Do I live in a seismically active part of New Mexico?

Small earthquakes with a moment magnitude greater than 1.3 commonly occur in New Mexico (Figure 1), but earthquakes with a magnitude of 5.0 or greater that can cause significant property are relatively rare events (Figure 2).

Figure 1. Map of earthquakes with moment magnitude 1.3 or greater during the time period between 1962 and 1995. From Sanford et al. (2002 ).

Figure 2. Map of earthquakes in New Mexico with moment magnitude of 4.5 or greater during the time period 1869-1998. From Sanford et al. (2002 ).


The U.S. Geological Survey has produced maps that show the chances of a magnitude 5.0 or greater earthquake occurring in the United States during a time period that you can specify; all you have to do is type in your zip code.

Will your house withstand an earthquake? New Mexico has adopted the International Building Code (IBC) to guide construction of buildings in New Mexico. The IBC is based on the premise that a building can withstand a certain amount of shaking (ground acceleration). Maps are constructed that show the probability of ground acceleration larger than a specified amount (commonly 1/10 of the acceleration of gravity) occurring within a 50 year (for house-type structures) or a 500 year (for dams) timeframe. Regional maps for these probabilities show that much of the Rio Grande valley lies within an area that could, at a 10% probability level, experience ground acceleration during an earthquake that is >5% above the acceleration due to gravity in the next 50 years. Precautions should be taken to make homes and other buildings resistant to mild seismic shaking.

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Created by Shari Kelley


last modified: 19 May, 2016