Significant earthquake and tsunami hazards exist in the northeastern Caribbean, where plate movements are rapid and complex, and population density is high.The tectonic situation at this “corner,” where a small plate is shoved over a larger one, is of considerable scientific significance. Evaluation of the tsunami hazard and earthquake risk in this region of 3.7 million people, which includes Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, requires understanding the rapid plate motions that occur there.
At a workshop this past March sponsored by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), a group of scientists, engineers, and government and industry representatives set about to determine critical elements that would be required in a comprehensive program of scientific research, management, and publiceducation concerning the tectonic risk in the region. Participants called for work in marine geology and geophysics, paleoseismology and active faults, earthquake seismology, engineering, and tsunami research. In particular, the participants concluded that offshore faults, their level of seismic activity and, if possible, slip rates, must be better identified, and a better historic and prehistoric record of earthquake and tsunami activity on the islands must be established.