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 Neapolitan:

Anyone is absolutely allowed to have and express his or her own personal opinions, regardless of whether those opinions are based on science or not. So long as the one offering those opinions is prepared to be respond to polite and respectful challenges in a polite and respectful manner, it's all good...



So...where does calling people Luddites and Denialists, when they disagree with AGW, fit in with being polite and respectful?

Or ridiculing them, like you often do

For example...you sniped at them with the comment, 'regardless of whether those opinions are based on science or not'.

They are, indeed, responding in scientific terms, only those terms are ones that disagree with the AGW construct and that justifies you making them out to be unscientific.

That is a sneaky attempt at ridicule.

Maybe it is time to clean up your own backyard.


Member Since: October 10, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 716
74. JRRP
Quoting reedzone:
Anyone have any thoughts on the CATL wave around 11N 55W? I'm noticing a strong spin of deep convection..


18 GMT 12/20/10 11.6N 55.1W 25 1008 Invest
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73. Skyepony (Mod)
We have 95L!!!
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72. Skyepony (Mod)
nrtiwlnvragn~Thanks for finding that..

Here's one I missed in science Daily last year.

Typhoons Trigger Slow Earthquakes

ScienceDaily (June 12, 2009) %u2014 Scientists have made the surprising finding that typhoons trigger slow earthquakes, at least in eastern Taiwan. Slow earthquakes are non-violent fault slippage events that take hours or days instead of a few brutal seconds to minutes to release their potent energy. The researchers discuss their data in a study published the June 11, issue of Nature. More here.
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Here is something interesting about the CATL wave by looking at the latest shear maps..

Shear is only 10-20 knots over the wave, vorticity is broad, but good (yellow).


Member Since: July 1, 2008 Posts: 13 Comments: 7362
Public Information Statement
Statement as of 12:50 PM EST on December 20, 2010
... December 2010 should be in the top ten coldest since records
began...

So far in December 2010 we have had rather cool temperatures with
readings averaging about 8 to 12 degrees below normal. It does
look like we will see closer to normal temperatures this week which
should bring the December 2010 averages up some... but either way
these cool temperatures should place many locations across west
central and southwest Florida in the top ten coldest for the month
of December.

In the tables below are the top ten coldest decembers in some
locations... which includes the average so far this December through
the 19th and the 1971-2000 normal average temperature for the month
of December.


Top 10 coldest top 10 coldest decembers
decembers at inverness: at Brooksville chin hill:

1 49.2 in 1989 1 54.1 in 1935
2 53.1 in 2002 2 54.4 in 1989
3 53.8 in 2005 3 54.7 in 1903
4 54.2 in 1993 4 54.9 in 1963
5 54.9 in 1985 5 55.3 in 1930
6 55.0 in 1960 5 55.3 in 1917
7 55.1 in 2003 7 55.4 in 1910
8 55.2 in 2004 8 55.6 in 1901
9 55.7 in 2000 9 56.6 in 1954
10 55.9 in 1997 10 56.9 in 2000
Link
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Anyone have any thoughts on the CATL wave around 11N 55W? I'm noticing a strong spin of deep convection..

Member Since: July 1, 2008 Posts: 13 Comments: 7362
Abstract Triggering of the 2010 Haiti earthquake by hurricanes and possibly deforestation
from a different source than the one Dr. Masters used in his entry.
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My company actually owns land on a smaller delta west of Leogane and in observing this for 4 years, the size of the delta is influenced more by the frequency of winter storms (locally called Northwests) than anything else I have seen. It could be what is going on in the Arctic is having as much effect on some of the coastline, as anything. These deltas sit on very deep water, with a steep sub-sea slope, and it does not take much to reset them. They can also vary through the seasons, growing in rainy season, and shrinking after winter storms. The silt flowing in the November 2010 image is not typical, except after a tropical storm, which had just occurred, with the worst flooding in all of Haiti in Leogane.

I have wondered if anyone looked at the regional temperatures in the days just before the quake. There were several consecutive nights of record low temperatures. This area of Haiti has a long history of quakes, long before any "defoliation" occurred. The area was way overdue.

The 95% number that is often stated is not realistic, although there are specific areas that one could find that are 95% cut, but there are many more places where thick forest exists. I had always heard the 95% number, but was marveled during my first road trip from Mole St Nicholas to Port Salute how lush and beautiful the countryside was.
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65. Skyepony (Mod)
& in other reasons to get away from unsustainable, dirty energy production... how about that unbelievably huge explosion this morning in Mexico due to oil thieves tapping the pipeline?


A massive oil pipeline explosion lay waste to parts of a central Mexican city Sunday, incinerating people, cars, houses and trees as gushing crude turned streets into flaming rivers. At least 28 people were killed, 13 of them children, in a disaster authorities blamed on oil thieves. The blast in San Martin Texmelucan, initally estimated to have affected 5,000 residents in a three-mile (five-kilometer) radius, scorched homes and cars and left metal and pavement twisted and in some cases burned to ash in the intense heat. Relatives sobbed as firefighters pulled charred bodies from the incinerated homes, some of the remains barely more than piles of ashes and bones. Officials identified all but four of the dead by Sunday night. Although they released some names, they didn't say if they were all residents of the area or possible suspects. Housewife Zoyla Perez Cortes, 27, said she awoke about 5:30 a.m. to a strange, overpowering smell, like gasoline. Minutes later, her street looked like it was flowing in tar and then erupted in flames. Her husband knocked down a wall allowing them to escape out the back of their two-story, cement-brick home with their three children. Her brother-in-law is being treated for burns in a hospital, but she didn't know the fate of his wife and two children. "It was like we were living in an inferno," she said, her eyes red from crying. "Everything was covered in smoke." Laura Gurza, chief of the federal Civil Protection emergency response agency, said that in addition to the 28 deaths, at least 52 people were hurt and 84 remained in a shelter late Sunday after fleeing San Martin,about 55 miles (90 kilometers) east of Mexico City. More than 115 homes were scorched, 32 of them destroyed. More here
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64. Skyepony (Mod)
Dr Masters~ Another excellent blog.. You might have noticed my obsession with the topic & theories I've had about it through the years. In the 1st article there's some interesting stuff about carbon sequestering that maybe causing quakes as well. Any chance you can copy the abstract in the second link to here so we can see (or e-mail me a user name & password:)? They want $60 out of me to view.

Any thoughts on Omeka?
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Quoting caneswatch:
Great, the first time i've been in the blog all day, and it's about GW.

I believe it's time for more music.


LOL First time I understood the lyrics.
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Quoting niederwaldboy:


You are kidding, right??? Live a little because that is a an awesome avatar.
it is highly inappropriate given that there are children who visit this blog too. if i wrote the language that avatar expresses, i would, and should be banned. my only point is that this is not the type of forum for that depiction, regardless of how 'awesome' one may think it is.
Member Since: July 31, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 1320
Anybody checking out the little disturbance at 12N 55W?
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59. MTWX
I love the GW arguement!! People don't even know if it is something humans can change or not, or the cause... or even the impact we will have trying to control our climate. All of the ideas out there to "fix" things (which may or may not be broken)need many years of monitoring to see if it works. Humans are way too impatient for that to ever happen!
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Quoting Neapolitan:

Try this.

Good movie. Not quite what I am looking for. I am building a database on global superstorms and how they can happen on my blog.
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56. MTWX
Quoting Neapolitan:

Try this.

I was thinking the same when I saw that comment!!
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Quoting HurricaneKatrina:
Does anyone know any good sources of information about the global superstorm?

Try this.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13509
Quoting bappit:

Following up on the "If you go scientific theory, man is destroying the earth, causing Global Warming." comment previously and hydrus' reply. There is no way that global warming will destroy the earth. Don't think that is the theory. It will just change things. Repeated ice ages have come and gone. We went through a snow-ball earth a long ways back. Catastrophic meteor impacts. Don't think more CO2 will do the trick either. Of course, "super-rapid comeback" is a relative term. The time scales involved far surpass anything written into our constitution.

True. Modern-day humans--recent newcomers who weren't around for the first 99.999% of the planet's existence--may end up disappearing either because of some factor beyond our control (cometary impact, massive CME) or because of our own foolishness (global thermonuclear war, refusal to mitigate global warming), but the planet will almost surely go right on revolving around the sun until it's ejected from the solar system by some wandering star or it's subsumed by the sun's giant red phase many billions of years from now.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13509
the only thing I can tell you with complete accuracy is that one way or another.
MORE WILL BE REVEALED!!!
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More cold on the way after Christmas. Link
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Does anyone know any good sources of information about the global superstorm?
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Central Pacific Hurricane Center
Tropical Cyclone Advisory #2
TROPICAL CYCLONE OMEKA (CP012010)
5:00 AM HST December 20 2010
=====================================

At 15:00 PM UTC, Tropical Storm Omeka (997 hPa) located at 21.6N 176.8W or about 400 NM south of Midway Island has sustained winds of 45 knots with gusts of 55 knots. The cyclone is reported as moving northeast at 15 knots.

Gale Force Winds
=================
45 NM from the center

Forecast and Intensity
=======================
12 HRS: 23.5N 175.4W - 40 knots (Tropical Storm)
24 HRS: 26.7N 174.1W - 35 knots (Tropical Storm)
48 HRS: 34.1N 168.1W - 25 knots (Low Pressure Area)

The Next Tropical Cyclone Advisory From Central Pacific Hurricane Center will be issued at around 21:00 PM UTC..
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Quoting hydrus:
The extinction or "The Great Dying" 250 million years ago wiped out 95% of marine life and 70% on land masses according to the experts. Some say it was Volcanic eruptions. Yet life always makes a super rapid comeback...Link

Following up on the "If you go scientific theory, man is destroying the earth, causing Global Warming." comment previously and hydrus' reply. There is no way that global warming will destroy the earth. Don't think that is the theory. It will just change things. Repeated ice ages have come and gone. We went through a snow-ball earth a long ways back. Catastrophic meteor impacts. Don't think more CO2 will do the trick either. Of course, "super-rapid comeback" is a relative term. The time scales involved far surpass anything written into our constitution.
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Quoting reedzone:
Here's my two cents on GW...

I'm a Christian and I believe we are in a "Climate Change", not caused by man but by the aging of the earth and planets. Is man polluting the earth? Yes, but it's not causing the weather conditions nor the ice to break down. The earth is aging and getting old, as we are. That's how I believe God created it. I am no fan of evolution or the big bang theory. Again, just my two cents, and my personal opinion, which I am subject to on here.


Yes
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46. MTWX
This is part of what I believe. I am glad NASA has been checking it out. Link
Interesting read, no matter what you believe is the cause for GW/Climate Change/End of the World/Etc.
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Quoting reedzone:


Actually (and i'm not trying to preach) if you read Matthew 24, Jesus told his disciples that many disasters and famines will take place to show people signs of His second coming. If you go by the Christian faith, it's all on the timing of what the bible says. If you go scientific theory, man is destroying the earth, causing Global Warming. Just my opinion on the theory.
I was reading a article about " punctual evolution " caused by major impacts from asteroids and comets. The extinction or "The Great Dying" 250 million years ago wiped out 95% of marine life and 70% on land masses according to the experts. Some say it was Volcanic eruptions. Yet life always makes a super rapid comeback...Link
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Hurricanes Don't form over land: True. But in 2007 TS Erin redeveloped over Oklahoma! The movie does not even call the storm a hurricane. It says it is LIKE a giant hurricane. The movie even states the fact that hurricanes don't form over land. In many cases extratropical storms have assumed a hurricane-like shape. Subtropical storms have characteristics of both tropical and non tropical storms. Subtropical storms can form over water colder than normal tropical systems. Perhaps the global superstorm will be subtropical. In recent years T-storms have developed into "landicanes" most notably in 1999 the "tornadocane" in North Carolina
http://www.spc.noaa.gov/coolimg/nc_storm/index.html
And a storm complex in the upper midwest during 2009 that was so intense that the NWS gave it a new classification. A super-derecho. These storms are new phenomenon. Who knows what kind of never before seen weather patterns will emerge in the coming years?

Don't dismiss the global superstorm theory just because it was featured in a movie.
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Quoting Minnemike:
there is an avatar in here worth banning, and i hope Admin catches this... thought there was an approval process on those. surely that constitutes a violation of community standards.


You are kidding, right??? Live a little because that is a an awesome avatar.
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Quoting MichaelSTL:


Interesting...

Pope: Creation vs. evolution clash an ‘absurdity’

LORENZAGO DI CADORE, Italy — Pope Benedict XVI said the debate raging in some countries — particularly the United States and his native Germany — between creationism and evolution was an “absurdity,” saying that evolution can coexist with faith.


Pope Urges Action On Climate Change: 'This Is A Growing Crisis'

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI called for urgent action to protect the environment, saying Tuesday that climate change and natural catastrophes threaten the rights to life, food, health – and ultimately peace.

During his papacy, the Vatican has been taking steps toward greater environmental sustainability, joining a reforestation project aimed at offsetting its CO2 emissions, and has installed solar cells on the roof of its main auditorium.


So you said you were a Christian, yet don't believe in those? So all of those millions of scientists are all wrong and part of some massive global conspiracy (for whatever reason) and should be burned at the stake - NOT!


The pope is not following the word of God if that is true. It was just my opinion, you didn't have to question me because honestly, you'll never change my opinion lol.
Member Since: July 1, 2008 Posts: 13 Comments: 7362
Quoting MichaelSTL:


Interesting...

Pope: Creation vs. evolution clash an ‘absurdity’

LORENZAGO DI CADORE, Italy — Pope Benedict XVI said the debate raging in some countries — particularly the United States and his native Germany — between creationism and evolution was an “absurdity,” saying that evolution can coexist with faith.


Pope Urges Action On Climate Change: 'This Is A Growing Crisis'

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI called for urgent action to protect the environment, saying Tuesday that climate change and natural catastrophes threaten the rights to life, food, health – and ultimately peace.

During his papacy, the Vatican has been taking steps toward greater environmental sustainability, joining a reforestation project aimed at offsetting its CO2 emissions, and has installed solar cells on the roof of its main auditorium.


So you said you were a Christian, yet don't believe in those? So all of those millions of scientists are all wrong and part of some massive global conspiracy (for whatever reason) and should be burned at the stake - NOT!

Burned at the stake? Come on, how do you expected to educate people when your constantly riddiculing on the blog? You can have all the facts you want, but when you add in some mean comments, ears become closed.
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Quoting reedzone:
Here's my two cents on GW...

I'm a Christian and I believe we are in a "Climate Change", not caused by man but by the aging of the earth and planets. Is man polluting the earth? Yes, but it's not causing the weather conditions nor the ice to break down. The earth is aging and getting old, as we are. That's how I believe God created it. I am no fan of evolution or the big bang theory. Again, just my two cents, and my personal opinion, which I am subject to on here.

Anyone is absolutely allowed to have and express his or her own personal opinions, regardless of whether those opinions are based on science or not. So long as the one offering those opinions is prepared to be respond to polite and respectful challenges in a polite and respectful manner, it's all good...
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13509
Quoting hydrus:
A Global Catastrophe.....:)
True. I have a mini database on global superstorms on my blog. Feel free to contribute.
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Quoting cat5hurricane:

I enjoyed the adjectives "selling stories", "roping you in", stories being "mush".

Hey, that kinda sounds a lot like global warming.

The dictionary has lots of adjectives. I think you'll like it.
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Quoting TampaFLUSA:
Why do you have to be mean? Flagged.

Sorry if you think it was mean.

Actually, no one knows what the Druids believed. The Feast of the Unconquered Sun was a Roman thing.

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Quoting bappit:

I could be Druid and think the same thing. By the way, happy feast of the unconquered sun.

I have a question, though. If the earth is wearing out, why is it happening now instead of a hundred million years ago?


Actually (and i'm not trying to preach) if you read Matthew 24, Jesus told his disciples that many disasters and famines will take place to show people signs of His second coming. If you go by the Christian faith, it's all on the timing of what the bible says. If you go scientific theory, man is destroying the earth, causing Global Warming. Just my opinion on the theory.
Member Since: July 1, 2008 Posts: 13 Comments: 7362
Right now, somewhere in Asia they are building gigantic ships up in the mountains...wonder what's up
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Quoting HurricaneKatrina:
I wonder what kind of catastrophes a global superstorm would cause.
A Global Catastrophe.....:)
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Quoting bappit:

I could be Druid and think the same thing. By the way, happy feast of the unconquered sun.

I have a question, though. If the earth is wearing out, why is it happening now instead of a hundred million years ago?
Why do you have to be mean or mock? Flagged.
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I wonder what kind of catastrophes a global superstorm would cause.
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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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