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The (mythical) M8.2 off coast of Peru earthquake of 12 December 1908

November 20, 2019

Global earthquake catalogs covering the early twentieth century differ in their listings of a large earthquake, or earthquakes, on 12 December 1908. Some catalogs list an M∼7">M∼7M∼7 earthquake originating in northern Myanmar (Burma) at ∼12:55">∼12:55∼12:55 UTC on that date. Other catalogs do not list the Myanmar origin but list an earthquake with magnitude 8.2 originating in or near Peru at 12:08 UTC on the date. Some catalogs list both origins, but sometimes with additional evidence suggesting that the 1908 M 8.2 Peru origin may be “mythical.” In a review of arrival times of phases reported in seismic bulletins of 1908, conducted specifically to identify data that might be consistent with the sometimes‐cataloged Peru origin, we do not find a coherent set of such data. Many bulletin arrival times reported for 12 December 1908, however, are mutually consistent with the cataloged Myanmar origin. Comparisons of seismograms recorded at the Seismological Observatory of Göttingen in Germany (station GTT) on 12 December 1908 with seismograms obtained on the same instruments for later large earthquakes that are reliably located in Myanmar and Peru, respectively, are consistent with the implication of the bulletin arrival‐time observations. We conclude that a major earthquake did indeed occur in or near northern Myanmar on 12 December 1908 but that there was not on that date a great earthquake near Peru that would correspond to the sometimes‐cataloged M 8.2 Peru origin.

Publication Year 2019
Title The (mythical) M8.2 off coast of Peru earthquake of 12 December 1908
DOI 10.1785/0220190232
Authors Domenico Di Giacomo, James W. Dewey
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Index ID 70216024
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geologic Hazards Science Center