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Pre-classic Mayan extreme wave event in eastern Yucatán, Mexico

Lario, Javier; Bardaji, Teresa; Spencer, Chris; Marchante, Angel; Garduno-Monroy, Victor Hugo


Javier Lario

Teresa Bardaji

Angel Marchante

Victor Hugo Garduno-Monroy


PJM Costa

C Andradae

MdC Freitas


The Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico has usually been considered to be a tectonically stable region, without seismic activity, in contrast, it is an area regularly affected by hurricanes. A detailed survey of ca. 100 km of the coast between Playa del Carmen and the Tulum coast, and the east coast of Cozumel Island identified the presence of three ridges containing boulders measuring >1 m and reaching five metres in height associated to Extreme Wave Event (EWE) activity.
The application of different approaches to calculate the minimum height of the tsunami wave or storm wave capable of moving these boulders demonstrates that the minimum wave height for the displacement ranges from 2.5 to 2.9 m for a tsunami and from 10.5 to 11.5 m for a severe storm (using formulas for a JBB scenario by Engel and May, 2012). The submerged scenario of Nott (2003) produces ranges from 2.0 to 2.4 m (Ht) and from 8.0 to 9.8 m (Hs). Models of tsunami propagation in the Caribbean (Engel et al., 2016) show that a tsunami generated by a Mw 7.99 earthquake from the Muertos Thrust Belt (MTB) cannot reach the Yucatan coast. However, a tsunami generated by a Mw 8.8 earthquake generated in South Caribbean Deformed Belt (SCBD) can reach the northeastern Yucatan coast with a wave height lower than 1.0 m. However, the occurrence of hurricanes in this area is more common, and two of the most destructive produced 6-8 m high waves at the coast and an inundation up to 5 km inland (Hurricane Gilbert, 1988), and 8-10 m high waves at the coast (Hurricane Wilma, 2005). Even though evidence of ancient earthquakes has been identified in the area, the tsunami origin of the boulder ridges is not reliable and the data collected suggests that the ridges can be associated to a mega-hurricane.


Lario, J., Bardaji, T., Spencer, C., Marchante, A., & Garduno-Monroy, V. H. (2017, September). Pre-classic Mayan extreme wave event in eastern Yucatán, Mexico. Paper presented at 5th International Tsunami Field Symposium, Lisbon, Portugal

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (unpublished)
Conference Name 5th International Tsunami Field Symposium
Start Date Sep 3, 2017
End Date Sep 7, 2017
Acceptance Date Aug 1, 2017
Publication Date Jan 1, 2017
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Pages 72-73
Keywords EWE, boulder ridge, transport models, hurricane
Publisher URL
Additional Information Title of Conference or Conference Proceedings : The 5th International Tsunami Field Symposium