Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Seismic hazard of the Enriquillo–Plantain Garden fault in Haiti inferred from palaeoseismology


The Enriquillo–Plantain Garden fault zone is recognized as one of the primary plate-bounding fault systems in Haiti1,2. The strike-slip fault runs adjacent to the city of Port-au-Prince and was initially thought to be the source of the 12 January 2010, Mw 7.0 earthquake. Haiti experienced significant earthquakes in 1751 and 1770 (refs 3, 4, 5), but the role of the Enriquillo–Plantain Garden fault zone in these earthquakes is poorly known. We use satellite imagery, aerial photography, light detection and ranging (LIDAR) and field investigations to document Quaternary activity on the Enriquillo–Plantain Garden fault. We report late Quaternary, left-lateral offsets of up to 160 m, and a set of small offsets ranging from 1.3 to 3.3 m that we associate with one of the eighteenth century earthquakes. The size of the small offsets implies that the historical earthquake was larger than Mw 7.0, but probably smaller than Mw 7.6. We found no significant surface rupture associated with the 2010 earthquake. The lack of surface rupture, coupled with other seismologic, geologic and geodetic observations6,7, suggests that little, if any, accumulated strain was released on the Enriquillo–Plantain Garden fault in the 2010 earthquake. These results confirm that the Enriquillo–Plantain Garden fault remains a significant seismic hazard.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Prices vary by article type



Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Figure 1: Tectonic setting of the 12 January 2010 Haiti earthquake.
Figure 2: EPGFZ in southern Haiti.
Figure 3: Surface fractures along the EPGFZ near Port Royal.
Figure 4: Locations of small, left-lateral offsets along the Momance section of the EPGFZ.
Figure 5: Detailed topographic survey of small stream offsets at the Jean–Jean site.


  1. Mann, P., Matumoto, T. & Burke, K. Neotectonics of Hispaniola—Plate motion, sedimentation, and seismicity at a restraining bend. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 70, 311–324 (1984).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Mann, P., Taylor, F. W., Edwards, R. L. & Ku, R. Actively evolving microplate formation by oblique collision and sideways motion along strike-slip faults: An example from the northeastern Caribbean plate margin. Tectonophysics 246, 1–69 (1995).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. McCann, W. R. in Caribbean Tsunami Hazard (eds Aurelio, M. & Philip, L.) 43–65 (World Scientific, 2006).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  4. Ali, S. T., Freed, A. M., Calais, E., Manaker, D. M. & McCann, W. R. Coulomb stress evolution in northeastern Caribbean over the past 250 years due to coseismic, postseismic, and interseismic deformation. Geophys. J. Int. 174, 904–918 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Scherer, J. Great earthquakes in the island of Haiti. Bull. Seismol. Soc. Am. 2, 174–179 (1912).

    Google Scholar 

  6. Hayes, G. P. et al. Complex rupture during the 12 January 2010 Haiti earthquake. Nature Geosci. 3, 800–805 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Calais, E. et al. The January 12, 2010, Mw 7.0 earthquake in Haiti: Context and mechanism from an integrated geodetic study. Nature Geosci. 3, 794–799 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Manaker, D. M. et al. Interseismic plate coupling and strain partitioning in the Northeastern Caribbean. Geophys. J. Int. 174, 889–903 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Dolan, J. F. & Wald, D. J. in Active Strike-Slip and Collisional Tectonics of the Northern Caribbean Plate Boundary Zone (eds Dolan, J. F. & Mann, P.) 143–169 (Geol. Soc. Am. Special Paper, Vol. 326, 1998).

    Google Scholar 

  10. Prentice, C. S., Mann, P., Peña, L. & Burr, G. Slip rate and earthquake recurrence along the central Septentrional fault, North American–Caribbean plate boundary, Dominican Republic. J. Geophys. Res. 108, 2149–2165 (2003).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. USGS cenroid moment solution:

  12. Wesnousky, S. G. Displacement and geometrical characteristics of earthquake surface ruptures; issues and implications for seismic-hazard analysis and the process of earthquake rupture. Bull. Seismol. Soc. Am. 98, 1609–1632 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Arnadottir, T. & Segall, P. The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake imaged from the inversion of geodetic data. J. Geophys. Res. 99, 21835–21855 (1994).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Prentice, C. S. & Schwartz, D. P. Re-evaluation of 1906 surface faulting, geomorphic expression, and seismic hazard along the San Andreas fault in the southern Santa Cruz Mountains. Bull. Seismol. Soc. Am. 81, 1424–1479 (1991).

    Google Scholar 

  15. Hornbach, M. J. et al. Uplift, sliding, and tsunamigenesis along a strike-slip fault. Nature Geosci. 3, 783–788 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Mann, P. et al. 18th Caribbean Geological Conf. 24–28 March, 2008, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (2008).

  17. Mann, P. et al. Late Quaternary activity and seismogenic potential of the Gonave microplate: Plantain Garden strike-slip fault zone of eastern Jamaica. Eos Trans. AGU (Fall Meeting Suppl.) 89, abstr. T11B-1869 (2008).

  18. Koehler, R. D., Mann, P. & Brown, L. A. Tectonic geomorphology and paleoseismology of strike-slip faults in Jamaica: Implications for distribution of strain and seismic hazard along the southern edge of the Gonave microplate. Eos Trans. AGU (Fall Meeting Suppl.) 90, abstr. G33B-0658 (2009).

  19. Wells, D. L. & Coppersmith, K. J. New empirical relationships among magnitude, rupture length, rupture width, rupture area, and surface displacement. Bull. Seismol. Soc. Am. 84, 974–1002 (1994).

    Google Scholar 

  20. For example, see initial USGS online summary report:

  21. Pubellier, M., Mauffret, A., Leroy, S., Vlia, J. M. & Amilcar, H. Plate boundary readjustment in oblique convergence: Example of the Neogene of Hispaniola, Greater Antilles. Tectonics 19, 630–648 (2000).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Earthquake epicenter from USGS:

  23. Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS) website, catalog search:

Download references


We thank the Haitian Bureau of Mines and Energy, especially D. Anglade, for invaluable assistance. We are indebted to R. Boyer, R. Arbouet, Jr. and A. Chery for field assistance. We also thank L. Blair, R. Renaldo and N. Knepprath (USGS) for GIS support. The US Agency for International Development (USAID) Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance and the US Geological Survey (USGS) National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program provided funds for the USGS-USAID Earthquake Disaster Assistance Team (EDAT) to carry out this work. Financial support was also provided by the National Science Foundation (grant EAR1024990 to P.M.). UTIG contribution 2284. We thank S. Hough and M. Tuttle for helpful and constructive criticism of earlier versions of this manuscript.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



C.S.P. was responsible for writing the manuscript and generating most of the figures, with input from all authors. R.D.G. reduced the survey data collected by C.S.P. and A.J.C. to produce the map that appears in Fig. 5, and contributed substantially to Fig. 4b,c. C.S.P., R.D.G. and A.J.C. contributed to interpretation of survey data. C.S.P., R.D.G. and K.W.H. contributed text and figures to the Supplementary Information, which was coordinated by C.S.P. All authors collected data in the field and contributed to data analysis and synthesis.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to C. S. Prentice.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Information (PDF 15196 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Prentice, C., Mann, P., Crone, A. et al. Seismic hazard of the Enriquillo–Plantain Garden fault in Haiti inferred from palaeoseismology. Nature Geosci 3, 789–793 (2010).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing