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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276. JLPR2
Quoting JFLORIDA:



Its weired its basically being ignored here in the US. Sounds like a bad scene and something unfortunate waiting to happen.

More:


Tensions mounted last week leading up to a two-day student walkout when Capitol Security, a private security firm contracted by the university for $1.5 million, demolished entrance gates to the campus. Hired guards were young with little or no training or evaluation, bore no identification badges and some were armed with sticks and pipes in a climate of intimidation perhaps not seen since dockworkers strikes of the 1940s. Many of the guards had been recruited from marginalized Afro-Puerto Rican communities, such as Villa CaDona in Loza, which has been the site of documented police abuses, lending a disturbing dimension of institutionalized racism, according to community leaders there.

Several violent incidents were reported, including a student who was seriously beaten and injured by guards. One video purportedly of students breaking security van windows was repeatedly aired in the local media as the justification for the police occupation of the campus, just as students had peacefully concluded the two-day walkout last Wednesday evening.

According to Ramrez, Fortuo's public statements targeting leftists, designated protest areas off campus and protest prohibitions are violations of constitutionally-protected First Amendment rights. The police presence and heavily-equipped riot squads also create a climate of intimidation that restricts expression, he added.





Yes, the tension is getting worse and worse each day, since the police officials are working long hours at the university watch and recently they lost some sort of benefit so they are probably hitting the students, seeing them as the ones guilty of their work load.
Today has been the most aggressive day so far and the violence was started by the police. :\
If only I had a bazooka... LOL!
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well looks like hammer time
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Quoting DoverWxwatchter:
Once again you fail to back up your claim that mankind is not causing global warming, despite your concession that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and mankind is increasing CO2 in the atmosphere.

And as usual, you provide no scientific evidence for your claim. You just insult people. I back up my arguments with links to papers by respected climate scientists and agencies, like Michael Mann and NASA. You post nothing backing up your arguments.

You just make scornographic posts. And that's all.


First of all, those AGW Talking Points are getting very worn out. Ridiculing those who disagree with your point of view is so...Kindergartenist.

I do not have to prove my position regarding your AGW hypothesis. Just because you say it is so, that does not make it so.

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.

As for insults, that is another of your constructs from the AGW Talking Points booklet. You even went so far as to attempt to ridicule me by replying in a smarmy fashion that I agreed with you when I did not.

Scornographic is in the index of the AGW Talking Points booklet isn't it. That is a neat concept because it fits the tactics that you and your AGW cohorts use to a tee.

Well, thanks for the rush of adrenalin, I really enjoyed the sparring.


Member Since: October 10, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 716
Interesting to hear this happening in PR; there has been some "manifestations" here in the Bahamas over the government's proposed plan to privatize 51 % of the local government-owned telecommunications company by selling it to Cable and Wireless....
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Quoting Ameister12:

B. No stronger than 50 mph imo.


I would say A ... TD at most, but otherwise could bring us (Barbados) MORE rain - as if we need any more this year - and some gusty winds come late Tuesday/early Wednesday.
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snow is evil...it is of the Devil...
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10458
GFS predicting snow in the south (mainly Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina) around New Years.
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259. JLPR2
Quoting JFLORIDA:


Come on, you are in a forum where half the "Americans" are defending corporate rights to pollute over individual rights and the truth and anything complex requiring any degree of understanding is a "intellectual conspiracy."

The press hypes mistrust and the security need, civil injustice occurs, and more criminals magically show up.

Welcome to post 9/11 America.



governor was chosen as the leader of the republican governors


lol, of course, got a chuckle out of that.


True. Arrg!
Why is the government always a pile of you know what? :|
But the next elections should be interesting. XD
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258. DDR
Quoting JLPR2:


The animals we got in the police here dont know how to manage things peacefully. :(

I wonder if these news reach the mainland US...

Police here aren't animals the're monsters.
I hope the news does.
I'm out,laterz
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Quoting DoverWxwatchter:
As Calusakat

CO2 is a greenhouse gas.

Mankind is increasing CO2 in the atmosphere.

Therefore, mankind is causing global warming.

Q.E.D.

Thank you for conceding my points. You have never posted one reasoned comment refuting it. Or any comment refuting global warming that held up to logic, or with any scientific sources or backing.

So the global warming argument is won.



Wow!

Straight out of the AGW Talking Points booklet...Because you said it, it is true.

I am so impressed.

Do you happen to have the name of the publisher so I can have a copy too?

It would make great toilet reading.



Member Since: October 10, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 716
yup...it's conflicting...the economic argument resonates with me...but I also just can't see it as a winning game...the ocean probably won't get to my front door in my lifetime...although another interesting part of this is the ebb and flow of it....we have erosion...but we also have accretion...and it's somewhat cyclical...
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251. JLPR2
Quoting DDR:

Okay
I know there were protests in UWI,University of the West Indies recently,same sort of thing,drums, music etc.I don't know if it was students,maybe UWI employees but it was peaceful.


The animals we got in the police here dont know how to manage things peacefully. :(

I wonder if these news reach the mainland US...
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250. DDR
Quoting JLPR2:


This is the police chief fault saying that the students striking should be kicked out with force from the campus.
And the UPR campuses are full police officials meanwhile this year is setting up to be one of worst in murders.
This government is the worst thing that could have happened to PR and I saw in the news that our good for nothing governor was chosen as the leader of the republican governors in the US.

Okay
I know there were protests in UWI,University of the West Indies recently,same sort of thing,drums, music etc.I don't know if it was students,maybe UWI employees but it was peaceful.
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Quoting DoverWxwatchter:

So then you concede that mankind is increasing CO2, a greenhouse gas, in the atmosphere causing global warming. Thank you.



No, that is not at all the correct interpretation of my answers.

I can see how there are those who might come to that type of conclusion as you did. Which sort of proves my point of bias acting as rose colored glasses and tainting interpretations, like you did just now.

That is the wonderful thing about Physics and Mathematics, both are pretty much cut and dried subjects. Heat rises...cold sinks...that sort of thing. Oh yes, and one plus one only equals two.

Which is why I feel the way I do about the subject of AGW.

Computer programs are written by people and no matter what is said to the contrary, man is fallible and AGW computer analysis will be proven wrong.

Not to mention that we haven't even looked into the question of equipment placement or calibration protocols.



Member Since: October 10, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 716
247. JLPR2
Quoting DDR:

If you saw this,well then that's terrible.
That sort of stuff happens here as well.
One minute your walking down the street,you get knocked down by a police vehicle,then they start beating the crap out of you,that happened last week here.Police here are brutal and corrupt beyond comprehension.


This is the police chief fault saying that the students striking should be kicked out with force from the campus.
And the UPR campuses are full police officials meanwhile this year is setting up to be one of worst in murders.
This government is the worst thing that could have happened to PR and I saw in the news that our good for nothing governor was chosen as the leader of the republican governors in the US.

What a joke!
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246. DDR
Quoting RitaEvac:


lol, just wait'll GW is in full force, if you don't pay your carbon footprint bill, this will be the norm

LoL
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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...
That is a lot of money. And storms affect that part of the east coast often..It is ridiculous to keep spending that kind of money to keep putting sand there when you know it will inevitably be washed out to sea again . I know that is easy for me to say, especially when I do not own a house or a business there. But it might be time to sell and move away to an area not so prone to beach erosion. Believe me, I know all about it growing up on Sanibel and Captiva Islands. There is only one road to Captiva, and it gets washed out quite a bit.
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Quoting DDR:

If you saw this,well then that's terrible.
That sort of stuff happens here as well.
One minute your walking down the street,you get knocked down by a police vehicle,then they start beating the crap out of you,that happened last week here.Police here are brutal and corrupt beyond comprehension.


lol, just wait'll GW is in full force, if you don't pay your carbon footprint bill, this will be the norm
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Quoting bappit:
I saw this pic, Grothar, and it reminded me of you. Dunno why.



My vote for the POTD award. Easily.
(Post of the day ;-)
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242. DDR
Quoting JLPR2:


There is a strike going on but the university is full of police officials.
They were singing, picketing and marching inside the campus, inviting the few students that were inside to join them and then the persecution began.

If you saw this,well then that's terrible.
That sort of stuff happens here as well.
One minute your walking down the street,you get knocked down by a police vehicle,then they start beating the crap out of you,that happened last week here.Police here are brutal and corrupt beyond comprehension.
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240. JRRP
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239. JLPR2
Could you guys believe that press officials were pushed, students were being hit even after being arrested. Around 20 students were affected by the police.
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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...


Were getting to a point where jobs aren't needed anymore, everything is automated, cars are gonna drive on their own, probably do maint. to itself, people dont need 40 hr work week anymore. Computer jobs sitting at desk can be done at home. And there's not gonna be a frikin economy anymore! that would put the rich and poor on the same level. So they gotta make things up and keep trying to throw money at something to keep an economy. Sooooo, let's make up GW and that way it will provide laws and jobs and a new world order, new green world. That way the rich get richer and have control. And the economy keeps pumping out money to keep our little world going round so we feel safe and warm when we go to bed at night.
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Speeky there is now way for a storm of 95L's size to go up against that front, and follow tomas' track.

This storm will form at the most and after 24 hours get eaten by the front and swept out to sea.

Be back in a while...
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236. JLPR2
Quoting DDR:
JLPR2 what do you mean by manifesting themselves?


There is a student strike going on but the university is full of police officials.
They were singing, picketing and marching inside the campus, inviting the few students that were inside to join them and then the persecution began.
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Quoting presslord:
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...

Well, I can't verify or deny the economics of their decision, but if a $35 million beach renovation brings in $36 million in ADDITIONAL tourism (i.e. - tourism that would NOT have come in without the renovation) then maybe they have a case to keep replenishing the beach.  I'm skeptical.
Geologically speaking, beaches, just like river deltas, are some of the most transient geomorphic features on the face of the globe.  Without vegetation to stabilize the beach there's absolutely NOTHING to keep it from washing out to sea again (assuming it's in an area that favors erosion).  Frankly, even WITH the stabilizing benefits of vegetation, no beach should be expected to be truly "stable."  All coastlines (especially sandy, beach-like coastlines) change through time: some erode, some build up.  It takes massive effort just to have a minimal impact on the rate of this erosion.  In most cases, I'd guess it doesn't make financial sense to keep dumping sand there.  That said, for some of the world's most popular beaches it might very well be cost-effective to keep the dump-trucks rolling...
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234. DDR
It's been 2 days without rain,hot humid and dry conditions,expecting a change in weather soon though in T&T.
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Quoting Ameister12:
Anticyclone over 95L.
Thank You! my point exactly, ive been saying it all afternoon!
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232. DDR
JLPR2 what do you mean by manifesting themselves?
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Quoting calusakat:
Quoting Minnemike:

...oh, and another question for C "can my posts get any more outrageous and baseless? Yes or No?"

i think the answer is around the corner...



No, I don't think your answers can get any more outrageous and baseless.



that would be your replies... you know, the baseless and outrageous ones. see, i typed it so it's true!
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Quoting calusakat:


Yes, carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas.

Yes, mankind is increasing the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.


c'mon, where are your wolf cries??!
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Quoting Minnemike:

...oh, and another question for C "can my posts get any more outrageous and baseless? Yes or No?"

i think the answer is around the corner...



No, I don't think your answers can get any more outrageous and baseless.



Member Since: October 10, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 716
227. JRRP
Quoting Ameister12:

The lunar eclipse is going to start around 10:30pm tonight and last for about 3 hours.

oook
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Quoting DoverWxwatchter:
Yes carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas.

Yes mankind is increasing the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Now your answers, please.


Yes, carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas.

Yes, mankind is increasing the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.


Member Since: October 10, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 716

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About JeffMasters

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