February 1, 2010 Issue

Physics To Go 90 - Haiti earthquake

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Physics in Your World

Topography Along the Enriquillo-Plaintain Garden Fault, Haiti image
United States Coast Guard; image source; larger image

Topography Along the Enriquillo-Plaintain Garden Fault, Haiti

On January 12, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated the nation of Haiti, especially its capital, Port-au-Prince. For an account of events as they happened, see this page from BBC News.

See Topography Along the Enriquillo-Plaintain Garden Fault, Haiti for a brief explanation of what caused the earthquake. The United States Geological Survey has also produced a poster with detailed maps of the region's tectonic activity.

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Earthquake Animations

Check out these Earthquake Animations to watch animations of seismic motion during an earthquake, both on the surface and below. Some animations include tips on earthquake safety.


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From Physics Research

Plate Tectonics, the Cause of Earthquakes image
image credit: NASA/JPL/NGA; image source; larger image

Plate Tectonics, the Cause of Earthquakes

You can see the fault responsible for the earthquake in Haiti as a short diagonal line in the upper left part of this radar topography image. The city of Port-au-Prince is located just below and to the left of this line. See this feature from JPL for a more detailed explanation.

Large faults such as this are the points of contact between two massive plates of the Earth's crust. When the plates move, the result is often an earthquake. See Plate Tectonics, the Cause of Earthquakes to learn more.


Worth a Look

How Buildings Respond to Earthquakes

If you live in an area prone to earthquakes, you may want to check out How Buildings Respond to Earthquakes. Learn how building materials are equipped (or not equipped) to deal with physical forces from an engineering point of view.

For more information on earthquakes and how they can affect you, see this Physics to Go feature, Faultline.


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