The westerly movement of the North American plate was the main cause of the major earthquake that hit Haiti in January 2010. This is revealed in an article in the Daily Herald. The fault zone of the tectonic plates in the Caribbean makes Haiti, but also the Windward Islands vulnerable to earthquakes.
This was the main discovery of earth sciences researcher Steven van Benthem of the Geo Sciences faculty of University of Utrecht. Van Benthem studied the fault zones of the tectonic plates in the Caribbean as part of his promotion. He will promote on this thesis at the university this Monday. Van Benthem discovered that the westerly movement of the North American plate has been the main cause of earthquakes in the Caribbean. The large North American plate and the South American plate move to the west about two centimetres per year towards the small Caribbean plate. Tectonic speed differences between the plates result in a deformation of the crust and earthquakes, such as the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti on January 12, 2010, which measured 7.0 on the Richter scale and which killed an estimated 200,000 people.
Van Benthem created a physical model as part of his research of the fault zones between the North American, South American and Caribbean plate. This model showed the forces on the Caribbean plate. The major forces are being caused by the pulling, pushing and polishing of neighbouring plates, such as the Bahamas plateau and the Cocos plateau, which are colliding with the Caribbean plate. This causes tension in especially North Panama. The tension in the Leeward Islands is relatively low.
Van Benthem also discovered an unknown edge and two major cracks in and along the Atlantic plate on CT scans of the deep earth. The earth’s mantle under the Caribbean plate moves slowly, partly because the bottom of the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean sinks away under the Caribbean area. This new discovery, combined with the indirect movement from east to west of the deep North American plate is a major cause of the deformation and rotations in the Northern part of the Caribbean which hadn’t been detected before. This confirms the geological cause of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Van Benthem’s research also showed that Panama, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, St. Maarten, St. Eustatius and Saba remain vulnerable to earthquakes.