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Stressed to a Fault

Stressed to a Fault

February 24, 2018

The island of Haiti is cut by the Enriquillo fault, the border between two of Earth’s tectonic plates—the Caribbean Plate, moving generally eastward, and the Gonave Microplate, moving westward. In 1770, Haiti experienced a major earthquake. Stress along the fault built up slowly again for the next 240 years until Jan. 12, 2010, when the fault ruptured, causing a magnitude 7 quake that killed an estimated 220,000 people. WHOI scientist Jian Lin and colleagues calculated that the 2010 quake alleviated stress in some areas along the fault (blue boxes), but it increased stress—and the likelihood of earthquakes—on both adjacent segments of the fault (red boxes). (Illustration modified from Lin, Stein, Sevilgen, and Toda 2010)

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