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Mexico earthquake caused waves at California’s Death Valley

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The 7.6-magnitude earthquake which struck western Mexico on Monday caused a seiche up to 1.2 meter (4 feet) high in Devils Hole at California’s Death Valley, officials said on Wednesday night. They also released footage of the “desert tsunami.”

The incident began at 11:27 a.m. Pacific time on Monday, about 22 minutes after the quake, when waves began to form inside the cave at Death Valley National Park on the California-Nevada state line. They reached 4 feet at 11:35 a.m.

The National Park Service released footage of the waves on Wednesday night and said they were caused by the earthquake in western Mexico, which struck roughly 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometers) away.

A spokeswoman for the park called it a “surprising quirk of geology,” although similar events have happened before. Large earthquakes in 2012, 2018 and 2019 also caused waves at Devils Hole.

Devils Hole is a partially water-filled limestone cave which is hundreds of feet deep and home to the Devils Hole pupfish, which rely on algae that grows on a shallow, sunlit shelf.

“Monday’s waves, technically known as a seiche, stirred the sediment and rocks on the shallow shelf, also removing much of the algae growth,” the park said in a statement on late Wednesday. “In the short term, this reduces food available to the pupfish.”

Kevin Wilson, an aquatic ecologist at the National Park Service, said the pupfish appeared to be okay. “We didn’t find any dead fish after the waves stopped,” he said.

Devils Hole is the only place where the critically endangered pupfish is naturally found. Its population is currently on an upswing, growing from just 35 in 2013 to 175 in March of this year.

Monday’s earthquake killed two people and injured dozens more in western Mexico. Small tsunami waves were also recorded along Mexico’s Pacific coast, most notably in Manzanillo, where several streets were flooded.

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