Stories tagged Haiti earthquake

Now that's some boomin' bass.

New data from a French satellite launched to detect really low frequency waves--way deeper than the tune bumpin' from that Escalade next to you at the stop light--generated by the earth, saw some significant activity right before the Haitian earth quake, last January. While earthquake prediction is always going to be a difficult nut to crack, these sorts of satellite based measurements could be another useful tool in staying clear of shaky ground.


The Enriquillo fault: Only the western half of the Enriquillo fault ruptured during Haiti's January earthquake.
The Enriquillo fault: Only the western half of the Enriquillo fault ruptured during Haiti's January earthquake.Courtesy Mikenorton
Haiti’s January 12th earthquake occurred on a strike-slip fault that runs in an east/west direction through the country. The fault, known as the Enriquillo fault, is where the North American and Caribbean tectonic plates meet. The jostling of these plates caused a quake that measured 7.0 on the Richter scale, killed approximately 217,000 people, destroyed 280,000 residences and commercial buildings, and left over one million people homeless. It has been deemed the most destructive natural disaster that a single nation has endured. Unfortunately, geologists believe that another, equally destructive quake could occur in Haiti within the next 20-30 years. Using high-resolution radar images of the Enriquillo fault after the quake, geologists from the University of Miami found that only half (the western half) of the fault had surged. They speculate that the remaining energy still locked up in the earth is what will cause the next quake on the eastern portion of the fault.

The radar images also showed that the earthquake produced a lot of vertical motion, not typical in strike-slip faults. This vertical motion, say geologists, explains how such a small fault movement could cause such a large earthquake. From their analysis, geologists are recommending that Haiti move all of its essential infrastructure (schools, hospitals, etc.) north, out of the fault zone.

This is a great example of science being used to help avoid future devastation, or at least lessen future destruction. Knowing that there is still potential danger along the Enriqillo fault allows people to plan accordingly (i.e. building or rebuilding in a safer location). However, this is also a case where I hope science is wrong.