A Powerful Earthquake Rocks Turkey: A Summary of the Recent Devastating Event
On February 6th, 2021, an extremely large earthquake struck southeast Turkey near the border of Syria, measuring a magnitude 7.8 on the moment magnitude scale. This powerful earthquake has already had terrible consequences for people living nearby, with reports of over 4000 deaths and damage to gas pipelines leading to fires. This blog post will provide a summary of the recent devastating event and explain why this area of Turkey is prone to earthquakes.
This area of Turkey is located at the intersection of three tectonic plates: the Anatolian, Arabian and African plates. Arabia is moving northwards into Europe, causing the Anatolian plate (which Turkey sits on) to be pushed out westwards. This motion of the tectonic plates builds up pressure on fault zones at their boundaries, and it is the sudden release of this pressure that causes earthquakes and ground shaking.
The magnitude 7.8 earthquake released significantly more energy than previous earthquakes in the region, releasing more than twice as much energy as the largest previously recorded earthquake in the region (magnitude 7.4). The moment magnitude scale is non-linear, meaning that each step up represents 32 times more energy released. That means a magnitude 7.8 actually releases around 6,000 times more energy than the more moderate magnitude 5 earthquakes that might usually happen in the region.
The shaking caused by the earthquake was felt by 610,000 people in the surrounding area up to around 80km away north-eastwards along the tectonic plate boundary, and even as far away as Istanbul, Baghdad, and Cairo. After the initial tremor, there have been hundreds of smaller magnitude aftershocks. While aftershocks are usually significantly smaller than the main shock, they can have equally devastating consequences, further damaging infrastructure that was damaged by the first earthquake and hampering rescue efforts.
As the aftermath of this major earthquake continues to be felt by the people living in this region, we can only hope that international aid gets to Turkey and Syria as soon as possible to help in ongoing rescue efforts, amid the ongoing aftershocks.