On February 6, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake shook the southeast turkey and northern Syria, leaving behind thousands of dead. It is not the first time that a large earthquake has occurred in Turkey, although this one has been especially intense. We might think that it is pure chance. After all, it is still impossible to predict earthquakes. However, there is an explanation why this earthquake has been so intense.
This resides in the fault size in which the earthquake in Turkey took place. There are doubts between the Eastern Anatolian or Dead Sea Transformation fault, but most indications point to what happened in the first. This is a failure of 700 kilometers longso it offers an ideal scenario for large earthquakes to be triggered.
In fact, this is usually the common factor in all areas where large earthquakes occur. It is not the only requirement, but it can help to get an idea of the magnitude of future tremors and, with it, prepare the buildings conscientiously. Thus, although it is not possible to know when the disaster will come, you can try to minimize it as far as possible. But what does the size of the flaws have to do with all this?
Before we begin: they are not degrees
Following the earthquake in Turkey, we hear again about degrees on the Richter scale to refer to its power. This is something that is technically not correct and it is not bad to remember it.
For a start, We must not confuse magnitude with intensity. The Richter scale, already in disuse, made reference to the intensity of the earthquake. This was quantified by analyzing their level of destruction. For example, if entire buildings fall or only racks vibrate. Instead, the magnitude refers to the energy released by the earthquake. It is related to its level of destruction, of course, but it is not the same.
In the case of the earthquake in Turkey, it is incorrect to say that it was 7.8 on the Richter scale. The appropriate thing to do is to refer to the fact that it was an earthquake of magnitude 7.8.
What are faults and what do they have to do with the earthquake in Turkey?
A fault is a structure in the ground in which the rocks have slipped. edges of two blocks. In the case of lithospheric plates, which make up the solid top layer of Earth, when the edges between one and the other rub against each other, tensions accumulate, which can finally be released suddenly. That is what causes earthquakes.
For this reason, although they cannot be predicted, it is known which are the hot spots of this type of tremor: the faults in which the edges of these lithospheric plates meet. Now, it’s not the same small flaw than a much longer one.
The larger it is, the greater stresses can build up due to the friction between plates and the greater the energy that is released with them. For example, the largest earthquake ever recorded in history took place in Chile, in 1960. It reached the chilling magnitude of 9.5, because it occurred on a 1,000 kilometer long fault.
In the case of Turkey and Syria earthquakeits epicenter has taken place at a point of clash between the Anatolian, Arabian and African plates. There is the East Anatolian fault, with a length of 700 kilometers. Therefore, there is a large enough extent for large tremors to be triggered.
That’s not to say that any earthquake at this point needs to be that huge. In fact, as he has explained in The Conversation Jenny JenkinsProfessor of Earth Sciences at Durham University, have only been given three earthquakes above magnitude 6 within 250 kilometers of this location since 1970.
Unfortunately, this time the earthquake in Turkey and Syria has reached figures that will go down in history. This is sad news for which, unfortunately, science still has to find many more answers.
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