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Predicting Earthquakes

No one can yet predict an earthquake's exact location and time, but there are signs.

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Haiti Earthquake 2010

Haiti Earthquake 2010

Credit: Master Sgt Jeremy Lock, USAF
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Earthquake_damage_in_Jacmel_2010-01-17_4.jpg
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

On January 11, 2010, Haiti suffered an enormous magnitude 7.0 earthquake that killed 230,000 people and damaged 250,000 buildings. Scientists had predicted just such a quake; they just didn’t know when it would strike.

Why It Matters

Credit: NWCaribbean_satellite.png; Mike Norton
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gon%C3%A2ve_microplate.png
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Northwest Caribbean area [Figure2]

  • Haiti shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic.
  • Hispaniola is at the plate boundary between the Caribbean and North American Plates.
  • Two major strike-slip faults divide Haiti. The 2010 earthquake was on the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden Fault.
  • The earthquake was so damaging because it was centered near the capital city; the epicenter was shallow and many buildings were not built to withstand quakes.

Can You Apply It?

With the link below, learn more about the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Then answer the following questions.

  1. How did scientists measure movement along the Enriquillo fault zone?
  2. How did the scientists calculate that an approximately magnitude 7.2 earthquake was coming?
  3. Why could the scientists calculate a magnitude but not a date for the earthquake?
  4. What do you think scientists would like to measure if they could place their instruments at 15 km?

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Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: Master Sgt Jeremy Lock, USAF; Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Earthquake_damage_in_Jacmel_2010-01-17_4.jpg; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Credit: NWCaribbean_satellite.png; Mike Norton; Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gon%C3%A2ve_microplate.png; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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