‘Desert Tsunami’ In Death Valley Gets Triggered By High Magnitude Earthquake

Mexico earthquake triggers ‘desert tsunami’ in Death Valley – Los Angeles Times

A 7.6 magnitube earthquake struck western Mexico earlier this week, causing four-foot waves to crash around a cave system in Nevada’s Death Valley. The cave system is the only natural habitat for the highly endangered Devils Hole pupfish.

Five minutes after an earthquake hit near Mexico’s southwest coast, water in a Death Valley National Park cave started sloshing against the surrounding limestone rock. Within five minutes the normally still water in the pool began slowly moving, and soon built to waves several feet high.

The water has become an “unusual indicator of seismic activity” across the globe. According to NPS, seismic seiches are standing waves in an enclosed body of water caused by an earthquake’s seismic waves.

The earthquake that struck Mexico’s southwest coast early Thursday did not agitate the water or create any waves in Devils Hole, said Kevin Wilson, National Park Service aquatic ecologist.

Devils Hole is home to the endangered pupfish, a unique breed that can face short-term challenges following the geological phenomenon, technically called a seiche. But in the long term, the movement from earthquakes helps remove the buildup of organic matter, which sucks oxygen from the unique ecosystem.

The geothermal pool in Devils Hole cave stays at around 93 degrees year-round, and the low oxygen levels make it an “extreme” environment. However, pupfish have survived several earthquake aftershocks.

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John Nightbridge is a veteran reporter, researcher, and economic policy major from UCLA. Passionate about world issues and potential ways to solve them is a significant focus of his work. Writing freelance and reading the news are John's passions at work. Outside of work, it's all about sky diving, surfing, and stock market modeling.