Was the 2010 Haiti Earthquake triggered by deforestation and the 2008 hurricanes?

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:57 PM GMT on December 20, 2010

Share this Blog
11
+

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

Reader Comments

Comments will take a few seconds to appear.

Post Your Comments

Please sign in to post comments.

or Join

Not only will you be able to leave comments on this blog, but you'll also have the ability to upload and share your photos in our Wunder Photos section.

Display: 0, 50, 100, 200 Sort: Newest First - Order Posted

Viewing: 826 - 776

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22Blog Index

I know this a weather blog but I need to pass this info. I have a friend missing in Tampa, FL. since December 15, 2010. His name is Emilio J. Martinez Rodriguez. If anyone know something please contact the Police.

please look at the link below:

Link



Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting PSLFLCaneVet:


Ouch, no fun.


It wasn't, but at the same time, it was kinda funny.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting JFLORIDA:

Why are they hiding the data and computer programs?</em>


Proof NOW.
Quit yelling, quit demanding...be nice
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting MichaelSTL:


Yes, and there are over a dozen hockey sticks which all say the same thing.

Also (read the parts about McShane and Wyner, including the demise of the MWP as a global event; oh yes, the hyping by Watts, who didn't even graduate):

The Curious Case of the Hockey Stick that Didn’t Disappear. Part 1: The Police Lineup


I agree with what you say.

It's now the check mark :)

The hard core deniers, if they read the paper, should get no comfort from it.

Like, I see somebody around here not worth quoting is already talking about how you cannot get the data nor the computer programs... obviously has not taken the time to read the papers.

It is a victory for the middle... not the extremes.

Both extremes lost.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting caneswatch:


It wasn't embarrassing, it was funny. I couldn't stop laughing the entire time I was there.


my 22 year old daughter works part time at a local Starbucks...most of the kids who work there know me...but this evening I went in for an eggnog latte and there was an unfamiliar young man behind the counter going on and on with a coworker about how hot she is and saying all sorts of things he'd like to do to her....I just listened for a bit...introduced myself ...smiled...and said "Guess who I am!!"

I think it was a bit awkward for him...
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492
Quoting bdkennedy1:
Guess no one wants to talk about the new Invest 95

nothing really to talk about. Just some shower activity for the Caribbean islands.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
809. Skyepony (Mod)
All sorts of Tsunami stations in event mode across the WPAC
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Skyepony:
Global surface temperature change

J. Hansen, R. Ruedy, M. Sato and K. Lo

Abstract

We update the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) analysis of global surface temperature change, compare alternative analyses, and address questions about perception and reality of global warming. Satellite-observed nightlights are used to identify measurement stations located in extreme darkness and adjust temperature trends of urban and peri-urban stations for non-climatic factors, verifying that urban effects on analyzed global change are small. Because the GISS analysis combines available sea surface temperature records with meteorological station measurements, we test alternative choices for the ocean data, showing that global temperature change is sensitive to estimated temperature change in polar regions where observations are limited. We suggest use of 12-month (and n×12) running mean temperature to fully remove the annual cycle and improve information content in temperature graphs. We conclude that global temperature continued to rise rapidly in the past decade, despite large year-to-year fluctuations associated with the El Niño-La Niña cycle of tropical ocean temperature. Record high global temperature during the period with instrumental data was reached in 2010.

* Download PDF (Document is 6.4 MB)
* Link: http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/cgi-bin/abstract.cgi?id=ha00510u


J. Hansen...

Well thats a relief.

I was worried for a moment that the abstract was an unbiased report.

It's not.

I already know the plot and climax to that one. That will save me more time for Christmas.

Thanks!


Member Since: October 10, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 716
Good evening everyone, have a question because I am starting to hear the dull rumbling of a possible blizzard this weekend, maybe another freeze even down here in South Florida ( I can't recall a colder December in my life ) and who knows what else. Thanks
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Grothar:


Just wait until that happens again later on in life and you find out the waitress is the 'grandaughter' of your ex-girlfriend.

No, really, that was a good story, Canes. Must have been embarrassing.


It wasn't embarrassing, it was funny. I couldn't stop laughing the entire time I was there.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Grothar:


Thanks, Any word on any cold fronts moving down our way this week. Keep getting conflicting reports.


I haven't had much time to look, but I see low to mid 30's here, Monday night and Tuesday night. Mid 50's for a high, Wed. Not good.

I have a situation developing. Oldest has a car issue, as well. Back later, if I can.

It never rains, but it pours.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
When you go back to the time before Iraq and you ask, "What happened?" What you find is that leaders were not listening to the experts. The experts were saying they had loose leads. The intelligence agencies arrived at similar conclusions. If we had more carefully listened to them, we might not have invaded iraq in 2003. It might have happened in 2005 or 2007 when we had better evidence, but we wouldn't have went in 2003. A similar thing is happening today. We have to understand that scientists are not politicians. Similarly people who work in the intelligence agencies and counter-terrorism experts and so on are not politicians either. They're experts. Lets listen to them more and talk less. Talking is cheap.

Cheney said that a 2% chance that saddam had WMD was all the reason he needed for the war. In fact, military people often say that low chances (maybe not that low) often REQUIRE action on our part. The pentagon recommends action against AGW based on this idea that even if we're wrong it's still best to act just in case. Think about what's going on here. While they agree that a chance is reason enough, I don't think that 2% is enough nor do I think it wise to start a war simply because a rumor might be true. Sure, it kind of makes sense, but really think about that. Scientists are saying they're close to 98% sure.

Another question. If a bad guy points a gun at you, would you laugh at him because you're assuming he's holding a squirt gun? I mean, there's a CHANCE he's holding a squirt gun. And I bet it's a measurable chance that he's not holding a loaded gun. So would you grin and do a dance for him or would you assume he's got a gun just to be safe? This is the same idea but in a scenario most understand.

I agree we should expect evidence before embarking on something. But I think we should be most critical of our political leaders. They're the ones that would eventually take leaky evidence and run with it. Focus on them. Being critical of scientists is good, but being critical of conclusions is something all scientists have ingrained into them from day 1. It's the politicians that're most susceptible to -not- being critical. They build a base on a notion or ideal. Ideals or party principles are not science. They're opinions. So in the least, politicians are going to be harder to control. So we should compensate by expecting a lot.

I'm arguing that we should not go after scientists as much as we go after politicians. It's the politicians who're mostly likely to run on bad data or faulty reasoning. I'm also arguing that scientists are like experts. With respect to the war, there're counter-terrorism experts, the intelligence agencies and there're experts on interntional terrorism and crime. We should respect anything they say. If we had 0 seconds to go, we would turn to them, not a politician. That's what's important here.

So.. go after Gore, he deserves it. But to act like all of science is a scam and that the work they do to understand our climate and how humans might change it is a fraud is like saying our military is a lie. I don't think anybody can say these things and be honest. You can say a scientist is a con, or maybe a small military unit or group of persons, but you can't pin that on the broader population of them.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting EnergyMoron:


Yes, but the hockey stick I think lost... but see final comment I left... does it make a difference?



That last sentence is one heck of an eye opener.

Why are they hiding the data and computer programs?

Either they think we are too stupid to be able to work with sharp instruments, or, they are deliberately hiding relevant data from us in order to prevent us from reaching our own intelligent conclusions such that we might actually see AGW for the scam it really is.

Either way...

It is up to the rest of us to demand the weather gang be held to the same stringent standards as those we have come to expect from other scientific studies.

Until then we will be treated like sheeple.

Near mindless beings awaiting the next shearing.


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


I beg to differ on that; in fact, I have always wondered what it would be like to have snow like this (as opposed to the 3-4 inch snowfalls that occur a few times a winter, aside from winters like 2007-2008, which was the best winter in 15 years, including nearly a foot of snow in early March):



ugghhh!!!!
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492
If we get snow down here I swear to God I'm gonna hold every one of you responsible for it...it ain't gonna be pretty.......please quit speaking of it...
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492
Quoting caneswatch:


Today, I went out to eat. As soon as I walked inside, I saw my ex-girlfriend, and she seated me and she was my waitress. It was the most awkward I ever felt in my life.


Ouch, no fun.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
welcome to hell


indeed
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492
Quoting presslord:
snow is a Satanic evil
welcome to hell
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54630
Quoting PSLFLCaneVet:



Sorry to hear about the neck.


Thanks, Any word on any cold fronts moving down our way this week. Keep getting conflicting reports.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54630
Quoting caneswatch:


Today, I went out to eat. As soon as I walked inside, I saw my ex-girlfriend, and she seated me and she was my waitress. It was the most awkward I ever felt in my life.


Just wait until that happens again later on in life and you find out the waitress is the 'grandaughter' of your ex-girlfriend.

No, really, that was a good story, Canes. Must have been embarrassing.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:



Sorry to hear about the neck.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
snow is a Satanic evil
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54630
Quoting Skyepony:
Here's some grim news out today..

EIA Projects Climate Catastrophe

The U.S. Energy Information Administration has projected that the United States will lead the world into catastrophic global warming over the next twenty five years. In its 2011 Annual Energy Outlook, the EIA predicts that energy-related CO2 emissions will %u201Cgrow by 16 percent from 2009 to 2035,%u201D reaching 6.3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (or 1.7 GtC):

The fuel mix the EIA projects remains predominantly coal and oil, with a moderate rise in renewable energy, whose pollution benefits are offset by growth in energy demand:



This pathway would almost certainly commit the world to catastrophic climate change, including rapid sea level rise, extreme famine, desertification, and ecological collapse on land and sea. Right now, the United States, with less than five percent of global population, produces 20 percent of global warming pollution. Center for American Progress senior fellow Joe Romm published in Nature in 2008 that humanity %u201Cmust aim at achieving average annual carbon dioxide emissions of less than 5 GtC [5 billion metric tons of carbon, or 18 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide] this century or risk the catastrophe of reaching atmospheric concentrations of 1,000 p.p.m.%u201D To do so, he said, humanity needs to adopt a %u201Cnational and global strategy to stop building new traditional coal-fired plants while starting to deploy existing and near-term low-carbon technologies as fast as is humanly possible.%u201D more here..

That's a disturbing article. And it's very difficult to disagree in the mean with any of the EIA's projections--which explains in very large part just why the fossil fuel industry is making its current full-court, pull out the stops, no holds barred assault on science. By obfuscating the issues through their ongoing, relentless, and multi-pronged attack, they hope to confuse the American people as to whether warming is even happening, how bad it may get, what the costs are to fight it--and, to their credit (and the globe's detriment) it's working, as evidenced right here on this very blog.

Some question the usefulness of endlessly debating A/GW here and elsewhere. I can understand those questions; it does get wearying at times. But the way I see it, the alternative is to allow the fossil fuel industry and its shills to have the mike full time, to hog and clog the narrative--and that's just not acceptable to me and many others.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13579
Quoting Grothar:


How you doing PSL? I had a great day watching the banter on AGW. Shook my head so many times, I can't move my neck. How was your day?



Very well, thanks. We're in the midst of transplanting a new heart into the youngest's car.

Not an ideal way to spend the last week before Christmas, but it must be done.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Neapolitan:

Solid science won--as it always does...
So you lost? LOL!...sorry, you tee'd it up, I had to...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Grothar:


Of course we do! Just fooling with you! Go ahead, but it better be better than the last episode of "Desperate Housewives".


Today, I went out to eat. As soon as I walked inside, I saw my ex-girlfriend, and she seated me and she was my waitress. It was the most awkward I ever felt in my life.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting caneswatch:


Well, do you and the others here wanted to hear it anyways?


Of course we do! Just fooling with you! Go ahead, but it better be better than the last episode of "Desperate Housewives".
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting PSLFLCaneVet:


Ah, wisdom from the fount.

Good evening, folks.


How you doing PSL? I had a great day watching the banter on AGW. Shook my head so many times, I can't move my neck. How was your day?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Grothar:


No, actually I was looking for a less offensive word than "awkward" and could not come up with one. "great' would not exactly be an appropriate adjective.


Well, do you and the others here wanted to hear it anyways?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting caneswatch:


You mean, it's as great as the song?


No, actually I was looking for a less offensive word than "awkward" and could not come up with one. "great' would not exactly be an appropriate adjective.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:


LOL.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Grothar:


You mean, more awkward than the song itself?????


You mean, it's as great as the song?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting PSLFLCaneVet:


For our esteemed living historical resource:




Ma & Pa Kettle, MY FAVORITES!!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

Viewing: 826 - 776

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22Blog Index

Top of Page

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.

Local Weather

Partly Cloudy
56 °F
Partly Cloudy