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 PSLFLCaneVet:


For our esteemed living historical resource:




Ma & Pa Kettle, MY FAVORITES!!
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Quoting caneswatch:


Hey Grothar, do you know I have an awkward story that goes along with the song I posted?


You mean, more awkward than the song itself?????
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Quoting PSLFLCaneVet:


Ah, wisdom from the fount.

Good evening, folks.


Good evening PSL
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Quoting Grothar:


Hey, Canes. Did you know that 73.2% of statistics are made up on the spot.


Hey Grothar, do you know I have an awkward story that goes along with the song I posted?
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For our esteemed living historical resource:


Member Since: July 23, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 12414
Quoting Grothar:


Hey, Canes. Did you know that 73.2% of statistics are made up on the spot.


Ah, wisdom from the fount.

Good evening, folks.
Member Since: July 23, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 12414
770. Skyepony (Mod)
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 “grow by 16 percent from 2009 to 2035,” 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 “must 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.” To do so, he said, humanity needs to adopt a “national 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.” more here..
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 161 Comments: 37300
Quoting caneswatch:


Hey, Canes. Did you know that 73.2% of statistics are made up on the spot.
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766. Skyepony (Mod)
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
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 161 Comments: 37300
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
no problem one white white christmas coming up remember you asked for it


Awesome! Last one I saw was the BIG 1989 snowstorm just before Christmas in Wilmington, NC. Although my parents live in Wilmington and chances don't look too good that far south, we're supposed to go to my Aunt's in Durham on Christmas morning. Hope we can get there and then get SNOWED IN!!
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763. Skyepony (Mod)
TSUNAMI BULLETIN NUMBER 003
PACIFIC TSUNAMI WARNING CENTER/NOAA/NWS
ISSUED AT 2043Z 21 DEC 2010

THIS BULLETIN APPLIES TO AREAS WITHIN AND BORDERING THE PACIFIC
OCEAN AND ADJACENT SEAS...EXCEPT ALASKA...BRITISH COLUMBIA...
WASHINGTON...OREGON AND CALIFORNIA.

... TSUNAMI INFORMATION BULLETIN ...

THIS BULLETIN IS FOR INFORMATION ONLY.

THIS BULLETIN IS ISSUED AS ADVICE TO GOVERNMENT AGENCIES. ONLY
NATIONAL AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT AGENCIES HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO MAKE
DECISIONS REGARDING THE OFFICIAL STATE OF ALERT IN THEIR AREA AND
ANY ACTIONS TO BE TAKEN IN RESPONSE.

AN EARTHQUAKE HAS OCCURRED WITH THESE PRELIMINARY PARAMETERS (USGS)

ORIGIN TIME - 1720Z 21 DEC 2010
COORDINATES - 26.9 NORTH 143.7 EAST
DEPTH - 15 KM
LOCATION - BONIN ISLANDS JAPAN REGION
MAGNITUDE - 7.4

MEASUREMENTS OR REPORTS OF TSUNAMI WAVE ACTIVITY

GAUGE LOCATION LAT LON TIME AMPL PER
------------------- ----- ------ ----- --------------- -----
HANASAKI HOKKAIDO J 43.3N 145.6E 1960Z 0.03M / 0.1FT 12MIN
TOSASHIMIZU SHIKOKU 32.8N 133.0E 2018Z 0.13M / 0.4FT 06MIN
OFUNATO HONSHU JP 39.0N 141.8E 1948Z 0.06M / 0.2FT 04MIN
SAIPAN US 15.2N 145.7E 2001Z 0.05M / 0.2FT 04MIN

LAT - LATITUDE (N-NORTH, S-SOUTH)
LON - LONGITUDE (E-EAST, W-WEST)
TIME - TIME OF THE MEASUREMENT (Z IS UTC IS GREENWICH TIME)
AMPL - TSUNAMI AMPLITUDE MEASURED RELATIVE TO NORMAL SEA LEVEL.
IT IS ...NOT... CREST-TO-TROUGH WAVE HEIGHT.
VALUES ARE GIVEN IN BOTH METERS(M) AND FEET(FT).
PER - PERIOD OF TIME IN MINUTES(MIN) FROM ONE WAVE TO THE NEXT.

NOTE - DART MEASUREMENTS ARE FROM THE DEEP OCEAN AND THEY
ARE GENERALLY MUCH SMALLER THAN COASTAL MEASUREMENTS.

EVALUATION

SEA LEVEL READINGS INDICATE A TSUNAMI WAS GENERATED. IT MAY HAVE
BEEN DESTRUCTIVE ALONG COASTS NEAR THE EARTHQUAKE EPICENTER. FOR
THOSE AREAS - WHEN NO MAJOR WAVES ARE OBSERVED FOR TWO HOURS
AFTER THE ESTIMATED TIME OF ARRIVAL OR DAMAGING WAVES HAVE NOT
OCCURRED FOR AT LEAST TWO HOURS THEN LOCAL AUTHORITIES CAN ASSUME
THE THREAT IS PASSED. DANGER TO BOATS AND COASTAL STRUCTURES CAN
CONTINUE FOR SEVERAL HOURS DUE TO THE CONTINUING SEA LEVEL
CHANGES AND RAPID CURRENTS. AS LOCAL CONDITIONS CAN CAUSE A WIDE
VARIATION IN TSUNAMI WAVE ACTION THE ALL CLEAR DETERMINATION MUST
BE MADE BY LOCAL AUTHORITIES.

NO TSUNAMI THREAT EXISTS FOR OTHER COASTAL AREAS IN THE PACIFIC
ALTHOUGH SOME OTHER AREAS MAY EXPERIENCE SMALL NON-DESTRUCTIVE
SEA LEVEL CHANGES LASTING UP TO SEVERAL HOURS.

THIS WILL BE THE FINAL BULLETIN ISSUED FOR THIS EVENT UNLESS
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION BECOMES AVAILABLE.

THE JAPAN METEOROLOGICAL AGENCY MAY ALSO ISSUE TSUNAMI MESSAGES
FOR THIS EVENT TO COUNTRIES IN THE NORTHWEST PACIFIC AND SOUTH
CHINA SEA REGION. IN CASE OF CONFLICTING INFORMATION... THE
MORE CONSERVATIVE INFORMATION SHOULD BE USED FOR SAFETY.

THE WEST COAST/ALASKA TSUNAMI WARNING CENTER WILL ISSUE PRODUCTS
FOR ALASKA...BRITISH COLUMBIA...WASHINGTON...OREGON...CALIFORNIA.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 161 Comments: 37300
Quoting Neapolitan:

Solid science won--as it always does...


Yes, but the hockey stick I think lost... but see final comment I left... does it make a difference?
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Quoting RipplinH2O:
Is the fight over? Who won? (I've been stuck in meetings...sigh)

Solid science won--as it always does...
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Quoting Skyepony:
Happy Solstice everyone.. Longer days are here again.

Yes! And the 2011 hurricane season starts in just 161 days and five minutes...
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Guess no one wants to talk about the new Invest 95
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Is the fight over? Who won? (I've been stuck in meetings...sigh)
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Society for the Prevention of Plate Tectonics

I used to have a tee shirt that said "Stop Plate Tectonics" but I never knew about that society :).

Heck, let's not just remove earthquake triggers (meaning they just happen sooner) but the causes as well!

Seriously, if we can find a way to trigger faults on a regular basis this would be a nice way to avoid the "big ones".
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For those involved in serious flame throwing I highly suggest reading the full McShane and Wyner give and take.

I am quoting some of the comments which I found to be most insightful (or rather one which was a lack thereof)

Serious Peer Reviewed Papers

Reminds me of the school days when all the statistics profs were involved in Title IX litigations... on various sides... for a fee.

What should be clear is the WSJ characterization that random noise is stronger than the signal is not supportable from the text of the papers.

Stein (editorial)

"My understanding is that the major uncertainties in climate projections on time scales of more than a few decades are unlikely to be resolved in the near future. Thus, while research on climate change should continue, now is the time for individuals and governments to act to limit the consequences of greenhouse gas emissions on the Earth's climate over the next century and well beyond."

McShane and Wyner

This appears as a footnote

“On the other hand, perhaps our model is unable to detect the high level of and sharp run-up in recent temperatures because anthropogenic factors have, for example, caused a regime change in the relation between temperatures and proxies. While this is certainly a consistent line of reasoning, it is also fraught with peril for, once one admits the possibility of regime changes in the instrumental period, it raises the question of whether such changes exist elsewhere over the past 1,000 years. Furthermore, it implies that up to half of the already short instrumental record is corrupted by anthropogenic factors, thus undermining paleoclimatology as a statistical enterprise.”

Really?

Davis and Liu

"So in this case, the simple diagnostic of looking at the ACF of the differenced series has revealed a great deal about the structure of the time series. In particular, it more than likely excludes a random walk model for the data."

Berliner

"The overarching conclusion of the authors seems to be that warming is real, but that the specifics of the rapid uptake associated with the ‘hockey stick’ is not supported by the data. First, the claim is not unequivocal…"

"These analyses have ignored data. There is no use of atmospheric CO2 data or solar data."

"Second, even if we accept the ‘no-hockey’ conclusion, is it critical to the climate policy debate? I believe not, though I acknowledge that some policy makers and a portion of the general public do not understand the issues. The problem of anthropogenic climate change cannot be settled by a purely statistical argument. We can have no controlled experiment with a series of exchangeable Earths randomly assigned to various forcing levels to enable traditional statistical studies of causation."
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753. Skyepony (Mod)
Happy Solstice everyone.. Longer days are here again.

Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 161 Comments: 37300
Quoting MSredneck:
What it is Keeper!!! Just got done wit anotha shift n whatnot, dey cant hold me down son. I see u is still wishin for a hurricane fo real, but i think they is too destructive fo my taste. When i done lost my stash in katrina, it was heartbreaking. Holla back wit some of yo tropics wisdom gangsta.
nothing from the tropics till june the stash is safe but i suggests ya really should just dump the dope its really not cool
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 169 Comments: 53296
Quoting Minnemike:
wrong again, nice try though, making up non-existent book titles to prove a non-existent point. we are talking about scientists.. researchers paid by grant funding.

you know what i do? i work accounting in the Psychology department at a University, managing the dollars spent on governmental grants by researchers. this happens to be a topic of expertise for me, so i can definitively say you are losing this round.


Wow you are two thirds of the way there.

I am assuming that some Psychology has rubbed of on you and that doing bookkeeping has helped as well.

Now all you have to do is delve into investing and then take the next step which is to tie Psychology so that you understand what drives investors to do what they do. Finally, using you bookkeeping skills, you should be able to see what drives investing.

Then we will talk about the rest of the story regarding how AGW is about money.



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Quoting natrwalkn:
Yes, Virginia, there is global warming. LOL! Anyway, sorry for the stupid joke. Hoping for a white Christmas here in North Carolina!
no problem one white white christmas coming up remember you asked for it
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 169 Comments: 53296
Quoting RitaEvac:
ahhh summer is on the way in TX

enjoy its for a short time
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 169 Comments: 53296
Serious cold air in Canada trying to come down 1st week of January
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deep cold to welcome in the new year

Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 169 Comments: 53296
mark my words
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 169 Comments: 53296
Quoting Jeff9641:
GFS is showing almost nothing on this run. Man THe GFS is insistant that bigstorm will not form while the Euro is saying otherwise. I wonder which model wins out?
the gfs will be on board within 36 hrs its coming and it will be big
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 169 Comments: 53296
Quoting klaatuborada:
Well, nobody's getting a gift card for yesterday's forecast for Cape Cod. First, Sunday night, the forecast - possible snow showers. Next - Monday morning, 1 - 3 inches of snow.

Yeah, right. By the end of last night we had 10" of snow. Oh my aching back from shoveling. Thanks guys, for the reminder that it's rare that anyone gets our forecast correct.


You must have been hit by one of those hard to predict snow bands.

Actually, the Boston NWS has a good reputation. Considering the notoriously rapidly changing weather in that area. But you have keep monitoring those NWS AFDs and forecasts! They update every few hours.

489
FXUS61 KBOX 202011
AFDBOX

AREA FORECAST DISCUSSION
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE TAUNTON MA
311 PM EST MON DEC 20 2010
UPGRADED TO A WARNING FOR THE CAPE FOR TOTAL ACCUM 4-8".


300
FPUS51 KBOX 202047
ZFPBOX

ZONE FORECAST PRODUCT FOR SOUTHERN NEW ENGLAND
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE TAUNTON MA
347 PM EST MON DEC 20 2010

MAZ022-202115-
BARNSTABLE MA-
INCLUDING THE CITIES OF...BOURNE...CHATHAM...FALMOUTH...HYANNIS...
PROVINCETOWN...WELLFLEET
209 PM EST MON DEC 20 2010

..WINTER STORM WARNING IN EFFECT UNTIL MIDNIGHT EST TONIGHT

THIS AFTERNOON
SNOW. BLUSTERY. NEAR STEADY TEMPERATURE IN THE
LOWER 30S. NORTH WINDS 15 TO 25 MPH WITH GUSTS UP TO 40 MPH.
CHANCE OF SNOW NEAR 100 PERCENT.
TONIGHT
SNOW. TOTAL SNOW ACCUMULATION OF 4 TO 8 INCHES.
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ahhh summer is on the way in TX

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Quoting Jax82:
March 1993 storm of the century


FL Squall line


Still the worst squall line I've ever been in...
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Well, nobody's getting a gift card for yesterday's forecast for Cape Cod. First, Sunday night, the forecast - possible snow showers. Next - Monday morning, 1 - 3 inches of snow.

Yeah, right. By the end of last night we had 10" of snow. Oh my aching back from shoveling. Thanks guys, for the reminder that it's rare that anyone gets our forecast correct.
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Quoting BobinTampa:
What exactly will this storm bring to Tampa? I'm going to need exact precipitation amounts, exact low temperatures and exact wind speeds.

Whoever gets it exactly right wins an Applebee's gift card.


Precip - 1.674255 inches
Low temp - 31.9855478 F
Wind Speeds - 22.475 mph (36.25 kph) sustained, 41.588 mph (67.077419 kph) gust
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Quoting Jeff9641:
GFS is showing almost nothing on this run. Man THe GFS is insistant that bigstorm will not form while the Euro is saying otherwise. I wonder which model wins out?


To me, GFS this year has been hesitant on pulling the trigger as of late.. Like the long range model after 5days will show a good storm now and then.. But leading up to the potential storm GFS backs off.. But a few times GFS hasnt pick up on few of these systems, But also I believe that converging some models can be effective.. This could be a scenario that may work.. JMO
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Quoting Jeff9641:


Snow line is getting pretty far south on that map.


Yeah it does but still early.. Protbably will know better by tomorrow night or thursday morning on how strong this potential storm can be or if any..
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What exactly will this storm bring to Tampa? I'm going to need exact precipitation amounts, exact low temperatures and exact wind speeds.

Whoever gets it exactly right wins an Applebee's gift card.

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I had friends in Port Richey Fl who lived a good 1/2 mile from the gulf and woke up to about 4 feet of water in their houses. What a mess!


Quoting Jeff9641:


All you guys up there. JAX82's map of the 1993 Superstorm looks like a good scenario imo!
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Quoting Minnemike:
you know what i do? i work accounting in the Psychology department at a University, managing the dollars spent on governmental grants by researchers. this happens to be a topic of expertise for me, so i can definitively say you are losing this round.

And it's minnemike with a TKO in the 17th...
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hey jeff, in your opinion, when do you think the models and noaa will start to confirm this poossibity?
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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.