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Earthquake in Turkey and Syria. Can you predict an earthquake? Why was it so strong? The expert answers

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Is it possible to predict earthquakes like the one that struck Turkey and Syria on Monday morning? As explained on TVN24 by Dr. Eng. Anna Kwietniak from the AGH University of Science and Technology, it is practically impossible even in seismically active regions. Such catastrophic earthquakes, however, are relatively rare. In order for them to occur – the expert explained – powerful stresses are necessary.

On Monday morning in There was an earthquake in southeastern Turkey and northern Syria with a magnitude of approx. 7.8 – one of the strongest in the history of the region. Thousands of people died in the disaster, tens of thousands are injured, and the death toll is still not considered final. There was also massive damage over an area of ​​300 kilometers. Among others, a Polish rescue team started to help with specially trained dogs.

Dr. Eng. Anna Kwietniak from the Faculty of Geology, Geophysics and Environmental Protection of the AGH University of Science and Technology in Krakow.

Danger that cannot be foreseen

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– We cannot predict earthquakes, we cannot say that it will occur tomorrow or the day after tomorrow at a given time – explained the expert. “However, we know that we are in a region that is seismically active. It is located at the junction of tectonic plates and earthquakes occur in this region, she continued

Kwietniak explained that the current quake occurred on the East Anatolian Fault. This crack in the Earth’s crust is connected to a system of three other tectonic plate boundaries. – A fault segment of 180 kilometers was launched, from a depth of about 20 kilometers to the surface of the earth. The scale of this fault’s activation translates into this high magnitude – she explained.

Earthquake in Turkey and Syria. The blue lines indicate the area where the tremors were felt. The red lines are tectonic plate boundariesUSGS

Extremely strong shaking

Kwietniak added that although the East Anatolian Fault region is seismically active, tremors with a magnitude above 7.0 are relatively rare there. They are much more often observed on the northern branch of the fault. – The last earthquake that occurred in this area in 1905 had a magnitude of 6.8. There has been no tremor on this segment since then, so the earth’s crust accumulated these stresses. These yesterday’s events and the series of quakes (…) this is a huge release of energy that is responsible for the big quake, they said.

How long could the series of tremors last in the region? The expert explained that in regions at the junction of two tectonic plates, seismicity is recorded continuously, although without the high energy released, these are usually weaker phenomena of magnitude 3-4.

“It’s hard to say when this place will calm down, whether these tensions will build up,” she admitted.


What does fault activity depend on?

How is a fault triggered? Kwietniak reminded that although geological processes – such as the movements of the lithospheric plates (the outer shell of the Earth) – are invisible, they occur all the time.

– The East Anatolian Fault is the boundary between the Arabian Plate and the Anatolian Plate. These two plates move relative to each other at the rate of fingernail growth, two centimeters per year, she explained. – The movement of these plates, otherwise driven by the mechanics of the upper mantle, means that when the material of these two plates is too weak and the stresses cannot accumulate, the fault is triggered, its displacement, which causes the propagation of the seismic wave – said the scientist.

The surface seismic wave is precisely the factor that causes the most damage on the surface. It has the greatest amplitude, which translates into its destructive potential.


Listen to the full interview with the expert:

Earthquake expertTVN24

Main photo source: USGS

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