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Faculty Director: Dr. Glenn Rix
Team Members: Jason Kraft (UG)
Key Focus Areas: Seismic, Hurricane, and other threats to the region
Project Overview: The seismological and geotechnical program will be researching and defining the hazards related to each of the regions the program studies. The Caribbean is in a unique location that creates two hazards that can have very severe effects, in the form of earthquakes and hurricanes. While the consistent threat of hurricanes was clearly observed in the region, the Haiti earthquake that struck Port-au-Prince in 2010 revealed the impact that an earthquake could have on the Caribbean.
Seismically, the Caribbean is located at the intersection of four tectonic plates. The eastern islands (the Lesser Antilles) are located along a subduction zone, and have a high level of volcanic activity. An ocean transform fault, which runs just south of Cuba, has been responsible for many of the strong earthquakes in the region, including the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti and previous strong earthquake in Jamaica and Puerto Rico. Using historical data and the probabilistic seismic hazard analyses generated by the United States Geological Survey and other groups for the region, the approximate seismic hazard for each country can be estimated. This allows for event simulation and evaluation of the infrastructure and the structures themselves for response to such an event. In addition, associated hazards, such as soil liquefaction and landslides, that could be caused by an earthquake are considered in evaluating the hazard affecting the countries of the Caribbean. Strong earthquakes have not been common in the region, and there is a clear need for both the engineering and the citizenry of the islands to prepare for this sort of disaster.
The hurricane threat toward the region is also being evaluated. Storms have repeatedly struck the region with varying strength and duration and have affected every area associated with the Caribbean. The nature of these events has caused the residents to develop a cultural preparedness for the events. This has resulted in a very low mortality rate related to hurricanes, the storms regularly have a significant economic impact, particularly the associated effects of flooding. Meteorological and historical data will both be used in evaluation of the hurricane threat.
We plan to evaluate these hazards to compare the potential impacts of each to see which areas are the best prepared and how resources can be used best to mitigate the effects of future events.
A bus passes debris following the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Photo courtesy Dr. Glenn Rix.