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 Jeff9641:


Kinda like this one if I remember as it was a last minute forecast change that brought one of the worst storms in history to hit the US. Models were going back and forth and finally didn't come to agreement until 3 days before the event happened. Guys stay turned! JASONISCOOLMAN2010XO looks he is going to get blasted by this next system.
What about washingtonian115 eh?
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Quoting ILwthrfan:

Many thanks Jeff. That 3-5 here may not even happen. Illinois can be very boring, lol. Is this blocking pattern ever going to break up? If its going to be this cold here in Illinois it might as well snow. I can't stand cold with no snow.
I know how you feel buddy.It's really cold here for no reason,and we have no snow.Me angry!.Want snow!!!!!
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723. Jax82
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Quoting RitaEvac:
January 5th GFS has Florida a blizzard...lmao

Yikes!!Look at all that cold air!.Coming right for my house/city.
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With this next storm wat if any impact will it have on southeast georgia?
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With this next storm wat if any impact will it have on southeast georgia?
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Quoting Jeff9641:


Mid Atlantic and NE US will get blasted by this. You in the midwest maybe a 3" to 5" snow.

Many thanks Jeff. That 3-5 here may not even happen. Illinois can be very boring, lol. Is this blocking pattern ever going to break up? If its going to be this cold here in Illinois it might as well snow. I can't stand cold with no snow.
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Quoting Jax82:
March 1993 storm of the century


FL Squall line
That was a big one. They predicted the storm right on the money, I doubt we'll have a storm like that for a while.
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Quoting cat5hurricane:
How accurate is this Ham Weather?


They say a record max/min occurs when the temp reaches/exceeds the max or reaches/falls below the min.

The NWS does not do it this way; they consistently report local records as either being tied or broken.


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714. Jax82
March 1993 storm of the century


FL Squall line
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Quoting calusakat:



If you expect me to launch into a class on money management and investments, guess again. Go to Amazon and find a book like Investing and Managing your money for Dummies or How business actually grow and prosper for Dummies. No, they don't exist but you get the gist.

No, I do not think you are a dummy. You are uneducated about the subject of money and investments. Time to learn about it before you mistakenly sell you life to politicians whose only desire is to be re-elected.



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.
Member Since: July 31, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 1320
Quoting Minnemike:
for a brief moment, i shall seriously reply so you have a clue who you are dealing with.

i am not an AGW proponent. I am of mixed beliefs, and have stayed any convictions. I hedge my bets by supporting actions that would combat AGW should it be true, and I am of sound an open mind to digest all factors that may prove true contrary to AGW beliefs. I am on the lookout for scientific information. I don't think you know what that actually means.

That is why on a previous post some days back, I stated that I fall somewhere between Atmoaggie's scientific-based skepticism, and Neapolitan's scientific-based concerns. I find that both of these bloggers epitomize effective discourse over the MASSIVE amounts of data available.

But then there's you, denying a warming climate, accusing all climate scientists of lying to get money, and accusing people here of being mindless sheep. Never have you backed up your claims with supporting evidence. Still you refuse to answer the call to prove that climate scientists are corrupt money grubbers.

You just don't get that I am coming at you without being an AGW proponent. Every attempt to counter my posts in such a light is another misstep by you. So answer the call for proof, once and for all, the corruption you see in the climate research community.

Now i will go back to mirroring your method of finger pointed comments... at least until you support your claim about the money-based motivations of fraudulent climate research. That is the only item I have, and will continue to address with you. If we can put that to rest, maybe, just maybe, we can enter a discussion about the results of the data and accompanying research.



If you expect me to launch into a class on money management and investments, guess again. Go to Amazon and find a book like Investing and Managing your money for Dummies or How business actually grow and prosper for Dummies. No, they don't exist but you get the gist.

No, I do not think you are a dummy. You are uneducated about the subject of money and investments. Time to learn about it before you mistakenly sell you life to politicians whose only desire is to be re-elected.



Member Since: October 10, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 716
And my town is going to have a white Christmas by the weather channel. Just not my neighborhood
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Hey Jeff9641...I live in Corning, NY and my high school band will be going to London for their marching band performance for the New Years Day Parade. They are scheduled to leave on the 27th from New York City and im concerned because of the snowstorms that are going on currently withing London and throughout Europe and now you are talking about a potential snowstorm for the Northeast this weekend so should we be concerned?
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January 5th GFS has Florida a blizzard...lmao

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Quoting FLWaterFront:


The Tampa NWS office updated their forecast discussion about an hour and a half ago. It looks like they just reran the text from the previous discussion regarding the long term forecast period.

They are still saying "looks like just 20% rain chances for our zones (this weekend)" because of limited available moisture, etc. They are also still keeping the temperature forecasts well above the guidance in the long term period, following the frontal passage.


Yeah.. NWS is keeping me at 30% to 50% b/c there not sure if there will be that moisture to work with unless the system does get strong like the most of the models are saying.. But NWS said b/c GFS hasnt change yet then there sticking with less moisture for now..
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Quoting ka9qlq:
Does ANYONE here ever wonder why poor countries deforest? The people don't have any other way to cook or heat or make money because the global scam crowd wont push the dictators to allow freedom (freedom always grows economies) like they push free economies to become socialist.



That is so true.

My cousin, 20 years in the Peace Corps, went to Haiti about 10 years ago and helped pave roads in the impoverished areas. Two years ago, he went back to provide more aid assistance and to his surprise, the asphalt was all gone.

Where did it all go? The starving citizens had carved it up into logs and used it to cook their meals with.



Member Since: October 10, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 716
705. Skyepony (Mod)

click to loop

ASCAT caught a pretty good pass.. Structure looks much better compared to lastnight.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 162 Comments: 37829
Quoting Jeff9641:
Just got off the phone with the NWS in Melbourne and they agree this is something to watch. They said they were looking over the Euro and have noticed this trend the last few runs now. The question they said will their be high enough moisture to produce widespread severe wx and right now that is too early too call as more model data is needed. Right now upper 50's to low 60 dewpoints but that could change as the week goes on.


The Tampa NWS office updated their forecast discussion about an hour and a half ago. It looks like they just reran the text from the previous discussion regarding the long term forecast period.

They are still saying "looks like just 20% rain chances for our zones (this weekend)" because of limited available moisture, etc. They are also still keeping the temperature forecasts well above the guidance in the long term period, following the frontal passage.
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Quoting atl134:
"Give it 15 -20 years and you'll all be talking off the next ice age just like the folks in the wake of the 1970's, 80's winters."

Well, actually there was a study done on this (i.e. a study on studies) and it showed that even during the 70s and such the majority of papers were still saying warming so there never was a global cooling consensus by any stretch.

This is true. There is no comparison, really, between what happened in the 1970s and what's happening now. In 1970, there was a single popular book, a few articles in magazines like Newsweek, and some speculation among scientists. Now, however, there is widespread--and widening--scientific consensus, the support of national science academies and all major universities, a flood of scientific articles, UN commissions, G8 summits, and the like.

As I said, no comparison. Continually bringing up the 1970s "ice age" talk is just another indication of the level of misinformation in this country.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13525
Quoting Jeff9641:
I bet FL see's one hell of a nasty squall line plowing thru Christmas Day then changing to snow flurries across the FL Panhandle during the overnight to early Sunday morning timeframe. The mid Atlantic to New England could be talking about 10" to 20" of snow with up to hurricane force wind gusts if the Euro verifies.


Jeff, we had snow flurries and sleet in behind the front during the March '93 storm here in the Tampa Bay area.

The prefrontal squall line was about the worst I have ever seen in Florida, with literally continuous lightning observed and extremely powerful and gusty winds and torrential rains. Oddly though, there was no hail right at my location at least. That squall line passed through here just after midnight, as I recall.

But what was unusual was the strength of the thunderstorms in front of the line. I had the NWS radio forecast band tuned in that night and I distinctly remember that they were warning of the possibility that we might see "large tornadoes" as a part of the severe weather threat. Such a warning is extremely odd for any location in Florida.

But most of the damage in our area happened behind the front, including the coastal flooding and the high wind damage. This is probably why many people did not notice the sleet that fell as they were preoccupied with other and more serious issues.

The one thing that bugs me still today about that event though is that it is too often referred to by people in Florida as "the 'no-name' storm" of '93 or something similar. As anyone on this blog knows, that is a wholly ignorant description because the March '93 storm was an upper-level cyclonic, wintertime low pressure storm system, NOT a tropical surface low. In order to have any sort of "name" a storm has to be tropical or subtropical in designation.
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Also HPC is siding with EURO..







interesting..
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Yes, Virginia, there is global warming. LOL! Anyway, sorry for the stupid joke. Hoping for a white Christmas here in North Carolina!
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Quoting Jeff9641:
Euro is showing a 1003 milibar low crossing the FL BIG BEND Saturday evening. That is pretty strong for this time of year. You would expect to see that during an El-Nino year.


That is crazy for this time of the year.. Dont c that too often if it does drop that low.. But still looking at a potential storm this weekend for us and up the atlantic coast into the Northeast..

Thats been a trend with most of these systems head east then turn up towards the northeast.. hmm..
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"Give it 15 -20 years and you'll all be talking off the next ice age just like the folks in the wake of the 1970's, 80's winters."

Well, actually there was a study done on this (i.e. a study on studies) and it showed that even during the 70s and such the majority of papers were still saying warming so there never was a global cooling consensus by any stretch.
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Quoting Jeff9641:
I bet FL see's one hell of a nasty squall line plowing thru Christmas Day then changing to snow flurries across the FL Panhandle during the overnight to early Sunday morning timeframe. The mid Atlantic to New England could be talking about 10" to 20" of snow with up to hurricane force wind gusts if the Euro verifies.


Heres sum models/maps .. Its still early but still to monitor though..





I think something will happen though!
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from the NWS Indianapolis

December is among the coldest and snowiest Decembers of record.

December 2010 at Indianapolis will be the coldest since 2000 and possibly the snowiest since 1973.

The 3.9 inches of snowfall on the 20th-21st brought December’s snowfall total at the airport to 14.8 inches. Currently December 2010 is the 6th snowiest December of record and the most snow for December since 2000. Accumulating snow will return again on Friday, possibly making December the snowiest in 37 years. Average snowfall during December is 6.3 inches.

The first three weeks of month are among the coldest of record for December The average temperature through the 21st will be 23.1 degrees…the coldest start to December at Indianapolis since 2005. Colder weather will return Thursday and continue through Monday. The average temperature for first 27 days of December will remain near 23 degrees… making this December the coldest since 2000. The normal average temperature for the first 27 days of December is 32 degrees.
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From my driveway last night, I saw a fully eclipsed moon with Orion just to towards the south. My pics didn’t pick up Orion. Has anyone seen any downloadable images that include both?
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687. Jax82
HAZARDOUS WEATHER OUTLOOK
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE RALEIGH NC
432 AM EST TUE DEC 21 2010

THIS HAZARDOUS WEATHER OUTLOOK IS FOR CENTRAL NORTH CAROLINA.

.DAY ONE...TODAY AND TONIGHT.

HAZARDOUS WEATHER IS NOT EXPECTED AT THIS TIME.


.DAYS TWO THROUGH SEVEN...WEDNESDAY THROUGH MONDAY.

A STORM SYSTEM WILL TRACK ACROSS THE DEEP SOUTH CHRISTMAS EVE AND
CHRISTMAS DAY...BEFORE MAKING A TURN TO THE NORTHEAST AND MOVING ALONG
THE ATLANTIC SEABOARD CHRISTMAS NIGHT AND SUNDAY. AT THIS TIME
THERE IS CONSIDERABLE UNCERTAINTY AS TO THE EXACT TRACK OF THE
STORM SYSTEM. IF THE LOW TRACKS FAR ENOUGH SOUTH...CENTRAL NC
COULD SEE A SIGNIFICANT WINTER STORM.


RESIDENTS OR ANYONE PLANNING TO TRAVEL THROUGH THE REGION DURING
THE HOLIDAY WEEKEND SHOULD MONITOR THE LATEST FORECASTS CLOSELY
OVER THE NEXT COUPLE OF DAYS.



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686. Jax82
I lived in C-North Carolina for the March 93 storm, and i'll never forget it. You couldnt go anywhere and the power was off everywhere. I'm hoping these models are just drinking too much Egg Nog, because I will actually be back in C-North Carolina for the holidays and would hate to get stuck there....unless I have plenty of Egg Nog leftover :)
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Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 423 Comments: 128231
680. unf97
Should the Euro verify Jeff9641, then the potential certainly would be pretty good for severe weather over the Florida peninsula given the dynamics this storm system will possess. It remains to be seen of course, but this system could be similar in dynamics to the March '93 superstorm. I hesitate to even mention that great event, but looking at the 12z Euro run, if it comes anything close to verifying, there is a chance this system could "bomb" as it treks up the East Coast over the Christmas weekend.
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And it looks like I called it out back in november before I saw any of the modles.I said that 2010 may end cold for many in the U.S and other countries in the north.And it looks like that has come to pass.Now it looks like 2010 will end with one last bang before 2011 comes.And I don't think the U.S will escape next year without a hurricane maing landfall on it's shores.
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Quoting Jeff9641:


Funny the NAM is going with the Euro scenario. THe NWS offices in FL to the Carolina's better wake up fast as the Euro is adamant about this and all the models seem to wanna follow the Euro except the GFS. For in the NE this is a perfect Blizzard set up.


The Florida NWS offices especially always seem to be too conservative in estimating temperature, atmospheric disturbances and precipitation totals when the forecast period is three days out or longer.

Then as the event draws nearer they always seem to make a hasty adjustment that is closer to what actually happens when things play out.

I have noticed this trend and have always wondered why they do this. As a result, even the TV mets (who closely parrot the NWS forecast scenarios) are usually too conservative until we are just about right on top of an event, such as an arctic outbreak, for example.

Right now the Tampa NWS office is predicting temps to be in the low 40s to low 60s range in the wake of the front that is forecast to pass through this region on the Christmas weekend. But that is not what I am seeing with most of the forecast models or anywhere else. In their discussion they said that they were going to "hold off" in predicting nighttime lows that match the guidance, even though they did lower them slightly from their previous forecasts.

I dunno.. seems to conservative a forecast to me.
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Quoting Jeff9641:


Funny the NAM is going with the Euro scenario. THe NWS offices in FL to the Carolina's better wake up fast as the Euro is adamant about this and all the models seem to wanna follow the Euro except the GFS. For in the NE this is a perfect Blizzard set up.
Speaking of a Blizzard this pattern is just all to familiar.I've seen it serval times this past winter before we had all of our blizzards.The week started out cold,and windy,next highs were in the upper 30's,and when the storm came so did cold air and lots of snow.And so far thats what we've been dealing with.Uh-oh.We may just have a big daddy coming.And I'll be prepared.
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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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