Was the 2010 Haiti Earthquake triggered by deforestation and the 2008 hurricanes?

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:57 PM GMT on December 20, 2010

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Major earthquakes occur when the stress on rocks between two tectonic plates reaches a critical breaking point, allowing the earth to move along the connecting fault. While the slow creep of the tectonic plates makes earthquakes inevitable along major faults, the timing and exact location of the quake epicenter can be influenced by outside forces pushing down on Earth's crust. For example, the sloshing of water into the Eastern Pacific during El Niño events has been linked to magnitude 4, 5, and 6 earthquakes on the seafloor below, due to the extra weight of water caused by local sea level rise. Sea level rise due to rapid melting of Earth's ice sheets could also potentially trigger earthquakes, though it is unknown at what melting rate such an effect might become significant.


Figure 1. Google Earth image of Haiti taken November 8, 2010, showing the capital of Port-Au-Prince and the mountainous region to its west where the epicenter of the 2010 earthquake was. Note the brown color of the mountains, where all the vegetation has been stripped off, leaving bare slopes subject to extreme erosion. Heavy rains in recent years have washed huge amounts of sediment into the Leogane Delta to the north.


Figure 2. Zoom-in view of the Leogane Delta region of Figure 1, showing the large expansion in the Delta's area between 2002 and 2010. High amounts of sediments have been eroded from Haiti's deforested mountains and deposited in the Delta. Recent expansion of the river channel due to runoff from Hurricane Tomas' rains is apparent in the 2010 image. Image credit: Google Earth, Digital Globe, GeoEye.

At last week's American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting last week in San Francisco, Shimon Wdowinsky of the University of Miami proposed a different method whereby unusual strains on the crust might trigger an earthquake. In a talk titled, Triggering of the 2010 Haiti earthquake by hurricanes and possibly deforestation , Wdowinsky studied the stresses on Earth's crust over the epicenter of the mighty January 12, 2010 Haiti earthquake that killed over 200,000 people. This quake was centered in a mountainous area of southwest Haiti that has undergone severe deforestation—over 98% of the trees have been felled on the mountain in recent decades, allowing extreme erosion to occur during Haiti's frequent heavy rainfall events. Since 1975, the erosion rate in these mountains has been 6 mm/year, compared to the typical erosion rate of less than 1 mm/yr in forested tropical mountains. Satellite imagery (Figure 2) reveals that the eroded material has built up significantly in the Leogane Delta to the north of the earthquake's epicenter. In the 2008 hurricane season, four storms--Fay, Gustav, Hanna, and Ike--dumped heavy rains on the impoverished nation. The bare, rugged hillsides let flood waters rampage into large areas of the country, killing over 1,000, destroying 22,702 homes, and damaging another 84,625. About 800,000 people were affected--8% of Haiti's total population. The flood wiped out 70% of Haiti's crops, resulting in dozens of deaths of children due to malnutrition in the months following the storms. Damage was estimated at over $1 billion, the costliest natural disaster in Haitian history. The damage amounted to over 5% of the country's $17 billion GDP, a staggering blow for a nation so poor. Tragically, the hurricanes of 2008 may have set up Haiti for an ever larger disaster. Wdowinsky computed that the amount of mass eroded away from the mountains over the epicenter of the 2010 earthquake was sufficient to cause crustal strains capable of causing a vertically-oriented slippage along a previously unknown fault. This type of motion is quite unusual in this region, as most quakes in Haiti tend to be of the strike-slip variety, where the tectonic plates slide horizontally past each other. The fact that the 2010 Haiti quake occurred along a vertically moving fault lends support to the idea that the slippage was triggered due to mass stripped off the mountains by erosion over the epicenter, combined with the extra weight of the extra sediment deposited in the Leogane Delta clamping down on the northern portion of the fault. Wdowinsky gave two other examples in Taiwan where earthquakes followed several months after the passage of tropical cyclones that dumped heavy rains over mountainous regions. His theory of tropical cyclone-triggered quakes deserves consideration, and provides another excellent reason to curb excessive deforestation!


Figure 3. Two of 2008's four tropical cyclones that ravaged Haiti: Tropical Storm Hanna (right) and Hurricane Gustav (left). Image taken at 10:40 am EDT September 1, 2008. Image credit: NASA/GSFC.

Christmas in Haiti
Portlight.org will brighten the lives of hundreds of kids in Haiti this week, thanks to their successful Christmas in Haiti fundraiser. Portlight raised $1800 to buy toys, candies, and other assorted goodies. The shipment left Charleston last week, and will arrive in time for Christmas. Thanks to everyone who helped support this worthy effort!

Jeff Masters

Stuff for Haiti (Portlight)
Stuff for Haiti
Ms. Mae (Portlight)
Ms. Mae

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For the 1000th post, a song no one knows what it's about:

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425. flsky
In the Chi/Min game tonight, they're tossing snowballs from the stands when there's a good play. Must be some Jack in those stands!
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
sure ya did remember that night in the dress wasn't your name nicole


Even I...as hot as I am...am not as hot as my beloved Nicole...
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Quoting presslord:
Damn!!! I never got to sleep with Nicole Kidman...
sure ya did remember that night in the dress wasn't your name nicole
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56017
It is truly an interesting night tonight. It has only been 458 years or so since the last time.

Applicable folks, check this for your mobile apps, while its free!

FREE THROUGH DECEMBER 21st, 2010!

SkySafari Lite the only iPhone app that can show you the total lunar eclipse of December 20-21, 2010! Here's how:


Just in case ~~~

http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2010/17dec_solsticeeclipse/

For the old farts :)

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Damn!!! I never got to sleep with Nicole Kidman...
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weather office says we may get some clearing so i may stay up to go up on the roof of the high rise to have a look and see myself

Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56017
Quoting DoverWxwatchter:
No, no no! 30 days hath September!




Where'd ya find the photo of my ex wife?!?!
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Some light clouds permit us to see the eclipse tonight and it'll be interesting to see how red or dark it is after all the volcanic activity. Be sure to take some steady pictures! I'll be watching the show though not on WU this late night.
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if i had one i would take as many as i could but hopefully we won't need it tonight
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56017
So the new page has restored the blog. While I was writing my blog I found that the "rich text" function can be used for an in-text preview and was useful when reversible. My latest entry mentions the eclipse as well as the California flooding and TS Omeka.
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
good knowing you pat



U too KOTG.

Can we fit some folks in your Ship?
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129830
Quoting JFLORIDA:
Oh is the world supposed to end tonight? no one tells me anything.


Nothing in the Huffington Post neither.

Presslord is turning out the light's in the Carolina's.

You gotz Fla.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129830
The year is 2025 and you're on the moon. "Home" is 100 meters away—an outpost on the rim of Shackleton Crater. NASA started building it five years earlier, and it is growing fast. You're one of the construction workers.

As always in these polar regions, the sun hangs low, barely above the craggy lunar horizon. You adjust your visor. It amazes you how bright a low sun can be when there's no atmosphere to dim it.

Suddenly, the lights go out.

Up in the sky, a big black disk covers the sun. A red "ring of fire" appears where the sun was only moments before, and its glow turns the ground red beneath your feet.

You've been waiting for this. It's an eclipse.
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Quoting Patrap:
Just in case the World folds in on itself if the Mayans were off a few years.

It has been good knowing all of you guys here.

good knowing you pat
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56017
Quoting Jeff9641:
The 12Z Euro is showing a classic southern snowstorm for Christmas day across GA thru the Carolina's. Energy digs in and forms a low south of NOLA then deepens it as it crosses N FL and bombs it out over the Outerbanks of NC. Let's hope the Euro pans out. I have family in Atlanta and a nice 2" to 4" snow would be sweet!


Great news!!!! As there is no such place as 'the Carolinas'....I will not have to deal with the evil white stuff...
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403. beell
Florida has approximately 56 navigable inlets, compared to Texas (which has eight) and North Carolina (which has 19).

“At this point, the state of Florida is very careful not to allow new inlets to be excavated,” Dean said. “The inlets that exist now are between 50 and 100 years old – if we would have known back then what we know now, you probably wouldn’t have been able to build a new inlet without some sort of a commitment to replenish the sand loss on the starved side of the inlet.”

American Shore and Beach Preservation Association
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Thanx flsky.

No Hot Choc would be complete in NOLA at 2am without sum Jack Snap.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129830
Yawn, staying up for eclipse. Guess won't need to watch 95L Wednesday. Just one more day. then I can re-kickoff my hurricane free vacation( Ending In May ) lol g'nite all...
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398. flsky
Quoting Patrap:
Were doing 2am Pizza and Hot chocolate..

Flask O Jack just to adjust to the temps too.


Pizza and hot chocolate!! Never heard of that combination before! Now pizza and Jack - I can see that. Have fun!
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Quoting Patrap:


I hope the Mayans got their Math right..


its right on the mark been on the mark for 5000 years
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56017
Just in case the World folds in on itself if the Mayans were off a few years.

It has been good knowing all of you guys here.

Least we got a Super Bowl Win ,,before the end.

Im gonna miss Bacon.


Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129830
Quoting Patrap:


I hope the Mayans got their Math right..




ya just can't beat a good straight man...
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Quoting EnergyMoron:
Good night... happy eclipse watching for those young enough to stay up.



None of that wimping out there EM

How often do you get to be a sleep deprived zombie.

Look at it this way...it's for a good cause.



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Quoting presslord:
not only I am gonna watch the eclipse...I'm also gonna be listening to Coast to Coast with George Noory...to be sure I get all the inside scoop on what it all really means...


I hope the Mayans got their Math right..


Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129830
not only I am gonna watch the eclipse...I'm also gonna be listening to Coast to Coast with George Noory...to be sure I get all the inside scoop on what it all really means...
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A rare event not seen in 372 years will occur early Tuesday morning, when a total lunar eclipse coincides with the winter solstice. While you can't see the solstice, the eclipse promises to be an amazing spectacle.

And if that's not enough, a minor meteor shower is expected to send a few shooting stars through the darkened sky during the height of the eclipse.
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390. flsky
Quoting presslord:
Speaking of redistribution... I'm gonna invite the opinions of this bunch...which is, admittedly, a dangerous game....nevertheless...here goes:

I live on Folly Beach SC...5 years ago we spent $26 million 'renourishing' the beach here....it was supposed to last 10 years...but we're now being told that erosion has been worse than anticpated...and that we need to spend $35 million to 're-renourish' .....(the beach was 'renourished' 12 years before that at a cost of $18 million)....

I personally think it's folly (pun intended) to keep fighting Nature...the argument in favor seems to be economic: a big wide beach draws more tourists...and their $$$(tourists make the world spin) ...so...

I'm just curious what this brilliant group thinks...


In the Daytona Beach area, when we get bad storms, the sand diminishes. Wait a few months (or weeks even) and it's back to where it was initially w/o any human-made help. I know this doesn't relate to some of the Caribbean islands - perhaps elsewhere, as well. This last year, the gov't, or whoever decides these things, dredged Ponce Inlet and shot the sand out over their local beach. Good idea and not so expensive.
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Quoting DoverWxwatchter:
Hmmm comment count just went from 359 to 348 on this blog. And now 345. Some cleaning out.
ya the trash has been taken out
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56017
Quoting beell:


Thanks for the link, Neap. Was expecting to see a U of M Banner and a fightin' turtle. Took me to "worldpublicopinion.org. So I had to look. Not exactly what you would call an voter exit poll.


Definitely not. Go, Terps! ;-)
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13797
I have just updated my own blog entry, concerning the lunar eclipse tonight and the most recent rain and snow events around the globe.

The blog appears to be severely malfunctioning.
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Quoting Grothar:


Obviously you are too young to remember Leisure suits. LOL We thought we looked cool.


Howdy Gro:



Okay, the embed is less than 500 pixels in each direction but if it doesn't work... (preview says it won't work)

Whole lot of shaking going on

E. Presley discovered all this in the 1970 decade I keep telling you.

Anyway per your quote above from the last blog I actually had something else in mind with this line of research.

Here is original sheep-albedo feedback theory on Real Climate:

Sheep Albedo Hypothesis

Now, I had mentioned that early users of polyester (such as E. Presley) showed some social responsibility by wearing white to reflect heat back into space.

There is a conspiracy, however, called the Greater Tuna crowd, that is promoting use of polyester in their plays. Photos of the green polyester pantsuits in the original Greater Tuna cannot even be found on the web (this is what I really had in mind).

The depths to which this conspiracy knows no bounds and the way they attempt to influence youth is shameless. Yesterday evening indeed I discovered that my middle child was attending "A Tuna Christmas" performance without my prior knowledge. But the most shameless is....

Tuna Does Vegas

Gro, be interested if you ever tried on of those shown in the link.

The real cuprits who conspired to destroy the sheed albedo feedback are exposed in all the glory of polyester.

I guess one of the two co-conspirators is large enough to trigger a quake...

Good night... happy eclipse watching for those young enough to stay up.
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Be carefull with that 2nd Merlot wine bottle... may change the moon aspect...

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Quoting KerryInNOLA:

It's awesome!


Family will be up all night for this one.

All are going to be red eyed tomorrow morning.

But, it will be worth it for sure.


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383. beell
Quoting Neapolitan:

Excellent, and it dovetails nicely with this bit of news: The University of Maryland released the results of a survey last week that suggests regular viewers of Fox News are the most misinformed of all television news viewers--including where global warming is concerned.


Thanks for the link, Neap. Was expecting to see a U of M Banner and a fightin' turtle. Took me to "worldpublicopinion.org. So I had to look. Not exactly what you would call an voter exit poll.

WorldPublicOpinion.org is an international collaborative project whose aim is to give voice to public opinion around the world on international issues. As the world becomes increasingly integrated, problems have become increasingly global, pointing to a greater need for understanding between nations and for elucidating global norms. With the growth of democracy in the world, public opinion has come to play a greater role in the foreign policy process. WorldPublicOpinion.org seeks to reveal the values and views of publics in specific nations around the world as well as global patterns of world public opinion.

WorldPublicOpinion.org was initiated by and is managed by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland.

WorldPublicOpinion.org conducted an in-depth survey of public opinion. The poll was fielded from November 6 to 15, 2010 with a sample-size of 848 respondents. The margin of error for the full sample was 3.4%. The margin of error for the poll’s 616 self-reported voters is plus or minus 3.9%. It was conducted using the web-enabled KnowledgePanel®, a probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population


Knowledge Panel:
KnowledgePanel®, created by Knowledge Networks, is a probability-based online
non-volunteer access panel. Panel members are recruited using a statistically
valid sampling method with a published sample frame of residential addresses that
covers approximately 97% of U.S. households. Sampled non-Internet households,
when recruited, are provided a netbook computer and free Internet service so they
may also participate as online panel members. KnowledgePanel consists of about
50,000 adult members (ages 18 and older) and includes persons living in cell
phone only households. The multi-dimensional Hispanic population is also
represented in KnowledgePanel with members recruited in both English and
Spanish and thereby representing different levels of language proficiency and
acculturation levels. In addition to the adult members, KnowledgePanel also
includes approximately 3,000 teens, ages 13 to 17, whose parents or legal
guardians, usually themselves panel members, have provided consent. Due to
voluntary withdrawal, involuntary retirement of high-tenured members, and the
addition of new panelists from the on-going recruitment, actual panel size
fluctuates across the year.

KnowledgePanel(R)-Design-Summary-Description.pdf
knowledgenetworks.com
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Though some clouds around...

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Were doing 2am Pizza and Hot chocolate..

Flask O Jack just to adjust to the temps too.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129830
About 145 minutes hours from first penumbral darkening, about 275 minutes from the start of totality, and 310 minutes from totality.

There's speculation that ash from the Mount Merapi eruption in Indonesia two months ago could make this eclipse redder than most. (http://www.elpasotimes.com/news/ci_16899709)
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13797
Preparing for 4:19 AM in PR



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377. flsky
Quoting Chicklit:
Moonrise was huge over the Atlantic this afternoon. This is one night I hope to wake up at about 3 a.m.

Hi Chicklit - why not sip some champagne and wait up?
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The server flushed ..
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129830

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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