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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MESSAGE FROM MOTHER EARTH .....

WE ARE ALOT A LIKE IN MANY WAYS YOU AND I EXCEPT ONE

THERE ARE
BILLIONS OF YOU
YET
ONLY ONE OF ME.......
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 169 Comments: 53296
Strong argument!!! Nothing disproves China's investments in clean energy better then a second hand account of local air quality conditions in Hong Kong.
Quoting calusakat:



More AGW propaganda???

Sure looks like it.

My sister has been living in Hong Kong for about three years now and she tells me that some days they can barely see the bay because of the white smoke coming from the mainland of China. And she lives about a mile from the water in the middle of Hong Kong about 33 floors up in a condo.


Quoting calusakat:



More AGW propaganda???

Sure looks like it.

My sister has been living in Hong Kong for about three years now and she tells me that some days they can barely see the bay because of the white smoke coming from the mainland of China. And she lives about a mile from the water in the middle of Hong Kong about 33 floors up in a condo.


Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Oh my, seems it is vacation time for many. Which is a good thing :)

Again we struggle over the same subject.

Warming = Yes

Man made = some by virtue of the science

All Man made = No way - look at history!

Heat, cold, melt, history, we don't know the impact for it will only be resident in the future history. We don't have the ability to tell you that your car is going to end the world.

It is not in our hands and we don't mean much in the overall scheme of things for the planet.

It is just that simple.

Clean, yes, as much as you can.......

What to do, what to do.

Pay the underdeveloped and limit our own development, so they prosper, or perhaps not, is the question. You all toy with how the 6 billion on this earth, WHO WANT WHAT YOU ENJOY, will advance - is what it boils down to.

Advancement means more energy needs.

Did you earn what you have, or did someone give it to you, that you now owe?


Just sayin, it aint about climate, the cronies proved that with the hacked emails. It is about people and the finite amount of currently affordable resources to support them.

Ya ain't gettin the output from solar, wind, thermal and water that can even come remotely close over the next 100 years to replace the current or expected/anticipated needs.

Do you want a nuke near you? That is really your only real replacement option to date.......... Yep, do your math......

And out>>>>>>






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Quoting PrivateIdaho:


lmao
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"
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Corporate governance = fascism.
Quoting Seastep:
Just a note on the topic of capitalism and big industry.

The biggest industry in the world is government.

Live in the US and it consumes over $12,000 per citizen (understated vs. what actually is spent, but it's the FY 2011 budget). That's not per household, that's per citizen.

If, say, you have a family of four, that's over $48,000. And they just get to take it, regardless of the quality and value of the product.

Think about it.

I choose corporations.
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Great tune, canes!

You have mail.
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China: Capitalism Doesn't Require Democracy
by Robert B. Reich


You may remember when the world was divided between communism and capitalism, and when the Chinese were communists. The Chinese still call themselves communists, but now they%uFFFDre also capitalists.

In fact, visit China today and you find the most dynamic capitalist nation in the world. In 2005, it had the distinction of being the world%uFFFDs fastest-growing major economy.

China is the manufacturing hub of the globe. It%uFFFDs is also moving quickly into the highest of high technologies. It already graduates more computer engineers every year than the United States.

Its cities are booming. There are more building cranes in use today in China than in all of the United States. China%uFFFDs super-highways are filled with modern cars. Its deep-water ports and airports are world class. Its research and development centers are state of the art. At the rate its growing, in three decades China will be the largest economy in the world.

In three decades???? It's almost there... while we keep on fighting between us on critical issues....
Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9690
The private sector and/or corporations are businesses, and their goal is to make money. Goverment's job is to run the country. If you run goverment on a business model (to make money, or at least spend less) it is inconsistant with the goals of governing a country. Goverment is supposed to enable it's citizens to excel and have opportunities and success. The business model goverment is not concerned with the welfare of it's people but rather the economics of how it operates. These are different goals and the reason why successful business people often do poorly in politics.
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This blog needs music:



I can't believe all this GW talk. We're better than this.
Member Since: October 8, 2008 Posts: 14 Comments: 4553
Quoting JFLORIDA:
I choose civil liberties and open access to information and government of the people, by the people and for the people.

I dont care about corporations as they are not people.


More government and less private sector, the less you have of all those things you cherish.
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Quoting JFLORIDA:
I choose civil liberties and open access to information and government of the people, by the people and for the people.

I dont care about corporations as they are not people.


well....the legal concept of corporate personhood is well established....and corporations don't create and run themselves...
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Quoting Neapolitan:
The fact of the matter is, while China is now the world's #1 exporter of carbon, America still leads it by a very wide margin so far as per-capita CO2 output is concerned. But even with that, China (and India) have recognized better than America has that global warming is a serious threat to their development, and they've taken important steps to curb their emissions and develop their vast clean energy potential. So the biggest threat that the U.S. faces now is not that we will act alone, but that we will be alone in not acting. That would mean losing out on the trillion dollar clean energy market and ending up importing wind turbines from China and solar panels from India rather than building and exporting them.




US labor is one of the highest paid in the world. That's why almost every gift this season says "Made in China"... So with what labor force, are we going to build and export solar panels and High tech clean energy devices to China and India? What's the solution? cause we are trapped. Every tech device that we send there to be manufactured is being copied, duplicated, even chips are cloned through reverse engineering and are being sold globally and even used to build their military toys....
Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9690
Quoting MichaelSTL:


It is also interesting to note that the Barents Sea is also showing stalled ice growth/even some melt, despite being directly to the north of Europe, so the cold in Europe doesn't extend up there and it may actually be warmer (well, it is, according to the map I posted in comment 875).
Ummm, you don't know it's melt, thus you cannot say what you did about temps.

Could very well be, and most likely is, due to winds.

I seriously doubt it is above freezing there.
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Just a note on the topic of capitalism and big industry.

The biggest industry in the world is government.

Live in the US and it consumes over $12,000 per citizen (understated vs. what actually is spent, but it's the FY 2011 budget). That's not per household, that's per citizen.

If, say, you have a family of four, that's over $48,000. And they just get to take it, regardless of the quality and value of the product.

Think about it.

I choose corporations.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting MichaelSTL:
An interesting side effect of wind turbines:

Wind Turbines On Farmland May Benefit Crops

For instance, crops warm up when the sun shines on them, and some of that heat is given off to the atmosphere. Extra air turbulence likely speeds up this heat exchange, so crops stay slightly cooler during hot days. On cold nights, turbulence stirs the lower atmosphere and keeps nighttime temperatures around the crops warmer.


now that is interesting
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Quoting McBill:

No.


Oh really?

Where are my figures wrong?

If you want to provide a correction, please feel free to do so.

It took me about five minutes to put the figures together and I could have easily made a mistake.

I will take no offense.



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Christmas present for Nea (from McShane and Wyner)

"Using our model, we calculate that there is a 36% posterior probability that 1998 was the warmest year over the past thousand. If we consider rolling decades, 1997-2006 is the warmest on record; our model gives an 80% chance that it was the warmest in the past thousand years."

The statistics of this statement are (almost) completely uncontroversial.

Hohoho. Good night.

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Neapolitan:
The fact of the matter is, while China is now the world's #1 exporter of carbon, America still leads it by a very wide margin so far as per-capita CO2 output is concerned. But even with that, China (and India) have recognized better than America has that global warming is a serious threat to their development, and they've taken important steps to curb their emissions and develop their vast clean energy potential. So the biggest threat that the U.S. faces now is not that we will act alone, but that we will be alone in not acting. That would mean losing out on the trillion dollar clean energy market and ending up importing wind turbines from China and solar panels from India rather than building and exporting them.



More AGW propaganda???

Sure looks like it.

My sister has been living in Hong Kong for about three years now and she tells me that some days they can barely see the bay because of the white smoke coming from the mainland of China. And she lives about a mile from the water in the middle of Hong Kong about 33 floors up in a condo.


Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I'm out. Tomorrow, I'll initiate a discussion on capitalism, specifically why those with the money believe in one "ism", capitalism and will switch sides in any discussion in order to keep the money, e.g, big oil and others will jump all over green energy once it's worth their pockets to do so and then we will be complaining about big wind or which ever technology we, the people, can't do without in the future that is then controlled by a small group that was bold enough to invest the money instead of just talking about what we ought to do. WOW, that was a long sentence...night.
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Quoting Skyepony:
Seeing how the Hudson Bay, Baffin/Newfoundland has started to lose ice since the last front~ makes me want to up the odds for a worse set up for the Southeast next frontal passage.


You might be correct for January 1. My open mouth insert foot forecast in the church social hall last Sunday for Houston of no more freeze looks rather in doubt now.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Neapolitan:
The fact of the matter is, while China is now the world's #1 exporter of carbon, America still leads it by a very wide margin so far as per-capita CO2 output is concerned. But even with that, China (and India) have recognized better than America has that global warming is a serious threat to their development, and they've taken important steps to curb their emissions and develop their vast clean energy potential. So the biggest threat that the U.S. faces now is not that we will act alone, but that we will be alone in not acting. That would mean losing out on the trillion dollar clean energy market and ending up importing wind turbines from China and solar panels from India rather than building and exporting them.


China is acting out of enlightened self-interest rather than any concern for the environment. There is a chronic coal shortage which causes rationing. Renewables in the hands of the people (starting with black hoses for solar hot water... that would probably work here in Texas).

Oh, and I did check with my retail electric provider (REP) about what it takes to sell my RECs (renewable energy credits) that certain politicians have promised as a benefit of going solar (right... didn't believe them). As I suspected the amount of work by the REP to transfer them far exceeds what they are worth and are thus worthless to the small producer.

Sell my electricity says certain politicians. Right.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
891. Skyepony (Mod)
Seeing how the Hudson Bay, Baffin/Newfoundland has started to lose ice since the last front~ makes me want to up the odds for a worse set up for the Southeast next frontal passage.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 161 Comments: 37327
Just did some math on that earthquake thing and it really is interesting.

Focus of the recent Haiti earthquake...6.2 to 9.3 miles below the surface.

Density of the rock...approximately 2.65 g/cm3

Weight of a cubic mile of rock (5280 x 5280 x 5280)...12,177,922,086 tons

Density of water...1.025 g/cm3

Amount of rainfall during hurricanes leading up to earthquake...24 inches? = 1/2640 of a cubic mile?

Is this anywhere near correct?

Less than half the density of the rock and composing less one two thousandth of a cubic mile on top of over 6.2 miles of rock and it is responsible for causing the earthquake???

HMMM.

I'm just sayin.

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
The fact of the matter is, while China is now the world's #1 exporter of carbon, America still leads it by a very wide margin so far as per-capita CO2 output is concerned. But even with that, China (and India) have recognized better than America has that global warming is a serious threat to their development, and they've taken important steps to curb their emissions and develop their vast clean energy potential. So the biggest threat that the U.S. faces now is not that we will act alone, but that we will be alone in not acting. That would mean losing out on the trillion dollar clean energy market and ending up importing wind turbines from China and solar panels from India rather than building and exporting them.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13455
Quoting MississippiWx:
Anyone else starting to buy into the solutions being offered by the EURO for the Christmas day storm? Seems most other models are trending towards the EURO. If you're a snow lover in the South, let's hope it's right!
Ohhhh I'm going to be very excited if we have a big snow storm up here!!.
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Quoting calusakat:
Quoting EnergyMoron:


A wasteful America will not be able to complete in a more efficient world.

China and India... 2 billion folks want to live like we do... airplanes, air conditioning, hair dryers, refrigerators, the whole lot.



Oh yea of little faith.

You shall see.

All to due time.




For many years we sold the "American Dream" idea to the rest of the world. And as an excellent salesman, very successfull indeed, the idea was accepted globally. Now we see the consequences. Like you said, all of them want all our tech toys, including all of our war toys. Everybody would like to come in and live in USA. Thats why we have to build a fence to stop them from coming. And those who are planning to apply into their countries the american model, are going to do it the same way we did it. They don't care about polluting and contaminating.... And China and India account for more than 2 Billion citizens.... That's near 1/3 of the world population....
Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9690
Quoting DoverWxwatchter:
I think models are interesting, but I'm waiting until the 23rd before I get excited. So many storms look promising this far out and then are revised away to being ordinary or sometimes almost nothing. But the models are fun to look at!


yeah but this i the first time this year that Wakefield talks about a significant winter storm event, and they usually nail snow forecasts
Member Since: September 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6060

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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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