The devastating effects of the recent 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Southeastern Turkey have been captured in a map. The quake—which has killed hundreds of people so far—was caused by the East Anatolian Fault, and has been felt by people living across the wider area, including the capital Ankara and neighboring countries like Syria, Israel and Lebanon. This blog post will provide a summary of the research behind the earthquake, and explain why it is so important to understand the Anatolian Plate and its two fault lines.

Turkey is one of the most seismically active countries in the world, as it is located between two major tectonic plates. Chris Elders, plate tectonics and structural geology expert adjunct professor from the School of Earth and Planetary Life Sciences at Australia’s Curtin University, said that the two plates are moving towards one another, squeezing Turkey out sideways. This sideways movement of Turkey is what causes the earthquakes.

The Anatolian Plate is formed by the North Anatolian fault and the East Anatolian Fault. The North Anatolian fault stretches across the north side of Turkey, and traditionally causes the majority of earthquakes in the country. The East Anatolian fault is smaller than the North Anatolian, at 434 miles long. The main difference between these two fault lines is their location, but they work together at an angle of about 60 degrees.

Elders described this movement as similar to squeezing a pip from an orange or grapefruit between your thumb and finger, and the pip shooting sideways. This is what happens when the two plates move towards one another and the edges of the plates are the faults, where the pip (Turkey) squeezes out sideways. The movement is accommodated on both of the faults, with larger quakes usually occurring on the North.

However, several other earthquakes have occurred as a result of the East Anatolian Fault, including the 6.7 earthquake in Elâziğ on January 24, 2020. It is therefore important to understand the Anatolian Plate and its two fault lines in order to better predict and prepare for future earthquakes.

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