Visualizing Earth’s Moving Plates

The probability of large earthquakes is considerably increased in Turkey when several of Earth’s plates converge and move, as is visualized below.

Visualizing Earth's Moving Plates 1

Devastating earthquakes occurred on February 6 and 7 in the southeast of Turkey and the northwest of Syria. Over 20 aftershocks with magnitudes between 5.0 and 7.5 were recorded in the earthquake-devastated region of Gaziantep, in addition to the primary tremor that measured 7.8 on the Richter scale. According to CNN, the disaster’s death toll in Turkey and neighboring Syria has increased to 17,000 since Monday.

The Turkey-Syria earthquake, as well as all other earthquakes, are caused by the plate tectonics phenomenon, which is the continental drift of the plates that make up the Earth’s mantle. The probability of large earthquakes is considerably increased in Turkey where several of these plates converge, as indicated in the chart below.

Visualizing Earth's Moving Plates 2

What’s more, some of the plates in Turkey are moving convergently, or in close proximity to one another, which increases the likelihood of large earthquakes compared to regions where the plates are moving apart.

A transform border of horizontal movement with the Eurasian plate to the north and a convergent boundary with the African plate to the south define the East Anatolian fault, along which this week’s earthquake occurred. This serves as another illustration of the region’s high level of seismic activity, which has now been designated a disaster area.

Last year a powerful earthquake shook Taiwan as buildings and bridges collapsed. The US Geological Survey first estimated a magnitude of 7.2 but amended it to 6.9, which was still greater than the CWB assessment.

Turkey is located on the Anatolian Plate, which is where the Arabian and Eurasian plates converge. The Anatolian Plate is bordered by the African Plate, which, by its northward movement 60 million years ago, helped to produce the Alps.

Another location with convergent plate borders is the so-called Ring of Fire, which runs along the edges of the Pacific Plate and is the source of much of the world’s volcanic activity. North American, South American, and Australian plates are some other┬áplates. The Ring of Fire, which encompasses the well-known Mariana Trench and surrounds the Pacific Plate, is where the majority of the most powerful earthquakes in modern memory have all occurred. In 1960, a 9.5-magnitude earthquake was recorded in Valdivia, Chile. An earthquake with a magnitude of 9.1 to 9.3 occurred in the Indian Ocean off Sumatra in 2004, while a tsunami and undersea earthquake with a magnitude of 9.1 struck the Japanese region of Tohoku in 2011. Both earthquakes caused extensive destruction and many fatalities.

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2 Responses

  1. Great general survey of plate tectonics! My 2 cents worth is that, in an era of increased earth movements, current insurance modeling may not accurately predict worst-case scenarios.

  2. I said it a few months ago. Turkey, then Africa. Then a plate crash. Ring of Fire will explode in somewhere, a then a “dramatic” tectonic shift

    I’m not even a Geologist and I saw this. – MOST of the people in my circle saw this.

    The whole community should be… quitting.

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