Satellite observations to help assess future earthquake risk in Haiti

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Washington, Feb 10 (ANI): Scientists at the University of Miami are using international satellite observations to understand the risk of aftershocks in the quake stuck country of Haiti and even the possibility of a major new earthquake in the region.

They analyzed images based on Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) observations taken before and just after Haiti's earthquake, on January 12.

The images were obtained using data from Japan's ALOS satellite and made available to the scientific community through the efforts of the European Space Agency (ESA) and GEO, the Group of Earth Observation, an umbrella consortium of countries that promotes the exchange of satellite data to efficiently observe our planet.

The images reveal surprising new details.

According to the new data, the earthquake rupture did not reach the surface, which is unusual for an earthquake this size.

More importantly, the images confirm that only the western half of the fault segment that last ruptured in 1751 actually ruptured in the current earthquake.

The images reveal other startling facts, like, "Given the plate tectonic setting scientists expected mainly sideways motion, yet there was a large amount of vertical motion during the earthquake," said Falk Amelung, professor of geology and geophysics at RSMAS.

"This explains how such a relatively small rupture was able to generate such a large earthquake," he added.

The data shows the earthquake occurred on or near the Enriquillo Fault, where most scientists suspected but until now did not have enough evidence to prove it.

"This is a relief, because it shows that our current ideas about the tectonics of the area are correct," said Amelung.

Dixon is looking at every bit of evidence to try to understand the possibility of another major quake hitting Port au Prince in the near future.

"There's a reasonable probability of another large quake, similar to the January 12 event, striking Port au Prince within the next 20 to 30 years," Dixon said.

"I'd like to see them relocate critical infrastructure such as government buildings, schools and hospitals, farther north out of the danger zone," he added. (ANI)

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