The University of the West Indies, at Mona, Jamaica Homepage

The University of the West Indies

at Mona, Jamaica

Earthquake Unit

 leaf as bullet  Home
 leaf as bullet  Our Mission Statement
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 leaf as bullet  Earthquakes in Jamaica
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 leaf as bullet  Earthquake Report Form
 leaf as bullet  Earthquake Updates
Felt earthquake at 12:27pm on Aug. 16, 2021. Epicenter approx. 6km SW of Alligator Pond,Manchester. Mag 3.1 and depth 17km.
Did you feel it? Please click here to download and print our Earthquake Report Form*. *Requires Adobe Reader
Antenna used for transmitting data 
Visiting school students at Earthquake Unit booth during exhibition

Earthquakes in Jamaica

Instrumental seismicity

About 200 earthquakes are located in and around Jamaica per year most of which are minor, having magnitudes less than 4.0. The most seismically active areas are the Blue Mountain block in eastern Jamaica and the Montpelier-Newmarket belt in western Jamaica. Other areas of notable seismicity include the near offshore south-west of Black River on the south coast, and offshore Buff Bay on the north–east coast.

Simple map of Jamaican faults
Offshore: WFZ - Walton Fault Zone; NJF - North Jamaica Fault; EF - Enriquillo Fault
Major land faults: ML - Maryland; DFZ - Duanvale; SCr - Santa Cruz; ST - Spur Tree; SoC - South Coast; RMCR - Rio Minho-Crawle River; WW - Wagwater; BM - Blue Mountain; YPG - Yallahs-Plantain Garden
Other Structural features: H - Hanover Block; NCB - North Coast Block; C - Clarendon Block;
B - Blue Mountain Block; MNB - Montpelier-Newmarket Belt; WWB - Wagwater Belt
(After Jamaica Geological Structure Series Map 92-21, 1992)

 For a look at a presentation on Jamaican Seismicity, click here. Adobe Acrobat will be reqiured to retrieve this document.

Sub-Regional Tectonics

Jamaica is associated with the Gonave micro-plate, which is demarcated by the Oriente Fracture Zone (OFZ) to the north, the Walton (WFZ) and Enriquillo Fault Zones (EFZ) to the south and the Cayman Spreading Centre (CSC) to the west. The OFZ, spanning a distance of over 1000 kilometres, from south of Grand Cayman to the north coast of Haiti, is known to be a left-lateral strike-slip fault which means there is a relative westerly drift of Cuba (on the North American Plate) with respect to Jamaica.

Jamaica (middle) in relation to Cuba (north) and Hispanola (north-east) with relevant plate boundaries
Jamaica, with parts of Cuba and Hispanola showing relevant plate boundaries - red dots represent past epicentres

The Walton and Enrriquillo Faults are also left-lateral strike-slip features that separate the Gonave sliver from the Caribbean Plate to the south. Measurements made using Global Positioning System (GPS) indicate 18 mm/year of lateral strain and 3mm/yr of convergence on the OFZ near south-eastern Cuba, and 8-11 mm/yr on Jamaica.

Local Tectonics

Jamaica itself is traversed by a number of geological faults that feature Quaternary left-lateral offsets. In eastern Jamaica there is the Plantain Garden fault that runs into the Yallahs, Blue Mountain, Wagwater and Silver Hill faults, which together control the tectonics of the Blue Mountain block. In western Jamaica the topography is influenced by the South Coast, Spur Tree and Montpelier-Newmarket faults that exhibit large downthrows to the south and west, respectively. Earthquakes occurring across the country today predominantly exhibit strike-slip faulting, which mirrors the movements along the OFZ.

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