The January 2014 Northern Cuba Earthquake Sequence – Unusual Location and Unexpected Source Mechanism Variability

Document Type


Publication Date



On 9 January 2014, a magnitude Mw=5.1 earthquake occurred along the Bahamas-Cuba suture at the northern coast of Cuba revealing a surprising seismic hazard source for both Cuba and southern Florida where it was widely felt. Due to its location, the event and its aftershocks (M>3.5) were recorded only at far distances (300+ km) resulting in high-detection thresholds, low location accuracy, and limited source parameter resolution. We use three-component regional seismic data to study the sequence. High-pass filtered seismograms at the closest site in southern Florida are similar in character suggesting a relatively tight event cluster and revealing additional, smaller aftershocks not included in the ANSS or ISC catalogs. Aligning on the P arrival and low-pass filtering (T>10 s) uncovers a surprise polarity flip of the large amplitude surface waves on vertical seismograms for some aftershocks relative to the main shock. We performed regional moment tensor inversions of the main shock and its largest aftershocks using complete three-component seismograms from stations distributed throughout the region to confirm the mechanism changes. Consistent with the GCMT solution, we find an ~E-W trending normal faulting mechanism for the main event and for one immediate aftershock. Two aftershocks indicate ~E-W trending reverse faulting with essentially flipped P- and T-axes relative to the normal faulting events (and the same B-axes). Within uncertainties, depths of the two event families are indistinguishable and indicate shallow faulting (<10 km). One intriguing possible interpretation is that both families ruptured the same fault with reverse mechanisms compensating for overshooting. However, activity could also be spatially separated either vertically (with reverse mechanisms possibly below extension) or laterally. The shallow source depth and the 200-km long uplifted chain of islands indicate that larger, shallow and thus potentially tsunamigenic earthquakes could occur just offshore of northern Cuba posing a potential hazard to Florida and the Bahamas.

Was this content written or created while at USF?


Citation / Publisher Attribution

Presented at the AGU Fall Meeting on December 15, 2017 in New Orleans, LA