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Using GPS to Monitor Seismic Hazards

While  the  accurate  prediction  of  major  seismic events  is  still  a  long  way  off,  the  increasing coverage  provided  by  continually  operating  GPS reference  stations,  together  with  improvements in  GPS  data  analyses  are  providing  not  only  an unprecedented  scientific  research  tool  for  the study of regional tectonics, but also an effective methodology  for  improving  the  estimates  of seismic hazards.

Regional  researchers  from  the  University  of  the West  Indies  (UWI),  as  well  as  colleagues  from outside  the  region,  have  been  reporting improved  estimates  of  these  hazards.  Margaret Grandison (UWI, Earthquake Unit) in association
with the University of Texas did a detailed study seismic  activity  in  the  region  and  in  2008 predicted  that  an  earthquake  of  7.2  magnitude would hit Port‐au‐Prince, Haiti and /or Kingston, Jamaica.
See paper at

Through  the  use  of  GPS  technology‐assisted research,  they  were  able  to  accurately  predict the  earthquake  that  hit  Haiti.  Research  found that  there  was  an  accumulation  of  ~2meters  of strain  deficit  accumulating  since  the  last  major event.  According  to  the  researchers,  this  would be  the  equivalent  of  “a  Mw=7.2  earthquake  if all  was  released  in  a  single  event  today.  The two  largest  cities  within  30  km  of  the  fault zone  are  Port‐au‐Prince,  Haiti,  and  Kingston, Jamaica…”

The  recent  events  in  Haiti  remind  us  of  the critical  importance  of  continuing  research  work.  The  map  of  the  Gonave  microplate  boldly indicates  the  high  risk  areas  that  should  be monitored  closely  as  any  shifts  can  directly
impacts  lives  from  the  Cayman  Islands  to  Santo Domingo in Dominica Republic and from Port‐au‐Prince,  Haiti  to  Kingston  and  Montego  Bay, Jamaica.



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