News Release

*Free* Citizen seismology provided rapid insight into damaging 2021 Haiti Earthquake and its aftershocks

Peer-Reviewed Publication

American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

A network of simple seismic stations, hosted in volunteers’ homes, helped to rapidly evaluate and characterize the Mw7.2 Nippes earthquake in Haiti in 2021, as well as its subsequent aftershocks. The findings underscore the utility of low-cost, low-technology, citizen-run seismic sensors in understanding major earthquakes, particularly in remote or developing regions lacking conventional seismic station networks. The Nippes earthquake, which struck the Southern Peninsula of Haiti in August 2021, destroyed an estimated 140,000 homes and was responsible for several thousand deaths. Despite being a region with significant seismic risk – as evidenced by a history of large and damaging earthquakes – Haiti has only a handful of high-quality seismic stations. However, for the 2021 Nippes event, unlike for earlier earthquakes in the region, a network of citizen seismometers installed in 2019 allowed scientists to understand the mechanism of the event and monitor its aftershocks in near real-time. Here, Eric Calais and colleagues describe data obtained through a network of citizen seismometers built using inexpensive and low-maintenance “Raspberry Shake” seismic stations, which are based on widely available Raspberry Pi open-source computer technology. According to Calais et al., the citizen seismometer network contributed crucial data that helped to characterize the event, including its extent, rupture geometry and rupture mechanism. Data from the citizen seismometer closest to the epicenter of the mainshock allowed researchers to forecast and monitor the likelihood of damaging aftershocks as accurately as the traditional earthquake catalog-based approach, they say. “This is an important example of a direct impact of citizen seismology to understand a large and damaging earthquake in the absence of conventional seismic stations in the near-field of the event, highlighting the added-value of citizen seismology for rapid earthquake response,” write Calais et al

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