Earthquake in Turkey: This is how earthquake early warning systems work

Earthquake in Turkey: This is how earthquake early warning systems work

Earthquake in Turkey
That’s how earthquake early warning systems work – and that’s why they didn’t help in Turkey

Tokyo Earthquake Early Warning System

Tokyo Earthquake Early Warning Center. All over the world there are regional early warning systems that register earthquakes at lightning speed and sound the alarm

© Imago Images

Predicting an earthquake in concrete terms is not yet scientifically possible. However, there are complex early warning systems that can quickly detect vibrations. However, they could not help with the earthquake in Turkey.

The earthquake in Turkey and Syria hit people completely unexpectedly. In the areas in which earthquake are to be expected, regional early warning systems have been installed. There, a seismic observation network records strong vibrations in the ground. Several types of seismic waves are produced during an earthquake, including a relatively low-vibration compressional wave (P-wave) and the destructive shear wave (S-wave). There are a few seconds between them close to the epicenter. “The further you are from it, the more time there is for an alarm. If you are close to the epicenter, the S-wave has already arrived before it,” says Professor Stefano Parolai from the University of Trieste.

During this time, software platforms receive the real-time signals from the observation network, process them and send out an alarm. The linked infrastructure ensures that warnings are issued immediately, such as shutting down power and gas lines, stopping trains, closing bridges and halting dangerous industrial processes.

Two strategies in earthquake early warning systems

Another early warning system works with the following strategy: There, the seismic measurements are taken at the point that is to be protected – for example in a city or at an industrial plant. The measuring devices registered the P wave, could deduce from it how strong the S wave would be and accordingly immediately trigger measures, according to expert Parolai.

During the current earthquake in the Turkey and Syria, such an early warning would not have been possible regardless of the system used, explains Marco Bohnhoff from the German Research Center for Geosciences (GFZ) Potsdam. Because the densely populated region affected is in the immediate vicinity of the epicenter, there was no period for warnings.


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