2 February 2010

Plans for a briefing on Capitol Hill

Posted by Michael McFadden

The model slip rate deficit, together with the dates of the large historical earthquakes, indicates the potential for a large (MW 7.5 or greater) earthquake on the Septentrional fault in the Dominican Republic. Similarly, the Enriquillo fault in Haiti is currently capable of a MW 7.2 earthquake if the entire elastic strain accumulated since the last major earthquake was released in a single event today.

From Manaker, D., Calais, E., Freed, A., Ali, T., Przybylski, P., Mattioli, G.S., Jansma, P.E., Pre petit, C., deChabalier, J.-B., 2008. Interseismic plate coupling and strain partitioning in the Northeastern Caribbean. Geophys. J. Int. 174 (3), 889-903.

The quote above demonstrates that a wealth of scientific knowledge is available about the potential devastation of natural hazards around the globe. But translating that information to policymakers and the public can be difficult. Not only does science need to be understood and used to create effective policies that help prevent tragedy, but political will needs to be mustered quickly.

Recognizing that there will be other earthquakes—Haiti is located on the boundary between the Caribbean and North American continental plates—AGU is helping scientists communicate information to policymakers.

To help policymakers understand the current and future situation in Haiti and the Caribbean, AGU’s Strategic Communications and Outreach staff is coordinating a briefing on Capitol Hill for congressional members and staff, as well as staff from the State Department, USAID, and international organizations such as the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank. Press will be welcome!

Congressional staff has indicated interest in learning about the science of the earthquake as well as future risk in Haiti and the Caribbean. They are also interested in learning how to re-build with earthquake-resistant infrastructure, and in determining whether building codes in Haiti and the region need to be reevaluated. AGU staff is working with other representatives from the Congressional Hazards Caucus Alliance to organize the briefing.

By holding this briefing, we hope to get timely, usable science into the hands of policymakers. What other issues do you think should be addressed at this briefing? What would you like to see get special emphasis? Send us your feedback!

Elizabeth Landau, AGU Senior Public Affairs Coordinator