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See why a 7.6-magnitude earthquake caused a ‘desert tsunami’ in Death Valley

Fox Weather logo Fox Weather 9/23/2022 Andrew Wulfeck

DEATH VALLEY, Nev. - Minutes after a 7.6-magnitude earthquake rocked parts of Mexico Monday, impacts from the seismic energy were seen in the United States as what officials described as a ‘desert tsunami’ formed in the Mojave Desert.

Unlike an ocean-based tsunami that produces an unfathomable amount of energy and gigantic waves, this desert feature was confined to a geothermal pool known as Devils Hole in Death Valley National Park.

The water-filled cavern is susceptible to seismic waves, and fortunately for National Park Service staff, they were in the right location at the right time to witness the earthquake’s effects.

Park staff immediately grabbed their phones and took video of the water splashing against rocks, similar to the sloshing effect in a bathtub or a pool.

Magnitude 7.6 earthquake shakes Mexico FOX Weather © Provided by Fox Weather Magnitude 7.6 earthquake shakes Mexico FOX Weather

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"NPS staff were onsite conducting research and witnessed the effects firsthand. Within five minutes, the normally still water in the pool began slowly moving, and soon built to waves several feet high," the NPS staff wrote on Facebook.

Despite the epicenter being located 1,300 miles away, the sloshing of the water went on for several minutes.

Major earthquakes centered in Japan, Indonesia and Chile have caused similar sights that, for the most part, are harmless except for the critically endangered species of pupfish that call the geothermal pool home.

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AMARGOSA VALLEY, NEVADA - SEPTEMBER 24, 2014: Fisheries Biologist Daniel Bailey Gaines sits above Devil's Hole, the natural habitat of the Devil's Hole pupfish which now contains about 100 pupfish in the 92 degree spa-like pool in Death Valley National Park on September 24, 2014 in Amargosa Valley, Nevada. In early 2013, the population dwindled to a record low 35 pupfish in the sloping limestone depression which is more than 500 feet deep. The pupfish have existed since the Ice Age. Photo by Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images © Photo by Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images AMARGOSA VALLEY, NEVADA - SEPTEMBER 24, 2014: Fisheries Biologist Daniel Bailey Gaines sits above Devil's Hole, the natural habitat of the Devil's Hole pupfish which now contains about 100 pupfish in the 92 degree spa-like pool in Death Valley National Park on September 24, 2014 in Amargosa Valley, Nevada. In early 2013, the population dwindled to a record low 35 pupfish in the sloping limestone depression which is more than 500 feet deep. The pupfish have existed since the Ice Age. Photo by Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The NPS said the water temperature stays around 92 °F year-round, which allows the fish to forage and spawn on a shallow rock shelf near the surface.

Despite the sudden waves, there were no initial reports of significant impacts to the fish.

The NPS said they expect to see more spawning activity over the next few days, resulting in a potential population boom.

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