The January 2010 Haiti earthquake was catastrophic, leaving one million homeless. In this focus issue we have gathered articles — ranging from primary research to opinion pieces — that explore the physical processes responsible for the earthquake and the damage caused, as well as the humanitarian problems now facing the poorest country in the western hemisphere.



Shaken island pp737


Geophysical analyses of the 2010 Haiti earthquake suggest that there is still potential for seismic activity in the region. Building a more resilient country is the only option.



Built-in resilience pp739 - 740

Michael K. Lindell


The 2010 Haiti earthquake showed that building codes must be adopted and strictly enforced. Furthermore, timely disaster recovery requires these codes to be supplemented by comprehensive hazard insurance programmes.

Beyond bricks and mortar pp740 - 741

Arthur L. Lerner-Lam


Geoscience has played a key role in the recovery of Haiti since the earthquake, but warnings were not heeded in the political sphere. Along with better houses, an adaptive disaster-management infrastructure that incorporates science needs to be built.


News and Views

Structural geology: Invisible faults under shaky ground pp743 - 745

Roger Bilham


The Haiti earthquake ruptured one or more buried faults, generated tsunamis and caused extensive structural damage in Port-au-Prince. Investigations in the epicentral region quantify seismic hazards but offer no clear views of Haiti's seismic future.



Localized damage caused by topographic amplification during the 12 January 2010 M7.0 Haiti earthquake pp778 - 782

Susan E. Hough, Jean Robert Altidor, Dieuseul Anglade, Doug Given, M. Guillard Janvier, J. Zebulon Maharrey, Mark Meremonte, Bernard Saint-Louis Mildor, Claude Prepetit & Alan Yong


Microzonation maps use local geological conditions to characterize seismic hazard, but do not generally consider topography. Ground motions during the Haiti earthquake are found to have been significantly amplified along a high topographic ridge, which caused substantial structural damage, indicating that topography can play an important role in seismic hazard.

High tsunami frequency as a result of combined strike-slip faulting and coastal landslides pp783 - 788

Matthew J. Hornbach, Nicole Braudy, Richard W. Briggs, Marie-Helene Cormier, Marcy B. Davis, John B. Diebold, Nicole Dieudonne, Roby Douilly, Cliff Frohlich, Sean P. S. Gulick, Harold E. Johnson III, Paul Mann, Cecilia McHugh, Katherine Ryan-Mishkin, Carol S. Prentice, Leonardo Seeber, Christopher C. Sorlien, Michael S. Steckler, Steeve Julien Symithe, Frederick W. Taylor & John Templeton


The 12 January 2010 Mw 7.0 Haiti earthquake exhibited primarily strike-slip motion but unusually generated a tsunami. An extensive field survey reveals that coastal strike-slip fault systems produce relief conducive to rapid sedimentation, erosion and slope failure, so that even modest predominantly strike-slip earthquakes can cause potentially catastrophic slide-generated tsunamis.

Seismic hazard of the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden Fault in Haiti inferred from palaeoseismology pp789 - 793

C. S. Prentice, P. Mann, A. J. Crone, R. D. Gold, K. W. Hudnut, R. W. Briggs, R. D. Koehler & P. Jean


The Enriquillo–Plantain Garden fault zone is the primary plate-bounding fault system in Haiti and was initially thought to be responsible for the 2010 earthquake. Palaeoseismic analyses of the fault system indicate that it ruptured during a large earthquake in either 1750 or 1770, but did not rupture the surface during the 2010 earthquake.

Transpressional rupture of an unmapped fault during the 2010 Haiti earthquake pp794 - 799

Eric Calais, Andrew Freed, Glen Mattioli, Falk Amelung, Sigurjón Jónsson, Pamela Jansma, Sang-Hoon Hong, Timothy Dixon, Claude Prépetit & Roberte Momplaisir


The Enriquillo–Plantain Garden strike-slip fault accommodates the relative motion between the North American and Caribbean plates and was thought to have ruptured during the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Satellite data instead indicate that a blind thrust fault, possibly related to the Haitian fold-thrust belt, was responsible and caused some contractional deformation.



Complex rupture during the 12 January 2010 Haiti Earthquake pp800 - 805

G. P. Hayes, R. W. Briggs, A. Sladen, E. J. Fielding, C. Prentice, K. Hudnut, P. Mann, F. W. Taylor, A. J. Crone, R. Gold, T. Ito & M. Simons


Initially, the devastating 12 January 2010 Haiti earthquake seemed to involve straightforward accommodation of the motion between the Caribbean and North American plates. A combination of seismological observations, geologic field data and space geodetic measurements shows that the rupture process may have involved slip on multiple faults, but lacked significant surface deformation.



Esprit de corps in Haiti pp808

Matthew Hornbach et al.


Matthew J. Hornbach and colleagues navigated shallow debris-filled waters in an attempt to understand the factors that contributed to tsunami generation during the Haiti earthquake.

After the shock pE1

Susan Hough et al.


Susan Hough and colleagues faced logistical challenges when attempting to deploy portable seismometers in post-earthquake Port-au-Prince.

Extra navigation