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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The server flushed ..
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Have the 4.5 reflector Telescope and Tripod out chilling down with the Blue Moon filter in place.

Itsa Bright Night Uptown NOLA.
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Quoting flsky:


Excuse my ignorance, but where are you viewing this?

On the internet. That's a photo from a 2004 eclipse.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13442
371. flsky
Quoting KerryInNOLA:

It's awesome!


Excuse my ignorance, but where are you viewing this?
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370. flsky
Quoting KerryInNOLA:
Dr Dak. You're right again. He has all of the classic symptoms. Too bad he won't be around much longer. Anyone have a jar of formaldehyde?


Oooh, mean. Kinda funny tho.
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Beautiful instrumental song to hear, while you watch the eclipse... Song of the wind

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Quoting calusaKat:

Sigh...

More AGW Talking Points.

Haven't you a brain of your own?

It is your total and complete responsibility to convince me and the rest of us that your position is the proper one. If you don't convince us, that is your fault and your fault alone.

All we have to do is sit back and yawn. We have no need to prove anything.

As an AGW lemming you are one of the ones who must come to the table with the NEW ideas, not us. Your Chicken Little mantra, 'The sky is falling, the sky is falling!!!!.', is not, in any way, proof that your position is correct. At best, it only proves how desperate you are to get your way.

Sadly your methodology is to commit foul after foul as you conform to the AGW Talking Points booklet.

The ball is in your court.



Quoting Minnemike:
uh huh, sure, yeah, that bumper sticker exists... right..

so you've revealed your methodology, yet mistakenly confused yourself with another poster... go on, go on, keep typing, and you'll keep making those like minded most happy!

i like mostly how you never support your baseless claims with ANY type of facts. i especially like how you mindlessly take all your queues from unsubstantiated opinions spouted by groups and individuals who have no merit in any scientific community. your fear mongering is also quite notable in the way you drive conspiracy theories all the way home.

and let us not forget the word you excitingly used in countless posts recently, 'sheeple' in which you commit defamation against an entire community of people both here in this forum, and in the global community at large.

continue down this path, please. show us all your true colors on a regular basis, and you will do us all a favor by making it so very transparent the credibility you lack.
Thank You.




What a joke.

AGW lemmings call the opposing side Luddites and Denialists and you have no comment as to how wrong that is. Yet in your next breath you suggest that using the word sheeple is a horrible action against an entire community of people both here in this forum, and in the global community at large.

You accuse me of fear mongering and but fear mongering is the main construct of AGW. Media and politicians launch into hysterical hand wringing because some scientists say so and suddenly we are going to all die if we don't do something right now.

You speak out of both sides of your mouth.

AS for those of us who disagree with AGW, we have to prove nothing, it is all in your court.

When I first brought up the AGW Talking Points booklet, I was not really sure if it existed. Now there is no doubt that it exists and that sheeple turned lemmings, like yourself, use it here on this forum everyday to insult and demean anyone who differs with you in any way. There is no such thing as an honest conversation with people such as yourself.

I repeat, disagree with AGW and a person is labeled a Luddite, a Denialist or even worse.

Where is the science in that sort of conduct?

Grow up.

AGW is about money, nothing more, nothing less.



Member Since: October 10, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 716
The first link to which Dr. Master's gave in the article contains a very significant statement:

Earthquakes and climate change

To quote, "What’s more, even our attempts to stall global warming could trigger a catastrophic event (see “Bury the carbon”)."

Now, the EPA has set a limit of 0.9 times the fracture gradient for injection pressure for sequestration so it should be safe. And rare, at least onshore. But this is a very legitimate concern since if you change the pressure owing to extraction or injection you are creating accomodation space...

Now, as to whether the weather causes quakes... the short answer is it influences when they occur but they would occur anyway.

Even with the runoff you are not significantly changing the subsurface accomodation space. True, you are putting more weight on the system, so you can be the "trigger", but the stresses that accumulate at the fault are accumulating over time and then wham.

So, perfectly obvious that weather related effects can trigger the quake... but the energy for the quake is supplied elsewhere (from the fault slippage).

There is a known magnitude 8 in that area.

Think about this... if the above mechanism were the CAUSE (trigger... very possible) then the entire Louisiana coast is an earthquake waiting to happen since the sedimentation caused by the Mississippi river is enormous and the changes in accomodation space deep in the subsurface are likewise enormous.

I actually work in earthquake avoidance in that region. Trust me I can be very vocal about the possibilities of even small problems (which can have the negative impact of shearing off wells) but I don't lose sleep worrying about earthquakes in LA.

CO2 injection is a different story... the EPA rules once again are sufficient but will kill sequestration onshore.

Bottom line:

Trigger: yes, absolutely
Cause: no, as no change in deep accomodation space.
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Moonrise was huge over the Atlantic this afternoon. This is one night I hope to wake up at about 3 a.m.
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359. flsky
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
i was hoping to see it tonight but we have a solid overcast now hopefully it clears a little to view it

Too bad about that. Here in ECF it's a crystal clear night. I'm sure there'll be some local photogs that take some spectacular pics.
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Quoting calusakat:

Haven't you a brain of your own?
It is your total and complete responsibility to convince me and the rest of us that your position is the proper one. If you don't convince us, that is your fault and your fault alone.
And, of course, to paraphrase the old bumper sticker from years ago...If the AGW gang says it so, I believe them and that is the end of that. I'll bet there is probably one on the bumper of your car.

Sadly your methodology is to commit foul after foul as you conform to the AGW Talking Points booklet.

The ball is in your court.


uh huh, sure, yeah, that bumper sticker exists... right..

so you've revealed your methodology, yet mistakenly confused yourself with another poster... go on, go on, keep typing, and you'll keep making those like minded most happy!

i like mostly how you never support your baseless claims with ANY type of facts. i especially like how you mindlessly take all your queues from unsubstantiated opinions spouted by groups and individuals who have no merit in any scientific community. your fear mongering is also quite notable in the way you drive conspiracy theories all the way home.

and let us not forget the word you excitingly used in countless posts recently, 'sheeple' in which you commit defamation against an entire community of people both here in this forum, and in the global community at large.

continue down this path, please. show us all your true colors on a regular basis, and you will do us all a favor by making it so very transparent the credibility you lack.
Thank You.
Member Since: July 31, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 1320
The Pineapple Express keeps on, er, expressing:

Click for larger image:

Appropriate tropical weather-related image
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13442
Quoting Skyepony:
Fox News scandal continues. Click pic for article..


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.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13442
355. Skyepony (Mod)
The Cryosat-2 spacecraft has produced its first major science result. Launched in April. The 1st pic released at the AGU meeting..

article here
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 161 Comments: 37158
Quoting JLPR2:
Also another thing related to the UPR student strike here at Puerto Rico, information is been leaked that the students that were arrested are being punched by the police in their headquarters.

I'm speechless, great democracy we have here in PR. :\


According to UPR leaks, this whole situation was planned long ago, making all efforts to make the University of Puerto Rico a private university. Servicios Universitarios Ana G. Mendez or Universidad del Turabo (SUAGM) is on the list to acquire it as a private institution...
OH, Sure, they are part of the list of institutions that are giving contribution$ to the actual government.... who want PR to be the next US state....

By the way, its the same democracy model that we have in the US...
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i was hoping to see it tonight but we have a solid overcast now hopefully it clears a little to view it
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 168 Comments: 53285
352. JLPR2
Quoting Skyepony:


I'm looking forward to our WUnderphotos of the eclipse. Our moonys here never let us down.


It's cloudy and rainy here so I wont be able to see it, I'm counting on our fellow Wu-photographers. :]
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351. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting PSLFLCaneVet:


Good post, Skye. Thanks!


I'm looking forward to our WUnderphotos of the eclipse. Our moonys here never let us down.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 161 Comments: 37158
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349. Skyepony (Mod)
Fox News scandal continues. Click pic for article..

Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 161 Comments: 37158
348. JLPR2
Quoting Dakster:
JLPR2 - What is going on in PR??? Why did the students strike in the first place? (I am assuming you mean riot and not strike...)


Nope, I mean strike, a student strike which is in denial of a 800 dollars quote, 400 per semester to level off the debt the University has. the problem is that the university doesn't want to hear any other alternatives and are basically making the students pay for their bad administration. they are not making cuts to their salaries or nothing. Plus it is estimated that 10,000 students wont be able to pay it so they will end up off the university.
Eh... I hope some sort of miracle happens with the administration giving us a another choice or lowering the quote. I mean come on, the quote is higher than what we pay per credit. -.-
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I just don't see Virginie out of this I don't think conditions are all that favorable and the system doesn't have much convection, say 30% it reaches TD (like NHC) 20% of Virginie
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Good post, Skye. Thanks!
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Quoting KerryInNOLA:
I know 2 little rapper thug kids who will have permabands before the night is out. Goodbye!
empty space created...gone
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 168 Comments: 53285
344. Skyepony (Mod)


ALL-CLEAR IN THE STRATOSPHERE: Earth's stratosphere is as clear as it's been in more than 50 years. University of Colorado climate scientist Richard Keen knows this because he's been watching lunar eclipses. "Since 1996, lunar eclipses have been bright, which means the stratosphere is relatively clear of volcanic aerosols. This is the longest period with a clear stratosphere since before 1960." Consider the following comparison of a lunar eclipse observed in 1992 after the Philippine volcano Pinatubo spewed millions of tons of gas and ash into the atmosphere vs. an "all-clear" eclipse in 2003:

Keen explains why lunar eclipses can be used to probe the stratosphere: "At the distance of the Moon, most of the light refracted into the umbra (Earth's shadow) passes through the stratosphere, which lies 10 to 30 miles above the ground. When the stratosphere is clear, the umbra (and therefore, the eclipsed Moon) is relatively bright. On the other hand, if the atmospheric lens that illuminates the Moon becomes dirty enough, light will be blocked and the eclipse will appear dark."

This is timely and important because the state of the stratosphere affects climate; a clear stratosphere "lets the sunshine in" to warm the Earth below. At a 2008 SORCE conference Keen reported that "The lunar eclipse record indicates a clear stratosphere over the past decade, and that this has contributed about 0.2 degrees to recent warming."

What will the eclipse 21st eclipse look like? "The stratosphere is still fairly clear, and the December 2010 eclipse should be normally bright," predicts Keen. "I welcome any and all reports on the brightness of future lunar eclipses for use in my volcano-climate studies. While actual brightness measurements (in magnitudes) made near mid-totality are most useful, I can also make use of Danjon-scale ratings of the eclipse. Please be sure to note the time, method, and instruments used in your reports." Submit your observations here.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 161 Comments: 37158
Quoting JLPR2:
Also another thing related to the UPR student strike here at Puerto Rico, information is been leaked that the students that were arrested are being punched by the police in their headquarters.

I'm speechless, great democracy we have here in PR. :\
remember JLPR we are only free as long as we do what we are told if you don't then you are no longer free
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 168 Comments: 53285
JLPR2 - What is going on in PR??? Why did the students strike in the first place? (I am assuming you mean riot and not strike...)
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341. JLPR2
Also another thing related to the UPR student strike here at Puerto Rico, information is been leaked that the students that were arrested are being punched by the police in their headquarters.

I'm speechless, great democracy we have here in PR. :\
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OH NO, NOT AGAIN!

Link
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586

WHXX01 KWBC 210011

CHGHUR

TROPICAL CYCLONE GUIDANCE MESSAGE

NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL

0011 UTC TUE DEC 21 2010



DISCLAIMER...NUMERICAL MODELS ARE SUBJECT TO LARGE ERRORS.

PLEASE REFER TO NHC OFFICIAL FORECASTS FOR TROPICAL CYCLONE

AND SUBTROPICAL CYCLONE INFORMATION.



ATLANTIC OBJECTIVE AIDS FOR



DISTURBANCE INVEST (AL952010) 20101221 0000 UTC



...00 HRS... ...12 HRS... ...24 HRS. .. ...36 HRS...

101221 0000 101221 1200 101222 0000 101222 1200



LAT LON LAT LON LAT LON LAT LON

BAMS 11.9N 56.0W 12.3N 58.2W 12.8N 60.5W 13.4N 62.7W

BAMD 11.9N 56.0W 12.6N 57.3W 13.6N 58.4W 14.8N 59.1W

BAMM 11.9N 56.0W 12.2N 57.7W 12.7N 59.3W 13.2N 60.8W

LBAR 11.9N 56.0W 13.1N 57.4W 15.0N 58.2W 17.0N 57.5W

SHIP 25KTS 26KTS 26KTS 23KTS

DSHP 25KTS 26KTS 26KTS 23KTS



...48 HRS... ...72 HRS... ...96 HRS. .. ..120 HRS...

101223 0000 101224 0000 101225 0000 101226 0000



LAT LON LAT LON LAT LON LAT LON

BAMS 14.0N 64.7W 14.3N 67.2W 14.5N 69.5W 15.5N 72.3W

BAMD 16.6N 58.8W 22.5N 41.9W 22.5N 26.2W 19.8N 25.9W

BAMM 13.8N 62.1W 14.9N 63.4W 17.3N 61.6W 20.3N 54.3W

LBAR 19.0N 54.9W 24.4N 45.9W 30.5N 31.9W .0N .0W

SHIP 20KTS 0KTS 0KTS 0KTS

DSHP 20KTS 0KTS 0KTS 0KTS



...INITIAL CONDITIONS...

LATCUR = 11.9N LONCUR = 56.0W DIRCUR = 290DEG SPDCUR = 10KT

LATM12 = 11.3N LONM12 = 54.0W DIRM12 = 288DEG SPDM12 = 11KT

LATM24 = 10.7N LONM24 = 51.6W

WNDCUR = 25KT RMAXWD = 20NM WNDM12 = 20KT

CENPRS = 1008MB OUTPRS = 1011MB OUTRAD = 150NM SDEPTH = M

RD34NE = 0NM RD34SE = 0NM RD34SW = 0NM RD34NW = 0NM



$$

NNNN
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 168 Comments: 53285
338. JLPR2
Quoting reedzone:


DMIN, should flare up again later tonight.


Lets hope it doesn't.
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First time here in about 1 1/2 months, 95L...Very unexpected in my opinion(2010 factor...NO)
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335. Skyepony (Mod)
lightningbolt73~ I'm guessing he is still at the conference in CA & there is epic rain.. Pretty unlike him to skip something in the tropics.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 161 Comments: 37158
Quoting beell:


looks more like DEND


Conditions are favorable, an anticyclone over the disturbance.. DMIN is just fading it out for a while.

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333. Skyepony (Mod)
95L

click for loop
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 161 Comments: 37158
I'm surprised that Jeff Masters didn't discuss Tropical Storm Omeka in his blog and now we have have 95 l in the caribean! It would be strange if we had a cane ond Christmas and I don't mean candy either!
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Quoting reedzone:


DMIN, should flare up again later tonight.
window opens later tomorrow for a short while may be a small rain event not much more
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 168 Comments: 53285
330. beell
Quoting reedzone:


DMIN, should flare up again later tonight.


looks more like DEND
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Quoting JLPR2:
Hmm...
Well 95L is...


yeah...


DMIN, should flare up again later tonight.
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327. JLPR2
Hmm...
Well 95L is...


yeah...
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KeryInNola - He suffers from rectal cranial inversion.
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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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