LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) – As the death toll rises, an expert with UW-Madison gave News 19 context to the earthquake that recently hit parts of Turkey and Syria.
Cliff Thurber, an emeritus professor with the university, said the 7.8 magnitude earthquake is the largest in recent memory. He added that it is comparable to ones that hit New Zealand in 2016 and Alaska in 2002.
Thurber says a lot of factors caused last week’s natural disaster.
“In the case of Turkey, Saudi Arabia is a part of a plate that is moving northwards and Turkey is in the way,” Thurber said. “Basically, Turkey is being squeezed eastward on two major fault systems.”
Those faults are the East and North Anatolian faults. The epicenter was located on the former.
Thurber added while rare, earthquakes do happen in the Midwest. One hit the Rockford, Illinois area. It could be felt 50 miles away but left no damage, but that’s a far cry from what Turkey experienced.
“An increase in magnitude of one means that the ground motion is going to be ten times larger,” Thurber said. “Another measure is the amount of energy. Generally speaking, a magnitude increase of one is an increase of a factor of 30. So going from four to nearly eight is a huge difference.”
That means the earthquake in Turkey was around 150 times more powerful than what hit the Rockford area. Thurber added that the Midwest is far from a tectonic plate boundary, which makes an earthquake unusual.
As of Sunday morning, the death toll in Turkey and Syria was nearing 30,000. The deadliest earthquake in history hit Indonesia in 2004. A tsunami generated from the shaking contributed to 286,000 people dying.
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