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UT Arlington science dean, fellow researchers evaluated Haiti earthquake risk in 2008

News Release — 20 January 2010


Media contact: Sue Stevens, Senior Media Relations Officer, 817-272-3317,

ARLINGTON - Dr. Pamela Jansma, dean of the College of Science at The University of Texas at Arlington, co-authored a paper published in 2008 that warned of an imminent earthquake in Haiti.

Dr. Pamela Jansma"The statement was basically that the fault was capable of producing an earthquake of 7.2 magnitude at any time," said Jansma, an expert on the active tectonics of the northeastern Caribbean, particularly Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands and the Lesser Antilles.  

The earthquake that hit Haiti on Jan. 12 had a magnitude of 7.

"This event was not unexpected, given what geoscientists understand about the tectonics of the northeastern Caribbean and also based on historical records," Jansma said.

Haiti lies in the boundary zone between the North American and the Caribbean plates which, from Haiti eastward to the northern Virgin Islands, is quite broad. Scientists, including Jansma's research group, have looked at the motion between the two major plates and the deformation in the boundary zone since the mid-1990s, using the Global Positioning System.

"The Caribbean plate moves east-northeast, relative to the North American plate, at two centimeters a year and this movement must be accommodated by slip along the major faults in the region.

"Two major east-west oriented faults cross Haiti and the Dominican Republic," Jansma said. "The earthquake occurred on the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden Fault, which is the southernmost one. The earthquake was particularly devastating because the depth of the quake was so shallow, just six miles beneath the surface."

One of Jansma's co-authors on the paper was Dr. Glen Mattioli, a geosciences professor at University of Arkansas.  The lead authors were David Manaker and Eric Calais of Purdue University, the principal investigator of the research project.


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