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Hurricane Induced Landslides and Erosion Can Cause Earthquakes

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Tropical cyclones (hurricanes and typhoons) may be a trigger for earthquakes, say researchers at the University of Miami. After finding a pattern between large tropical storms in Haiti and Taiwan and earthquakes which occurred there soon afterwards, the researchers claim that the link is causal.

“Very wet rain events are the trigger. The heavy rain induces thousands of landslides and severe erosion, which removes ground material from the Earth’s surface, releasing the stress load and encouraging movement along faults,” spoke University of Miami associate professor of marine geology and geophysics, Shimon Wdowinski.

“The relations we found are between very wet cyclones and three devastating earthquakes and additional nine earthquakes with magnitude M>5,” Wdowinski told vagabondjourney.com.

Wdowinski and a colleague observed that three cyclones — Typhoons Morakot, Herb and Flossie — which hit Taiwan over the past 50 years, may have promoted various magnitude 6+ earthquakes which occurred in the country’s highlands within four years of each tropical deluge.

Researching the link between cyclones and earthquakes

The researchers also uncovered a link between the 2010 magnitude 7 earthquake in the mountains of Haiti and two back to back tropical storms which poured massive amounts of rain on the island just a year and a half before.

This research indicates that landslides and erosion from excessive amounts of rain can lessen the weight of the earth over fault lines, which subsequently allows fractures in the bedrock to shift more easily. “The reduced load unclamp the faults, which can promote an earthquake,” said Wdowinski.

Vagabondjourney.com asked Wdowinski if his findings may be useful in predicting earthquakes in the future, to which he responded that, “We don’t like to use the term ‘predict’, but rather use ‘forecast’. As you indicated, the relations between these earthquake and very wet cyclones may use for improved forecasting, BUT only in those specific areas that are: (i) seismically active, (ii) mountainous, and (iii) subjected to very wet cyclones.”

As the patterns of the natural world continue being decoded, the ability to forecast and prepare for natural disasters improves. But the time frame for forecasting the cause and effect relationship between massive tropical storms and the highland earthquakes they have the potential to induce is still vast in terms of human perception. Within four years was the temporal time span that the researchers found between the two events. In point, Professor Wdowinski’s findings present no reason to ever cancel your travel plans.

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Filed under: Geology, Natural Disasters

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3048 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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