New seafloor map of the Puerto Rico trench helps assess earthquake and tsunami hazards



The Puerto Rico Trench, the deepest part of the Atlantic Ocean, is located where the North American (NOAM) plate is subducting under the Caribbean plate (Figure l). The trench region may pose significant seismic and tsunami hazards to Puerto Rico and the U.S.Virgin Islands, where 4 million U.S. citizens reside. Widespread damage in Puerto Rico and Hispaniola from an earthquake in 1787 was estimated to be the result of a magnitude 8 earthquake north of the islands [McCann et al., 2004]. A tsunami killed 40 people in NW Puerto Rico following a magnitude 7.3 earthquake in 1918 [Mercado and McCann, 1998]. Large landslide escarpments have been mapped on the seafloor north of Puerto Rico [Mercado et al., 2002; Schwab et al., 1991],although their ages are unknown.