A deadly earthquake struck Turkey and Syria this week leveling thousands of buildings, injuring tens of thousands, and killing 35,000+ people. With a magnitude of 7.8 on the Moment Magnitude Scale, the February 6, 2023 earthquake is the strongest and deadliest ever recorded in the Levant.
Earthquakes occur naturally when large tectonic plates underneath the Earth's crust or lithosphere move spontaneously. There are eight major plates, and many smaller platelets, which have been in a slow creeping motion for about 3.4 billion years. Much like people, when and where they meet results in a convergent, divergent, or transformational experience. Volcanos, oceanic trenches, mountains and earthquakes all occur at these intersections. The relative movement of the earth’s tectonic plates typically ranges from zero to 10 cm, annually.
Then, of course, came man.
The U.S. National Research Council examined how energy technologies—including conventional oil and gas, natural gas, geothermal energy, and nuclear energy—may cause earthquakes. The report found that only a very small fraction of extraction activities among thousands of energy development sites in the United States had actually induced seismicity at levels noticeable to the public.
However, the council adds, “the underground injection of wastewater and high pressure fluids produced in consequence of hydraulic fracturing and other energy technologies can and has produced earthquakes.”
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) concluded that a 5.7 earthquake in Oklahoma in 1952 was induced by deep injection of wastewater by the oil industry. A 6.6 occurs in Maharashtra, India in 1967 at the newly developed Konya Dam. Even underground nuclear tests on Amchitka Island in 1971 caused a 7.1 in Alaska.
Geothermal power plants like The Geysers shook San Francisco at 4.6 in ‘73. Another 5.8 occurs at Oklahoma’s injection wells in 2011. Finally, North Korea’s unprecedented underground nuclear tests have been rollicking the region for nearly 20 years, accounting for 6 major earthquakes ranging from 4.3 to 6.3 respectively.
Fracking in Turkey
A relative newcomer to hydraulic fracking, Turkey entered a new energy era by introducing fracking for oil and natural gas in 2019. President Tayyip Erdoğan announced that Turkey had begun fracking in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır, the very epicenter of this week’s quake.