The MW 6.2 Punta Santa Elena (Coahuila-Zacatecas) earthquake of 28 April 1841, the largest documented pre-instrumental event and its implications on seismic hazard in Northeastern Mexico


In this study, we compiled reports from different catalogs and newspapers about the greatest earthquake documented in Northeastern Mexico. From these descriptions, we located the 28 April 1841 earthquake using the Bakun and Wentworth (1997) attenuation model for the Basin and Range region. From 13 observations with an intensity range of III–VII, we calculated a Mw 6.2 and the central intensity SW from Punta Santa Elena, Coahuila (24.65° N, 101.60° W). This earthquake could represent the fourth biggest event in the Mexican Basin and Range province after the events of Bavispe, Sonora, of 1887 (Mw 7.5), Parral, Chihuahua, of 1928 (Mw 6.5), and Valentine, Texas in the Texas-Chihuahua border, of 1931 (Mw 6.4). Finally, this study provides new insights on earthquake potential in the region to be considered for enhanced hazard quantification and shows that the region is seismically active and prone to events up to M > 6.

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Data Availability

The descriptions (in Spanish) of the effects of the Punta Santa Elena earthquake that we used in this study were compiled from newspapers stored in the database of the Hemeroteca Nacional Digital de México (HNDM) Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México ( and references pointed in Table 1. The database of mapped faults is available in


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The authors appreciate the comments and suggestions of the Associate Editor Klaus-G. Hinzen and two anonymous reviewers, which helped improve this article.


This research was supported by the Apoyo al Fortalecimiento y Desarrollo de la Infraestructura Científica y Tecnológica 2017 by Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (CONACYT) under the grant INFR-2017-01-280657 and PAICYT/UANL-2020 under the project: Estudio del origen de la Sismicidad local (es natural o inducida) y de la estructura de velocidades de la corteza y el manto superior en el Noreste de México, a partir de una Red Temporal. RLSR and EGPM received a scholarship from CONACYT.

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Correspondence to Juan C. Montalvo-Arrieta.

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Sosa-Ramírez, R.L., Paz-Martínez, E.G. & Montalvo-Arrieta, J.C. The MW 6.2 Punta Santa Elena (Coahuila-Zacatecas) earthquake of 28 April 1841, the largest documented pre-instrumental event and its implications on seismic hazard in Northeastern Mexico. J Seismol (2021).

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  • Macroseismic intensity
  • Attenuation relations
  • Mexican Basin and Range province
  • Historic earthquake