In the early morning of February 6, a devastating magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck southern Turkey, near the Syrian border. Numerous aftershocks followed, the strongest almost rivaling the power of the main shock, but with a magnitude of 7.5. By evening, the death toll had risen to more than 3,700 across both countries, according to Reuters, and was expected to rise.
Most of Turkey sits on a small tectonic plate, sandwiched between two slowly colliding behemoths: the vast Eurasian plate to the north and the Arabian plate to the south. When those two plates blow together, the turkey is squeezed sideways, like a watermelon seed split between two fingers, says US Geological Survey seismologist Susan Hough.
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The entire region is surrounded by fault zones, or sliding transversely, of the North Anatolian fault, which runs almost parallel to the Euxine Bridge, and to the East of the Anatolian fault, near the Syrian border. As a result, Turkey is very seismically active. Even so, the Moon’s movement, which occurred on the eastern Anatolian fault, was the strongest to hit the region since 1939, when a magnitude 7.8 earthquake killed 30,000 people.
Science News He spoke with Hough, who has moved to Pasadena, Calif., about his posts on rocks and building codes. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
SN: You say on Twitter for this he was greatly moved by the fault of the undermining. Can you explain?
Hough: The world has seen bigger earthquakes. Subduction zones generate the largest earthquakes, as large as 9SN: 1/13/21). But the impact of non-common vices is almost as great. But because you’re on the ground and they tend to be shallow, it’s heavy … moving can lead to a fault.
SN: Some aftershocks were very strong at magnitudes 7.5 and 6.7. Is it unusual?
HoughAs with many things, there is nothing that is expected in the average, and there is nothing that is possible. On average, the largest aftershocks are a full unit smaller than the main shock. But that’s just clinical; for any individual main shock, the largest aftershock can have a lot of variability.
Another thing people noticed was space [between the main shock and some aftershocks over a hundred kilometers away]. Aftershock is not exactly a term. What an aftershock is is not something that seismologists are always clear on. The fault that produced the greatest impact is 200 kilometers long, which is going to change the stress in a lot of areas. It’s a great weekend, but it’s made for some fun. We can blame those aftershocks, but some. It is a little unusual, but not unusual.
SN: They wondered if Monday’s magnitude 3 earthquake near Buffalo NY could be reported.
Hough: Generates a magnitude of 7.8 [seismic] The waves that you can see around the Earth are technically dispersive from any point on the Earth. So the idea is not entirely barbaric, but statistically very unlikely. Perhaps if a seismic wave passed through a fault that was just ready to go in the right direction, it is possible.
Interesting [and completely separate] The idea is that large earthquakes would occur around the Great Lakes [such as near Buffalo] because, like lakes, the levels rise and fall, lifting up the Earth’s crust, imposing weight on one side or the other. It is the source of that stress that could give you these little reactions.
SN: The images that arise from the fatal disaster are devastating.
Hough: it is difficult to watch. And it emphasizes the importance of building codes. One of the problems that the site has against any site is that building codes are getting better over time, and you always have a problem with older structures. Retrofit is really expensive. I am waiting for the engineers to inspect the earthquake damage and highlight where they are vulnerable [in the area]. The hope is that, with our own engineering, we can make built environments safer.
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