Turkeys next quake: USC research shows where it could happen but not when
Part of the fault beneath Turkeys Pütürge district is stuck. That makes it likely to slip sometime anytime and cause another devastating 6.8 quake.
Researchers know a lot about Turkeys next major earthquake. They can pinpoint the probable epicenter, estimate its strength and see the spatial footprint of where damage is most likely to occur.
They just cant say when it will happen.
Using remote sensing, USC geophysicist Sylvain Barbot and his fellow researchers documented the massive quake that killed more than 50,000 people in Eastern Turkey on Feb. 6 and toppled more than 100,000 buildings.
Alarmingly, researchers found that a section of the fault remains unbroken and locked a sign that the plates there may, when friction intensifies, generate another magnitude 6.8 earthquake when it finally gives way.
We know a little bit better what to prepare for. We dont know the timing, but we know where it can happen, Barbot said.
Major earthquakes are caused by the slipping of tectonic plates. The plates slowly moving pieces of the earths crust press against each other, gradually accumulating force over the course of decades, centuries and eons. When the plates finally slip, the energy explodes in waves traveling through the earths crust.
The Kahramanmara?, Turkey, magnitude 7.8 mainshock occurred Feb. 6, followed by a magnitude 7.6 aftershock on a separate fault further west. Another quake occurred two weeks later, a magnitude 6.4 on Feb. 20. A plotting of data shows seismic activity and the amount of slippage along the faults.
Turkeys next quake: Pütürge district in the crosshairs
The area beneath Turkeys Pütürge district shows a swarm of seismic activity along the fault but no slippage. That means that part of the fault is locked, or stuck, but it is likely to slip sometime anytime in the future.
What weve seen in photos of the buildings that collapsed is that some of them were pancakes but others were literally pulverized, Barbot said. So that means another degree of failure; even the concrete itself disintegrated. There is the possibility that this earthquake produced more shaking than was anticipated in the building codes. We wont know without more research.
So, we have this region where we can expect a 6.8 magnitude earthquake and two things can happen from here. The population needs to be prepared for that but also the scientific community because that gives us an opportunity to prepare a monitoring experiment to see how an earthquake starts and ends.