Scientists have found that the devastating Jan. 12 Haiti earthquake has placed stresses on the fault system beneath the island nation, which could lead to another major quake.
American Red Cross/AP
The earthquake that devastated Haiti in January increased stresses on nearby faults, potentially increasing the likelihood of another major temblor in the islands, scientists have found.
Jian Lin, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Massachusetts, was studying a fault system on the island of Hispaniola (home to both Haiti in the west and the Dominican Republic in the east), when the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that destroyed much of Port-au-Prince struck on Jan. 12.
Lin and his colleagues, who had been measuring the stresses on fault systems in the area, were well aware of the potential for a major earthquake in Haiti.
"For us, the risk of earthquakes in this region is not really a surprise," Lin said.
The fault system that runs through Hispaniola and other parts of the Caribbean is bounded by two tectonic plates (the Caribbean and North American plates), which slowly slide past one another as they move across the Earth's surface. But while the plates move, their touching boundaries can become stuck against one another, which builds up stress along the fault.