Domack Presents

Chile Earthquake Devastation
Chile Earthquake Devastation
Eugene Domack, the J.W. Johnson Family Professor in Environmental Studies, was on his way back to the United States in March, waiting in the Santiago, Chile, airport for his flight when he received a call asking for his help in the aftermath of the fifth largest earthquake in history. Having just led a two-month expedition to Antarctica, he had arrived in Chile with some of the necessary supplies as well as the expertise with which to install global positioning stations (GPS). These stations are critical to monitoring ongoing ground movement. His task was to install new stations in the area around the epicenter near Concepcion, Chile.

“Impact of the Fifth Largest Earthquake in History on a Developed Latin American Country: the February 2010 Concepción ‘Teremoto,’” Domack’s lecture on Thursday, April 8, presented a summary of his experiences in this volunteer mission and an overview of the regional geology of the area and the devastation wrought by the earthquake, aftershocks and tsunamis. He illustrated the various ways earth motion was accommodated by the movement of the tectonic plates bordering the area, and he discussed the prediction of the quake by the scientific community in December 2009 and the notes made by Charles Darwin after the last major quake in the region in 1835.

Aerial shots included in the presentation showed the traumatic effects of the earthquake and tsunamis. Some villages were destroyed while others were lifted up to seven meters, leaving fishing boats on dry land. The destruction of many bridges also caused major transportation difficulties.

The GPS stations which Domack installed with the assistance of Chilean and Bolivian army officers, are very different from traditional GPS stations on which Chile had depended in the past. The new stations allow for continuous monitoring of ground movement as opposed to older models that measured movements at only specific points in time. By measuring the movement immediately after the quake, the stations collected information that will be important to predicting the next major event.
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