Research, Technology

Why was the earthquake in Turkey and Syria so deadly?

The solar system is believed to have formed inas a result of gas and dust cloud compression. This momentous event occurred about 4.6 billion years ago thanks to the outburst of a distant star. This supernova is believed by astronomers to have caused the formation of the nebula and the subsequent birth of our star. Today, eight planets revolve around the Sun - 4 rocky ones, including the Earth, and four gaseous ones, including Uranus and Neptune. The composition of the planets in our star system is extremely important for understanding processes such as volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. The latter, as is known, are the result of the movement of lithospheric plates, the collision of which led to one of the largest catastrophes in the last 100 years. A powerful earthquake in southeastern Turkey and northern Syria has killed more than 20,000 people and the toll continues to rise. But what do scientists think about the magnitude of an earthquake and its causes? And why was the tragedy so deadly?

Earthquake death toll near Turkey-Syria border tops 20,000


  • 1 Formation and composition of the Earth
    • 1.1 The internal structure of the Earth
  • 2 Movement of tectonic plates
    • 2.1 Strength and consequences of earthquakes
  • 3 Earthquake in Turkey and Syria
  • 4 Tectonic plate shift
  • 5 Consequences of the disaster

Formation and composition of the Earth

Earth appeared in the space arena around 4.5billion years ago, but most of the time it was not the most comfortable place for life - during the formation of the solar system, the only substance that could exist near a star and withstand its heating was rocky material, and the Earth remained extremely hot for a long time - so much so that it almost completely consisted of from molten magma.

To cool down and shelter oceans on the surfaceliquid water, the planet took hundreds of millions of years - all this time, heavy elements, bypassing magma, descended to the center of the Earth. These processes eventually led to the formation of several layers, the outermost of which was a hard coating of relatively light material (while dense and molten remained closer to the center).

Billions of years ago, the solar system was completely unrecognizable

important role in the formation of the earth's crust (andoceans in which life originated) volcanic eruptions played - emissions of water vapor, ammonia and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere gradually gave the appearance of the third planet from the Sun familiar to us.

This is interesting: An ancient space storm “moved” the planets of the solar system from their orbits

The internal structure of the Earth

Although it may seem that our planet isfrom one large solid rock, in fact it consists of several layers and some of them are constantly moving. Geologists distinguish four main layers: crust, mantle, outer core and inner core.

I'll start with earth's crust – its thickness varies from 5 km (at the bottom of the ocean)up to 70 km (on land). This outer layer of the planet is composed of hard rocks, mainly limestone and granite, and is divided into two types: oceanic and continental crust, each of which is different in structure and composition. The next layer is called mantle - it is much thicker than the earth's crust and is located at a depth of almost 3000 km. The mantle is dominated by magnesium and iron.

The earth is made up of four main spheres or shells that depend on each other.

Further advancement into the bowels of the Earth leads us to a hot outer core, whose temperature ranges from 4400°C to5000°C. The outer core contains liquid iron and nickel. This inner layer is extremely important because it creates a magnetic field - a barrier that protects us from the damaging effects of the solar wind.

See also: Earth's interior is cooling faster than previously thought

The last layer of the earth inner core also consists of iron and nickel but under a hugedepth pressure is solid. The inner core is the hottest part of the planet. Its temperature reaches 5000°C (which is comparable to the surface temperature of the Sun).

Movement of tectonic plates

In addition to the main layers described above, the bowels of the Earth hide tectonic plates (or lithosphere) - a kind of combination of the earth's crust and outer mantle. These plates are constantly moving (albeit very slowly), and the places where they touch each other is called a fault. Moment collision of tectonic plates leads to an earthquake.

For geological activity on Earth, tectonic or lithospheric plates are responsible, which are tightly pressed against each other.

Considering the structure of the Earth and the complex processes in itsbowels, earthquakes occur on all continents - from the peaks of the Himalayas to the coldest regions of Antarctica. However, the location of these events is not accidental: more than 80% of large earthquakes occur in the so-called "Pacific Ring of Fire" - an area with a length of about 40,000 km, which scientists consider the most seismic and volcanic zone in the world.

Read even more interesting articles about the Earth and other planets of the solar system on our channel in Yandex.Zen - articles that are not on the site are regularly published there!

Strength and consequences of earthquakes

The strength of an earthquake is called its magnitude, andthe intensity of shocks can vary depending on the geographic location, the amount of energy released and the distance over which this energy is released. So, over the past quarter century, major earthquakes have occurred in the Himalayas, China, Pakistan, Japan, Indonesia, Chile and Haiti, claiming tens of thousands of lives.

In 2004, an earthquake of magnitude 9.1coast of Indonesia caused a tsunami that left 227,898 people dead or missing. According to the US Geological Survey, the strongest recorded earthquake of magnitude 9.5 occurred in Chile in 1960.

In January 2010, a disaster in Haiti killed 316,000 people.

About how geologists measure earthquakes and why they are impossible to predict, my colleague Ramis Ganiev previously spoke in this article, do not miss it!

Earthquake in Turkey and Syria

As a Technological professor told CNNUniversity of Georgia Carl Lang, Turkey and Syria are subject to strong seismic activity. So, over the past 25 years, Turkey has been rocked by seven powerful earthquakes - the country is located along the borders of tectonic plates, so it is no stranger to earthquakes.

This year, however, the earthquake wasthe strongest in the region since 2021, when an earthquake of magnitude 8.1 hit the South Atlantic Ocean and, fortunately, caused little damage. Unlike the current tragedy, the scale of which is comparable to the 1939 earthquake, when tremors claimed the lives of more than 30,000 people.

The first earthquake was followed a few hours later by a magnetic 7.5 aftershock and more than 200 aftershocks of lesser intensity.

See also: What causes earthquakes and why they can last for years

The February earthquake, alas, became one of the most powerful in the Middle East in a century: A series of powerful aftershocks rumbled across the region. The strongest tremor (magnitude 7.5) occurred 95 kilometers north of the original after about nine hours.

Right now, while you are reading this article, rescuers are fighting against time and the elements to rescue the victims from the rubble on both sides of the border. According to the emergency management agency, about 6,000 buildings collapsed in Turkey.

The international community is activelyparticipation in search and rescue operations, but UN officials warn that there will be more destruction, and the true extent of the tragedy will become known only after a few days.

Shift of tectonic plates

The cause of the devastating earthquake in the MiddleEast, some scientists call the displacement of the Anatolian and Arabian tectonic plates, located under the southeastern provinces of Turkey. As the Arabian Plate pressed against the Anatolian Plate for hundreds of years, stress along the fault was building up and an earthquake was a matter of time.

A shift of the Arabian plate by 3-5 meters was reported a few days ago by researchers from Italy.

The displacement of lithospheric plates means that Turkey literally moved to the southwest relative to Syria, and part of its territory fell by 5-6 meters. As a result of the displacement of lithospheric plates, a whole series of aftershocks swept the world.

The deformation of the railway tracks in numerous photos and videos confirms the words of the President of the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology of Italy (INGV), Carlo Doglioni.

The shift that has taken place, alas, does not mean that the worstbehind: earthquakes of this magnitude are not limited to one shock - aftershocks can continue for several days, months or even years. Their strength, fortunately, weakens each time.

The picture shows how compression progressed from the shift of the crust along the ground.

We also note that the tragedy in the Middle East is not like the usual earthquakes of the Pacific Ring of Fire - in this zone, earthquakes and tsunamis usually occur as a result of subduction - a process in which one tectonic plate, as it were, "slips" under another.

Read more about the causes and consequences of the displacement of lithospheric plates by several meters in the article of my colleague Andrey Zhukov

Consequences of the disaster

The causes of the tragedy, according to experts, leda number of factors, including the time of day - in the early morning of February 4th, people were in their beds. Many of them still cannot get out from under the rubble of their houses. Alas, the number of dead and injured is likely to increase, including due to bad weather conditions (which have already significantly complicated the work of rescuers).

A huge number of buildings collapsed due to violation of building codes

Meteorological forecasts are also not encouraging -cooling will continue. Turkish authorities are urging residents to leave their homes for their own safety due to the threat of renewed tremors. The situation remains dire in ten provinces in Turkey, with the media and a number of experts pointing to violations of building codes in the seismically active region.

По нормативам, все строительные проекты должны withstand such events. However, not all buildings were built to the standards, which led to their massive collapse. Alas, infrastructure problems played a significant role in the scale of the tragedy, reports the BBC.

This is how the tectonic shift of the Anatolian plate looks like (by 3-5 meters)

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In Syria, which is in crisis due tothirteen years of war, the situation is even more depressing - many of the victims live in areas in the north-west of the country, which are under the control of the opposition. In northwestern Syria, where four million people receive humanitarian aid, there is already a emergency due to cholera outbreak, bad weather and ongoing military conflict. Moreover, the country's dire economic situation has hampered relief efforts.