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Rockaholic Adventures

Rockaholic Adventures is the place for conversation and discussion about geologic phenomena and mountaineering excursions. You'll also read reviews written from the perspective of today's technologically-advanced outdoorsman - one with a background in engineering and geology.

Rockaholic Adventures also covers topics such as unconventional oil & gas technologies and environmental geochemistry. The blog's owner, Shawn, is a technical writer at IHS where he writes a quarterly newsletter, Unconventional Oil & Gas News. He graduated magna cum laude in 2006 from the University at Albany where he majored in geology.

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Haiti Earthquakes and Plate Tectonics

Posted January 15, 2010 11:10 AM by Shawn

Haiti and other parts of the Caribbean are the only areas along the eastern coast of the North and South American continents that are experiencing active plate tectonics. The island of Hispaniola, of which Haiti occupies the western third, is itself is an exhumed portion of the Caribbean Plate. A mostly oceanic plate, the Caribbean plate spans 1.2-million square miles and is dense in composition. Oceanic plates are formed by oceanic ridges or hot spots, and are almost always subdued by a subduction complex.

The Caribbean Plate has evolved into a semi-complex tectonic setting. It is surrounded predominantly by even denser oceanic plates that are either pushed under the Caribbean plate, or are sliding past it in what geologists call a strike-slip boundary. The tectonic Caribbean Plate extends from the eastern portion of the Caribbean island across Latin America to its western boundary, where the plate is subducting or, if you prefer, consuming the Cocos Plate. Because the Caribbean Plate is thicker and more buoyant than normal oceanic plates, it behaves as a continental plate – floating atop the thicker plates and melting them away.

The recent earthquakes in Haiti have wrought considerable damage and show just how fragile existence can be near tectonic plate boundaries. Haiti is located on the northern border of the plate, and the 7.0 earthquake is associated with the vector difference between the Caribbean Plate and the North American Plate. The scenario is analogous to boundaries in the southeastern United States where the Pacific and North American plates are moving past one another.

References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caribbean_Plate

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#1

Re: Haiti Earthquakes and Plate Tectonics

01/15/2010 4:21 PM

Many thanks for the nice write-up Shawn on the science behind this horrible event. My family will be donating money to one of the relief organizations this weekend. Been wondering if Engineers Without Borders (EWB) will be helping with the recovery effort? Think I saw something in one of ASME's recent Facebook forum posts indicating this might happen. - Larry

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#2

Re: Haiti Earthquakes and Plate Tectonics

01/16/2010 8:37 AM

Shawn, your article was short, to the point and well written. Thank you. Now if we could only educate Danny Glover and Pat Robertson.

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#3
In reply to #2

Re: Haiti Earthquakes and Plate Tectonics

01/16/2010 9:14 AM

Pat Robertson. WHY is that man still outside a mental institution?

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#5
In reply to #3

Re: Haiti Earthquakes and Plate Tectonics

01/16/2010 11:52 AM

It's only that you don't understand therefore knowledge of the subject will allay your confusion.

Pat's statements are truthful and on the topic of the consequences of disobedience of God's law.

Remember that as Pat was voicing the topic a ministry ship was on location with 200,000 tons of relief equipment and materials, portable medical clinics etc..

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#9
In reply to #5

Re: Haiti Earthquakes and Plate Tectonics

01/18/2010 11:14 AM

In reading your comment I can't tell if you are being sarcastic (which I hope), but sadly it seems that's not it.

Knowledge of the bible and God's law leaves judgement, wrath, and condemnation to God's hands, not to man, and man usurping that power is just as arrogant and sinful. Pat Robertson is a disgusting, hyperbole example of that.

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#18
In reply to #9

Re: Haiti Earthquakes and Plate Tectonics

01/18/2010 3:18 PM

Knowledge of the bible and God's law leaves judgement, wrath, and condemnation to God's hands, not to man, and man usurping that power is just as arrogant and sinful

I don't know what I wrote that has you in such illusory frame of mind to produce this completely arbitrary thought.

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#19
In reply to #18

Re: Haiti Earthquakes and Plate Tectonics

01/18/2010 3:25 PM

It's rather simple. PR has judged and condemned these people as if he were God. No, he has not executed wrath in this instance, however his spewing of hate speech certainly propagates further evil disguised as "wrath". Others in the far right DO execute wrath due to belief in demagogues like this.

Yes, indeed this is a natural disaster. Not an 'act of God'. By pretending it is, he usurps the concept of wrath and absolutely commits judgment and condemnation. If he were a man of God he'd have been the first person down there lending a hand, judgment aside.

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#21
In reply to #19

Re: Haiti Earthquakes and Plate Tectonics

01/18/2010 3:33 PM

He's not pretending it's the wrath of God but it is his opinion and he is entitled to his opinion and he is entitled to express his opinion on his TV network.

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#22
In reply to #19

Re: Haiti Earthquakes and Plate Tectonics

01/18/2010 4:07 PM

PR has had ministry teams aiding the plight of the Haitian people before the quake and the PR disaster relief was on location as PR was stating that which has you so perturbed but that would mean PR relief efforts were in progress before the UN mobilized

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#11
In reply to #5

Re: Haiti Earthquakes and Plate Tectonics

01/18/2010 12:11 PM

It's one thing to have faith in a set of beliefs and to apply those beliefs in guiding one's personal life. It's an entirely different thing for any mortal person to claim he has sufficient insight into the extraordinarily complex workings of a deity to take a position on something as indefinable as whether a popoulation (including babies, young children, and adults evry bit as righteous as Pat Robertson) merits significant destruction. Pat Robertson (PR, as in Public Relations) is a pandering proprietor of snake oil perpetually preying on those too weak to form an independent thought and who confuse hegemony with a talking head with wisdom. He is horrible and has made himself wealthy and built an empire of wealth and power based on the dollars of restless but mindless sheep. PR and his followers are exactly the same ilk as those who peopled the Spanish Inquisition, the many witch hunts, etc. Despots who are righteous to the death of opposers, but who are viewed as properly wicked when the blood has cleared from the water and rational thought returns. I recommend that you consider supporting and associating a decent leader who is not all about keeping his hand in your pocket and his name in the press. Yes, you have been served.

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#12
In reply to #11

Re: Haiti Earthquakes and Plate Tectonics

01/18/2010 12:16 PM

(I'm #10 above)

I couldn't agree more. And what makes this kind of ill-will any different than Jihadists? Only which God they serve. I'm pretty sure the God I pray to is the same one PR purports to, and I know he is sickened by such abuse of his name.

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#17
In reply to #12

Re: Haiti Earthquakes and Plate Tectonics

01/18/2010 3:08 PM

And what makes this kind of ill-will any different than Jihadists?

The difference is that Pat is commenting on the obsevation of the aftermath of a natural event; eathquake. Not condemnation or willfull entent to harm but commentation of the observed event of which neither he nor any other caused.

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#13
In reply to #11

Re: Haiti Earthquakes and Plate Tectonics

01/18/2010 12:25 PM

Amen!

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#20
In reply to #11

Re: Haiti Earthquakes and Plate Tectonics

01/18/2010 3:26 PM

When the leadership of a country be it Germany, USA, Spain or Haiti take a course of action commentary in the course normal transcendence to the effect the German's, American's, Spanish or Haitians are thinking such.

When Pat said the Haitians he was in the normal method of transcendence relating what the leadership of Haiti had done at a time past and reaffirmed more recently.

Your sentiment is regarded as that of one misunderstanding common methods used to communicate.

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#24
In reply to #20

Re: Haiti Earthquakes and Plate Tectonics

01/19/2010 10:25 AM

Hmm, after writing an almost perfectly unintelligible reply, you follow it with "Your sentiment is regarded as that of one misunderstanding common methods used to communicate." Very telling.

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#26
In reply to #24

Re: Haiti Earthquakes and Plate Tectonics

01/19/2010 12:26 PM

It is common when speaking of an organization or country, the issue may rest with the leadership but when other express sentiment in conversation normally they will refer to the name of the organization or country.

Example:

Germany bombed London though neither the babies or average man or women were involved; are all such statements also false?

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#27
In reply to #26

Re: Haiti Earthquakes and Plate Tectonics

01/20/2010 2:01 PM

Though the precise intent of the comment is unclear, I infer that you intended to defend Pat Robertson's comments by noting that his accusations were directed toward particular malfeasors. I'll grant that that is likely the case. Surely, not even PR is a big enough igmoranus* to announce that God's wrath was justifiably directed at the very young and that (smallish) fraction of the adult population that even PR must admit is meritorially righteous. Regardless, the real stupidity remains his announcement that the earthquake and the devastation it continues to bring (and will bring for some time) to 100s of thousands of Haitiians (and others), regardless of any complicity in any bad acts, may somehow be attributable to human behavior and God's infinite wisdom.

*I just coined that word and, with a bit of reflection, I think it's meaning will be easily gleaned by most.

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Anonymous Poster
#28
In reply to #27

Re: Haiti Earthquakes and Plate Tectonics

01/21/2010 2:47 AM

I don't intend to bicker with a pedantic nitpicker...

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#29
In reply to #28

Re: Haiti Earthquakes and Plate Tectonics

01/21/2010 11:26 AM

With a little more effort, you likely could have made that sound much catchier.

E.g., "I hereby withdraw from antics or bickering with any pedantic's sore nitpickering."

It's not perfect, but it's a start.

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#23
In reply to #3

Re: Haiti Earthquakes and Plate Tectonics

01/18/2010 11:17 PM

What Did Pat Robertson Really Mean by His 'Pact with the Devil' Remark?

Posted by Mondo Frazier Jan 18th 2010 at 11:28 am

What do Jake Tapper, Alan Colmes, Rich Shapiro, John Cook and Mike Potemra all have in common? All of them reported that reliable media punching bag, Pat Robertson, blamed the devastating earthquakes in Haiti on a "pact with the Devil." But did Robertson really do that?

At no point do I hear Robertson actually blame the earthquake on "a pact to the Devil." Whether you agree with Robertson or not about the "why," he was also correct about the long-time suffering of the Haitian people. And he asks for his viewers to contribute generously to his relief fund.

http://bigjournalism.com/mfrazier/2010/01/18/what-did-pat-robertson-really-mean-by-his-pact-with-the-devil-remark/

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#25
In reply to #23

Re: Haiti Earthquakes and Plate Tectonics

01/19/2010 10:36 AM

I appreciate this post - I read the full article & many of the articles it linked to, as well as watched the video. The very short, partial interview video. The source of the article doesn't even pretend to be unbiased, and the video is only a snippet of the whole thing, so I really can't count it as credible.

I'll consider that maybe he didn't say the specific words, but we know he has in the past and that really, that's the tone beneath his idea for help.

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#7
In reply to #2

Re: Haiti Earthquakes and Plate Tectonics

01/16/2010 11:02 PM

we need to boycott pat and danny at any way possible.

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#8
In reply to #2

Re: Haiti Earthquakes and Plate Tectonics

01/17/2010 9:53 AM

While on the idea of education don't leave this type fall through the cracks...

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100117/ap_on_re_us/us_cia_protest_2

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#10
In reply to #2

Re: Haiti Earthquakes and Plate Tectonics

01/18/2010 11:41 AM

You cannot educate Pat Robertson. His head is not in an optimal location for learning. His head is somewhere the sun does not shine.

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#4

Re: Haiti Earthquakes and Plate Tectonics

01/16/2010 10:53 AM

What effect is there on the eastern part of the island?? You hear nothing about damage in the Dominican Republic. I know there is a mountain range separating the countries, how high is this range?

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#6
In reply to #4

Re: Haiti Earthquakes and Plate Tectonics

01/16/2010 1:27 PM

The highest topography in the DR rises to what i believe is around 10k feet. You may have also seen the tecton plate boundry described as a transform fault. There may be some imperfections to the tectonic process and beyond the vector differences the exhumed mass may be in part due to partial subduction of the surrounding oceanic crust in contact with the Caribbean Plate. Please understand the science of plate tectonics is all theoretical and the complex dynamics associated with such a process leaves much room for interpretation.

Haiti was beyond a doubt closest to the epicenter of the quake and obviously experienced the most damage. On the same topic no one talks about Nevada when an earthqake strikes near Los Angeles.

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#14

Re: Haiti Earthquakes and Plate Tectonics

01/18/2010 12:32 PM

what kind of miles is that "1.2-million miles"?

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#15
In reply to #14

Re: Haiti Earthquakes and Plate Tectonics

01/18/2010 1:35 PM

typo' that should read 1.2 million square miles... Quite a large object floating in space

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#16

Re: Haiti Earthquakes and Plate Tectonics

01/18/2010 2:56 PM

I'm glad for your description - makes this make sense:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34922301/ns/world_news-americas/

Guatemala (in Central America) just had a 6.0 quake...

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