Earthquakes in Turkey, Indonesia, Japan, Oklahoma and Texas – what’s important to know.

A very big earthquake occurred on February 6, 2023 near the border between Turkey and Syria, and it rocked the world. Its magnitude was 7.8 and it devastated closely spaced buildings. The death toll has risen to 48,000. This is as many US soldiers who died in the Vietnam war.

These big quakes are rare: across the world, only 2 in the last 10 years, and only 4 in the 10 years before that.

Larger earthquake on left with magnitude 7.8

But the disaster in Turkey was magnified because (1) there were lots of buildings along the fault line, (2) the 7.8 quake occurred in the early hours of the morning when most people were sleeping inside buildings that collapsed, (3) there were no warning signs, (4) there had not been a major quake in this area for 200 years, and (5) building codes may have been ignored by construction companies.

What caused the earthquake?
When two geologic plates want to slide past each other, friction normally prevents this. But if the force builds up enough, the plates can suddenly jerk past and stress energy is released as an earthquake – a wave of energy that began at 11 miles depth and then spread upwards and sideways.

How much damage can an earthquake cause?
The damage caused by natural earthquakes at the surface of the earth can be classified according to the earthquake magnitude M:
M = 3: can be felt at the surface of the earth.
M = 4: cups fall off shelves, cracks form in walls.
M = 5: minor structural damage (chimneys fall).
M = 6: serious structural damage (houses collapse).
M = 7: people trapped under rubble and lives lost.
M = 8: large-scale disaster.
M = 9: Massive disaster.
For every increase in magnitude by 1 (e.g., from 3 to 4, or from 6 to 7), the earthquake energy increases by thirty times. In other words, each increase in M by 1 implies a much more intense earthquake.

Events greater than magnitude 9 cause massive disasters, but are very rare. An offshore quake of magnitude 9.1 in 2004 caused a tsunami that washed away entire communities on the shoreline of Indonesia and resulted in 228,000 deaths.

A similar quake of magnitude 9.0 offshore Japan in 2011 caused a tsunami and damaged the land extensively, plus crippled the Fukushima nuclear plant that was built too close to the coast. Death toll was about 18,500, most as a result of the tsunami.

The biggest-ever earthquake measured was 9.5 in Chile in 1960.

Earthquakes in Oklahoma and West Texas.
Whoa! How can Oklahoma compare with the unmitigated disasters mentioned above?

They can’t of course, but are of special interest because these were unnatural earthquakes. They were caused by the oil and gas industry which took off in Oklahoma about 2010 when wells produced oil and gas using the new fracking technology – long horizontal wells that were fracked 10-20 times along their length.

For a hundred years, Oklahoma has recorded only about 2 quakes per year that can be felt – of magnitude greater than 3. In 2010 the numbers started rising and reached a peak in 2015 of almost 900 in that year – six times more than in California, the earthquake state.

It was controversial at first, but oil and gas companies finally came around. The explanation was given by engineers out of Stanford University, that wastewater produced along with oil and gas was injected into deep disposal wells. The wastewater spread far and wide and its pressure eventually reached a tipping point that triggered earthquakes in faults in the deep granite basement.

The regulators stepped in and pushed oil and gas companies to reduce their disposal well injections, and the earthquakes started falling. But not before the largest-ever earthquake in Oklahoma, of magnitude 5.8, occurred near the town of Pawnee north of Oklahoma city in September 2016. Fortunately, damage was small.

Only minor damage resulted from all these earthquakes over several years, but the same dang thing is now happening in the Permian basin of West Texas, and close to New Mexico. Same long wells fracked many times along their length, same produced water that is injected in deep disposal wells, and same regulators stepping in to reduce the injections.

But two earthquakes of magnitude greater than 5 occurred one month apart at the end of 2022. Very little damage, because it’s a sparsely settled area. But it looks like Oklahoma all over again.

And it makes people wonder about the feds who are planning to build a nuclear repository in the middle of thousands of oil wells in the same Permian basin of southeastern New Mexico.

If you are interested in learning more about the man-made earthquakes in Oklahoma you can read a love-story that I wrote about them, in a novel called FracMan.

BLOG TOPICS: I write in-depth blogs about a mix of topics: Health and Hiking, and Science and Energy, and Inspiration and Hope.
The Gray Nomad ….. Almost 50,000 lives snuffed out in a moment of time. But we still have a moment to reflect and to pray and to give.
You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains. [Matthew chapter 24.]

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