It kind of resets the system,” Wilson said. He said the waves lasted for about 30 minutes before calming down on Monday.
Wilson said that it is rare for pups to die at these events, but added that park rangers will continue to provide supplements for the fish, which has seen a resurgence in its population in recent years. In March, officials recorded 175 Devil’s Hole efflux — up from 35 nearly a decade ago — and Wilson said the fall count is planned for this weekend.
The geothermal pool in the cave, which lasts about 93 degrees year-round, along with its low oxygen level, makes Devil’s Hole an “extreme” environment, Wilson said — not to mention the repeated tremors of earthquakes.
“Pulpfish have survived many of these events in recent years,” Wilson said. “We didn’t find any dead fish after the waves stopped.”
The last such “desert tsunami” was recorded in July 2019, when waves rose up to 15 feet after a 7.1-magnitude earthquake near Ridgecrest, according to National Park Service officials.