IN THE NEWS: In Studying Haiti, a New Angle on an Earthquake’s Intensity

A new scientific study recently found that the geometry of local surface features contributed to the intensity of the magnitude 7.0 earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti earlier this year.  The finding, published online in the journal Nature Geoscience, should help scientists and planners identify and map areas of the city that are at risk during future earthquakes. 

Dr. Dominic AssimakiDr. Dominic Assimaki, assistant professor in geosystems engineering at Georgia Tech's School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, specializes in numerical methods in earthquake engineering, nonlinear dynamic soil behavior, soil-structure interaction, scattering of seismic waves in heterogeneous media, and inverse problems in geophysics.  Dr. Assimaki was not involved in the research investigation, but she reviewed the paper by Dr. Susan E. Hough and colleagues from the United States Geological Survey for Nature Geoscience.

Dr. Assimaki said that these findings should help in the development of more accurate models of amplification processes during earthquakes. “Analytically, the problem has been studied quite extensively, but the models are very idealized,” she said. As computer simulations become more detailed and more accurately match data from the real world, they can be used to develop guidelines for earthquake-resistant construction — how much ground movement can be expected on a ridge of a certain height or slope, for example. “The objective is to translate what we find in research into simple parameters that a designer can plug in,” Dr. Assimaki said.

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