Historical records indicate frequent seismic activity along the north‐east Caribbean plate boundary over the past 500 years, particularly on the island of Hispaniola. We use accounts of historical earthquakes to assign intensities and the intensity assignments for the 2010 Haiti earthquakes to derive an intensity attenuation relation for Hispaniola. The intensity assignments and the attenuation relation are used in a grid search to find source locations and magnitudes that best fit the intensity assignments.

Here we describe a sequence of devastating earthquakes on the Enriquillo fault system in the eighteenth century. An intensity magnitude MI 6.6 earthquake in 1701 occurred near the location of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, and the accounts of the shaking in the 1701 earthquake are similar to those of the 2010 earthquake. A series of large earthquakes migrating from east to west started with the 18 October 1751 MI 7.4–7.5 earthquake, probably located near the eastern end of the fault in the Dominican Republic, followed by the 21 November 1751 MI 6.6 earthquake near Port‐au‐Prince, Haiti, and the 3 June 1770 MI 7.5 earthquake west of the 2010 earthquake rupture. The 2010 Haiti earthquake may mark the beginning of a new cycle of large earthquakes on the Enriquillo fault system after 240 years of seismic quiescence. The entire Enriquillo fault system appears to be seismically active; Haiti and the Dominican Republic should prepare for future devastating earthquakes.

Online Material: Table listing small earthquakes, and figures of intensity assignments and intensity magnitude estimates.

You do not have access to this content, please speak to your institutional administrator if you feel you should have access.