An earthquake that struck Mexico earlier this week sent four-foot waves crashing around a cave system in Nevada’s Death Valley.
A magnitude 7.6 earthquake shook the states of Colima and Michoacán in western Mexico on Monday (19 September). The Devil’s Hole cave system in Death Valley National Park, which is located in eastern California and extends into parts of Nevada, is about 1,500 miles to the north.
The hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth was recorded in Death Valley on July 10, 1913, when a temperature of 56.7 degrees Celsius (134 Fahrenheit) was reached, according to Guinness World Records.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that the region averages just 2.2 inches of rainfall each year.
Within this particularly dry region, Devil’s Hole is a “geothermal cave system” that holds water, according to the National Park Service (NPS).
The cave system is “the only natural habitat for the critically endangered Devils Hole pup,” the NPS states on its site. There are only between 100 and 180 in the wild.
The cave system is over 430 feet (131 meters) deep, with the pupfish present at 80 feet (24.3 meters).
The water in caves is usually calm, rich in carbonates and low in oxygen. The average temperature is 93 degrees Fahrenheit (34 Celsius).
The pup feeds on the algae that grow in the water.
Earlier this week, 22 minutes after the earthquake struck Mexico, waves as large as four feet hit the cave system.
“On September 19, 2022 a large earthquake that shook the Pacific coast of Mexico sent ripples through Devil’s Hole—literally,” Death Valley National Park wrote in a Facebook post Wednesday. “The magnitude 7.6 event occurred near the Colima-Michoacan border at 11:05 am. local time (PDT, 1:05 p.m. central). NPS personnel were on site conducting research and observed the results first hand. Within five minutes, the normally still water in the pool began to move slowly and soon formed into waves several feet high.’
“The critically endangered Devils Hole pupfish (Cyprinodon diabolis) has fortunately evolved with these types of periodic natural disturbances and was fine and swimming (happily?) afterward,” park staff added in the post. “Following on from previous observations, staff expect to see an increase in spawning activity over the next few days, hopefully leading to even more recruitment into the population.”
Population growth also occurred after other earthquakes that led to waves in the Devil’s Hole, Newsweek famous. The 2012 earthquake in the states of Guerrero and Oaxaca, the 2018 Gulf of Alaska earthquake, and the 2019 Ridgecrest earthquakes pushed the waters down the algae from the rocks, affecting the food supply.
“It’s crazy that distant earthquakes affect Devil’s Hole,” Kevin Wilson, an aquatic ecologist for Death Valley National Park, said in a statement in January 2018 after the Alaska earthquake. “We’ve seen this a few times before, but it still surprises me.”
According to the NPS, “the phenomenon is technically known as an earthquake shake. They are standing waves in an enclosed body of water (such as a lake or swimming pool) caused by the seismic waves of an earthquake.”
“It sounds a lot like a tsunami, but tsunamis are caused by an earthquake that moves the ocean floor up or down. Tsunamis can create much larger waves,” Mr Wilson added at the time.