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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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
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.
Calusakat's reply.. AGW sheeple are paid vast gobs of money to make you believe that.
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Quoting JRRP:
the eclipse is today or tomorrow ??

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

Is carbon dioxide a greenhouse gas? Yes or no?

Is mankind increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere? Yes or no?

...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...
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Quoting DoverWxwatchter:
Calusakat two questions.

Is carbon dioxide a greenhouse gas? Yes or no?

Is mankind increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere? Yes or no?



Well, lets see...you first.

What would be your answers to those two questions?

I promise that I will answer.

Like I said, you first.




Member Since: October 10, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 716
219. JLPR2
I cant believe what is going on in Puerto Rico, in my university (UPR). Police man are basically running after students that were manifesting themselves in the campus, they surrounded them, threw some sort of gasses, hit them exaggeratedly, the students are unarmed. This is ridiculous, can the US government intervene here?
Recently the government and administration of the UPR banned all manifestation inside the UPR campus clearly going against civil rights and now there is police brutality and arrests without sense.

A little update of what is happening in the island to you guys. :\
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218. JRRP
the eclipse is today or tomorrow ??
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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...
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Anticyclone over 95L.
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Quoting MoeHoward:
Deforestation & rain cause earthquakes.....what happened to sound, rational science? This is more ridiculous than the global warming hoax!


Well, if you think about it...the AGW wolves are embolden by the total lack of serious debate and they have figured, 'What the heck. Let's see just how far into the ridiculous we can push this thing. There might be some money in it for us. If it is this easy to bamboozle the sheeple we got nothing to lose.'


Member Since: October 10, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 716
Quoting Speeky:
I predict 95L will become a tropical storm at the very least.

I also predict 95L will have a track very similar to Hurricane Tomas earlier this year.

Any questions? I am open to critisim.
No criticism here. That region has been conducive for development for a long time. It seems logical to have something brew there as opposed to some that have formed to the north. What I am trying to say is if it can happen where Zeta and others have formed so far north, why the heck wouldnt something form that far south..
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I see some pple in here making huge judgemental leaps about Christians who don't believe in AGW. There's nothing about what reed said to suggest that he's anti-preservationist.

Frankly, I'm about where reed is on the AGW bit; I fully agree we're going through this climate change, but not so fully convinced that human activity is THE cause.... though I admit I'm not there for the same reasons as him. [I fully believe that God can cause the world to come to an end through AGW the same way He can cause it to come to an end any other way.... :o)] I'm just a skeptic on general principles....

Though I have to admit some stuff I've seen recently makes me more skeptical about being a skeptic....
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211. JRRP
R.I.P 95L
jejejejeje
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In case you missed it Floater 4 is now fixed 95L

http://www.ssd.noaa.gov/goes/flt/t4/avn-l.jpg
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Quoting Speeky:
I predict 95L will become a tropical storm at the very least.

I also predict 95L will have a track very similar to Hurricane Tomas earlier this year.

Any questions? I am open to critisim.
What is your basis/rationale for that.
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Cleaning out my desktop, found this. Thought I'd post (since I said I would):


"388. winter123 6:24 PM GMT on June 08, 2010
55-

Quoting sebastianflorida:

A storm forms June 21 stays TS Yucatan issue; B Storm gains Cat 1 status on July 2 recurves; C storm gains Cat 3 Status July 7th makes Florida prepare over the 4th of July and hits between Miami and WPB; D Storm Cat 2 status July 19 a Cuba issue; E Storm Cat 1 recurves; Aug F, G Storms on the 1st both Cat 3 and 4 have Florida written all over them and are Charley like storms one affecting the same area, the other affecting Tampa both between the 2 and 5th; H will be everyones headache as it rides up the East coast of Florida to VA as a TS lots of rain between the 9th and 14th; I will bring a Cat 1 to LA/TX line on the 12th; On the 21st we get to back to backs Cat 2 and Cat 3 both J & K one visits GA the other MS; to round out Aug on the 29th L harmlessly recurves; Sept brings M, N, O, P, R, S, and T, 2 will recurve, 2 remain TS and are Carrib issues and one of the three US landfalls hits TX, the other two Florida east coast. V and W are issues for the Keys and are strong TS or Cat 1 Hurricanes. So I guess 21 named systems in my hypathetical situation.



that's great, i will save that and repost december 1."
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With the dry air to it's NW and the amount of shear that trough/front is going to introduce in about 36 hours It might make depression tomorrow morning before it gets eaten.
Far out Chance?
It keeps it's act together enough to induce/combine with a low along the stalled front in 48 hours and becomes a cat 1/2 almost extra tropical hurricane just south of PR and the VI's at a probability of say .001%
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I predict 95L will become a tropical storm at the very least.

I also predict 95L will have a track very similar to Hurricane Tomas earlier this year.

Any questions? I am open to critisim.
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Quoting HurricaneDean07:
Okay, time for a poll time that is actually tooken seriously.

95L will reach the intensity of...
A) Tropical Depression Twenty-Two
B) Tropical Storm Virginie With Winds Between 40-55 MPH
C) Tropical Storm Virginie With Winds Between 60-70 MPH
D) Category 1 Hurricane Virginie
E) Category 2 Hurricane Virginie
F) Category 3 Hurricane Virginie(You can't get more rediculous than this)
G) Doesn't Form At All

B. No stronger than 50 mph imo.
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I say B at tops, this little system wont hold long and although has a anticyclone over it will be no match for the front 600 Miles in front of it...
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Quoting pilotguy1:


No I think the lunar eclipse caused global warming.
Awesome...next case...:).j.k..I do get good info from G.W.posts...most of them..
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Okay, time for a poll time that is actually tooken seriously.

95L will reach the intensity of...
A) Tropical Depression Twenty-Two
B) Tropical Storm Virginie With Winds Between 40-55 MPH
C) Tropical Storm Virginie With Winds Between 60-70 MPH
D) Category 1 Hurricane Virginie
E) Category 2 Hurricane Virginie
F) Category 3 Hurricane Virginie(You can't get more rediculous than this)
G) Doesn't Form At All
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Quoting Grothar:
Any chance of 95L hitting South Florida. (Aw, come on, somebody had to say it.)
About the same chance as the Cleveland Browns winning a Super Bowl....Greetings ancient one who,s existence pre-dates the Universe....
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Oh geez - for those of you "armchair-geologists" who doubt that massive sediment redistribution could cause earthquakes (and this IS a massive redistribution of sediment), I urge you to gather your evidence and publish a paper refuting the paper referenced by Dr. Masters.

I have two degrees in geology myself, and the reasoning in Wdowinsky 's paper is sound.  In fact, triggering an earthquake isn't as difficult as you might think:

one example

another example

and a whole bunch more

No, this doesn't mean the world is ending, but if you still believe that humans can't influence our environment in profound ways then I urge you to dig a little deeper into the research.  The activities of humans have, do, and will affect their environment.  The same is true (to varying degrees) of ALL living things.  This isn't political - it's just the nature of our universe.
If you have been studying the universe and have come to a different conclusion, I once again highly urge you to pursue funding, gather evidence, and publish your results.
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But if we all sing Kum by yaa, with a high pitch it might just cause an earthquake along with the jump
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Quoting RitaEvac:
And if we all hold hands and jump at the same time doc we can cause an earthquake as well. lol
I think u have to be jumpin' for a while, there....

Afternoon, all, BTW....
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The flooding rains in Cali that were caused by man deforesting forests and creating parking lots and buildings caused 95L to form today due to telconnection overseas, which therefore spun up 95L under man made deep ocean warmth by fossil fuels. It's very complexed
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Quoting winter123:
Poll - 95L intensity

A. TD
B. TS
C. Cat 1
D. Cat 2
E. Cat 3
F. Cat 4
G. Cat 5
H. The infamous CAT 6
Z. dissipate within 2 hours from now


Cat 5 during the Eclipse.... Then it dissipates
Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9882
181. Skyepony (Mod)
Flash flooding in Hawaii.

Oahu will remain under a flash-flood watch through this afternoon following a rain-soaked Sunday that saw a storm-related fire knock out power to parts of Ala Moana Center on the last shopping weekend before Christmas, the closure of the Honolulu Zoo and City Hall, an overwhelmed sewer system that burst manhole covers and wrong-way drivers trying to avoid flooded streets. A 4-foot-wide sinkhole opened up on Oahu Avenue yesterday. At least three flooded homes received help from the Hawaii chapter of the American Red Cross. A 150-pound boulder rumbled off Diamond Head and landed at the Diamond Head Lighthouse. The rain unleashed a handful of mudslides, including one at Farrington Highway at Ko Olina that choked the only way into and out of the Leeward Coast. And Kalanianaole Highway was shut down in both directions near the Makapuu Lighthouse because of flooding and loose construction equipment. Traffic was being turned around in Hawaii Kai and Waimanalo. The road reopened at 7:15 p.m. "This storm system is saturating everything," said Peter Hirai, deputy director of the city's Department of Emergency Management. "You've got asphalt starting to buckle and deteriorate and minor rockslides. Our storm drain system is designed to carry water out, but it's not doing it, so manholes are popping up." more here
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 225 Comments: 39381
Poll - 95L intensity

A. TD
B. TS
C. Cat 1
D. Cat 2
E. Cat 3
F. Cat 4
G. Cat 5
H. The infamous CAT 6
Z. dissipate within 2 hours from now
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Quoting Grothar:
Any chance of 95L hitting South Florida. (Aw, come on, somebody had to say it.)



Does the Lunar Eclipse affected or caused this 95L to form???

(Aw, come on, Sure somebody may think it does...)
Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9882
177. Skyepony (Mod)
Flash Flooding in South Africa with hail.. I think it's becoming apparent campgrounds & these floods are like trailer parks & tornados.


A deluge in the Drakensberg has forced several drenched campers to seek refuge in the Drakensberg Gardens Golf & Spa Resort hotel after they narrowly escaped being washed away amid the pelting hail and rain. Caravans, cars and bakkies were damaged during the storm at about 2.30pm on Sunday and a car was damaged yesterday when part of the wall next to a boom-gate at the main entrance collapsed. Bridges providing access to the golf course and bowling greens were submerged and branches and rocks had settled on them. Nobody was injured during the downpour. Maryanne Oliver, of Hillcrest, said she was in a caravan with her husband and two children when they saw the gushing water from the river, which was about 50m away. “The banks of the river broke. The water came through the caravan park and submerged the cars and caravans. “Ours had water 20cm deep inside. The hail was coming down and it actually shredded some of the gazebos that the campers had put up,” she said. Oliver and her husband rushed to their separate vehicles and drove away from the park. “The kids were hysterical.

They were quite traumatised by the whole thing. They’ve never seen anything like this before. “I just had to get out of there. It was probably the most terrifying experience of my life.” Her laptop was water-damaged and other people lost watches, rings and other items as they were hit by the rising water. She praised hotel staff for going out of their way to ensure that those affected were as comfortable as possible after the ordeal. Despite the poor weather, Oliver said she and her family were going to stay on and enjoy the rest of their holiday. Another camper, Lynn Roper, who was at the site with her family, said she and her husband had a narrow escape as rocks and other debris fell in the path of their car while they were driving back to the campsite from a nearby convenience store. She said: “We just got out of the car and ran for cover. We were soaked.” The resort’s entertainment manager, Gavin Brown, said it was a “flash flood of note”. “There was a lot of water. Everyone was very wet, but, fortunately, nobody was injured,” he said. Brown said there were about 150 guests at the campsite but arrangements had been made for the affected people to stay at the hotel. SA Weather Service forecaster, Wiseman Dlamini said rainfall was expected to continue in the Drakensberg this week He said Underberg had recorded 19.8mm of rain on Sunday while other areas, such as Van Reenen, had received 11.4mm.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 225 Comments: 39381
shear tending to drop near 95L with anticyclone nearby.
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About

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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