Central America—Earthquakes and Tectonics

What are the major sources of earthquakes in Central America?

Central America  is one of the most vulnerable and highest risk areas in the world for earthquakesis. It is squeezed by five tectonic boundaries, including a subduction zone boundary where the Cocos Plate dives beneath the Caribbean Plate. High risk is due to the complicated complicated tectonic landscape is populated by 50 million people, often in villages built before earthquakes were understood.

Whereas transform-fault and shallow-crustal-intraplate earthquakes have dominated the recent history of deadly and destructive earthquakes in Central America, we should never underestimate the potential destructive power of subduction zone earthquakes. Since 1970, there have been 13 major magnitude 7 earthquakes on or near the megathrust plate boundary, but no historic magnitude 8 or larger. The Sumatra 2004 and Japan 2011 magnitude 9 earthquakes and resulting tsunamis delivered the lesson that many centuries may pass between great subduction zone earthquakes.  We do not know whether or when a great magnitude 8 or 9 subduction zone earthquake may occur on the Cocos – Caribbean plate boundary.