Haiti's 2010 earthquake: strike slip vs subduction

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Why didn't the earthquake cause a tsunami?

Strike-slips faults like the one that devastated Haiti don't generally cause tsunami, except for small local ripples. The Haiti earthquake was a horizontal motion. Tsunamis are caused by either an uplifting of the ocean floor, or by a huge chunk of land sliding into the ocean. Subduction-zone earthquakes raise the ocean bottom suddenly to push the water in tsunamis. 

The beach of a small fishing town was hit by a localised tsunami shortly after the earthquake, as a result of an underwater slide, At least three people were swept out to sea by the wave and were reported dead.

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  • The tectonic plates in Haiti are moving horizontally past one another.
  • The largest tsunamis are caused by vertical motion of the land.
  • Vertical rebound in subduction zones push the water up into a tsunami.

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In a strike-slip fault, the movement of blocks along a fault is horizontal. The fault motion of a strike-slip fault is caused by shearing forces. Other names: transcurrent fault, lateral fault, tear fault or wrench fault. Examples: San Andreas Fault, California; Anatolian Fault, Turkey.

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The subduction zone iswhere two tectonic (lithospheric) plates come together, one subducting (diving) beneath the other. The plates are locked together and periodically overcome the friction causing the leading edge of the overlying plate to surge back, lifting a wall of water producting a tsunami.

Animation Novice

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