Expert Insights: Morocco Earthquake and Potential Aftershocks

Expert Insights: Morocco Earthquake and Potential Aftershocks
Expert Insights: Morocco Earthquake and Potential Aftershocks
Expert Insights: Morocco Earthquake and Potential Aftershocks
Expert Insights: Morocco Earthquake and Potential Aftershocks

Expert Insights: Morocco Earthquake and Potential Aftershocks

Expert Insights: Morocco Earthquake and Potential Aftershocks. Image/AFP

Renowned French expert Philippe Vernant, specializing in active tectonics with a focus on Morocco at the University of Montpellier, provides valuable insights into the recent devastating earthquake in Morocco and the likelihood of aftershocks. In this Q&A, he sheds light on the seismic activity in the region and the factors contributing to the earthquake’s intensity.

Understanding Earthquake History in Morocco

Morocco has a history of seismic activity, with a significant earthquake occurring in Agadir in 1960, resulting in the destruction of the entire city and a tragic loss of nearly 15,000 lives. More recently, in 2004, the Al Hoceima earthquake further highlighted the seismic risks in the region. Historical records also indicate earthquakes in the 18th century, potentially reaching a magnitude of 7 in the Fez region. Despite the recent earthquake’s epicenter not being in the most active area of Morocco, the presence of the High Atlas mountains suggests ongoing seismic activity contributing to the region’s geological dynamics.

Comparing the Morocco Earthquake to Turkey’s

While Turkey experienced horizontal movement during its February earthquake, driven by the westward shift towards Greece and the horizontal sliding of tectonic plates, the Morocco earthquake involves more convergence between Africa, Eurasia, and Iberia, with overlapping faults. Nevertheless, both events are associated with plate boundaries and seismic activity.

Factors Contributing to the Intensity of the Morocco Earthquake

The Morocco earthquake’s violence is attributed to its magnitude, estimated to be around 6.8 or 6.9, which signifies a significant displacement along the fault line over several kilometers in a matter of seconds, causing substantial regional shaking. Additionally, the earthquake’s depth, initially estimated at 25-30 kilometers but potentially rising to 10 kilometers, plays a crucial role. Shallower earthquakes, as witnessed in France in 2019, have a more pronounced impact near the surface.

Expecting Aftershocks and Their Risks

Aftershocks are expected after a major earthquake, though they may be of lower intensity. These aftershocks can pose risks, especially to buildings already weakened by the initial earthquake. Traditionally, aftershocks are believed to diminish in intensity, but there is the possibility of a stronger earthquake occurring subsequently, triggered by the initial seismic activity.

Challenges in Earthquake Prediction

Unfortunately, predicting earthquakes remains a formidable challenge. Experts attempt to estimate recurrence periods based on different magnitudes of earthquakes, but the behavior of seismic events can be unpredictable, with periods of high activity followed by long periods of relative quiescence.

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