Preparing Kingston, Jamaica for the next great earthquake and related geohazards

Geoscientists Without Borders
Earthquake Mitigation Projects

Kingston, Jamaica, the capital of the Caribbean island nation of Jamaica, is prone to infrequent but devastating earthquakes and tsunamis, yet the locations of the faults responsible for generating these geohazards are poorly known

Jamaica has experienced a significant earthquake every few hundred years. It has now been more than 100 years since Jamaica was struck by a large earthquake. Recent studies suggest the island could potentially experience a Mw 7.2–7.3 Earthquake in the near future.

This project is using state of the art Chirp (3.5khz) submarine seismic imaging and sediment coring techniques to map active faults and recently active submarine slumps in and around Kingston Harbor. From an extensive amount of surveys and coring, subsurface and bathymetric maps have been developed showing where active faults propagate from offshore into densely populated coastlines. Additionally high resolution tsunami inundation maps indicating where maximum wave run-up will like occur in the region during fault ruptures were developed.

All project information is shared with Kingston's Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management, Petroleum Jamaica and the Jamaican Defense Force.

Status Complete

Statement of Work

The outcome has been very positive for both the people of Jamaica and the students/researchers involved in the project. Much of the work and initial results were publicized in Jamaican newspapers, radio, and television, so the information gained from the study went well beyond governmental organizations. People in Jamaica are becoming ever more aware of both geohazard risks and mitigation efforts across the region. Furthermore, the impact the study had on students was astounding: Renee McDonald, a Jamaican National, completed her master's degree working on this project and an impressive 5 of the 8 students from SMU who became involved in this project have either completed or are now obtaining advanced degrees in geology or geophysics, with several finding jobs in the energy industry. The SEG-GWB project represents a wonderful example of how things can sometimes come full circle: students who were granted their first geophysical researcher opportunities through SEG-GWB will already soon be active, contributing professionals in SEG.

The research has been a tremendous success for all parties and research continues to emerge from this project today. For example, Vashan Wright, also a native Jamaican, is currently our newest student working on his master's degree at SMU analyzing SEG-GWB data in both Hispaniola and Jamaica along the Plantain Garden Fault to understand potential geohazard risks.

Stakeholders will continue to use SEG-GWB data for years to come to continue developing improved risk assessments for the region--the fact that we have publications, reports, and students native to Jamaica working on these data still today (approximately 5 years after the project was initially funded) is a testament to the value and sustainability of the project.

Principal Investigators

Dr. Matt Hornbach – Southern Methodist University  

Dr. Lyndon Brown – University of West Indies

Project Partners

Southern Methodist University – Cliff Mauroner, Connor Flynn, Joey Fontana, Emma Giddens, Benjamin Phrampus, Zach Frone, Gwen Carris, Austen Klausen, Renee McDonald
University of West Indies – Renee McDonald, Vashan Wright
University of Texas Austin - Ellen Rathje, Marcy Davis, Sean Gulick, Fred Taylor
Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management Jamaica
Jamaica University of Technology
Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica
Jamaica's Navy and Coast Guard

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Call for Abstracts closes 1 April!