A French expert stated that the devastating earthquake in Morocco, which claimed the lives of over 2,000 individuals, occurred outside the region with the highest seismic activity. However, the expert cautioned that aftershocks should still be anticipated.
Philippe Vernant — a specialist in active tectonics, particularly in Morocco, at the University of Montpellier — answered AFP’s question’s on the devastating quake.
Morocco is one of those countries where the question is not whether there will be earthquakes.
The Agadir earthquake (magnitude 5.7 in 1960) destroyed the entire city and killed almost 15,000 people, and more recently there was the Al Hoecima earthquake (magnitude 6.4 in 2004), further out on the Mediterranean.
Looking further back in history, there were earthquakes in the 18th century, probably around magnitude 7 in the Fez region.
The epicenter of the recent quake is not in the most active area of Morocco. But there are the High Atlas mountains… This type of earthquake is what leads to the rise of the High Atlas range.
In Turkiye, we had horizontal movement, because Turkiye is shifting to the West, moving toward Greece. There was a horizontal sliding of the (tectonic) plates.
Here, we’re seeing more of a convergence between Africa and Eurasia or Iberia, the Spanish part, and overlapping faults… But we are still dealing with plate boundaries.
We need to see what magnitude the earthquake will be. We’re talking about 6.8 or 6.9, which is quite strong.
This corresponds roughly to an average displacement on the fault line of around one meter in a few seconds, over several kilometers.
Obviously, this shakes the region enormously.
Then there’s the depth: at first it was estimated to be at around 25-30 kilometers, but it seems to be going back up, closer to 10 kilometers.
The closer you get to the surface, the greater the effect of the rupture.
This is what happened in France in 2019 in the Teil region in the (southern) Ardeche region. It was a “small” earthquake, but as it occurred at a depth of just one kilometer, it shook things up a lot.
Aftershocks are bound to occur.
Even if they are less strong, they can lead to the collapse of buildings already weakened by the earthquake.
Traditionally, we tend to say that aftershocks diminish in intensity…
But in Turkiye, one earthquake triggered another. The first tear can lead to the rupture of another fault through a cascade effect, which is why there is sometimes a risk of a stronger earthquake after the first one.
Unfortunately, we can’t predict anything.
We try to estimate recurrence periods according to the different magnitudes of the earthquakes, but then the behavior can be chaotic, with two strong earthquakes over a short period and then nothing for a very long time