On Monday, a 7.8–magnitude earthquake and 7.5-magnitude subsequent quake in Turkey and Syria resulted in more than 15,000 people killed, with many more still missing. Current estimates put more than 400 buildings collapsed and at least 1,300 more damaged in Syria and at least 5,600 structures destroyed in Turkey.
The Loma Prieta earthquake in California shook with enough force that the San Francisco Bay Bridge partially collapsed on commuters. The 1989 quake killed 63 people, injuring over 3,700 residents. It was a 6.9-magnitude earthquake.
The difference in damage between these events has in part to do with infrastructure, but also how we report seismic activity. Recording magnitude gives scientists a sense of scale of earthquakes, but the energy these events release is what makes them deadly. Magnitude is logarithmic, meaning their differences are exponential. The 7.8 earthquake in Turkey-Syria released forces roughly 20 times stronger than the 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake.
Earthquake magnitudes at this size are measured in the logarithmic scale: Moment Magnitude. This means the distance from one integer to the next is a difference by a factor of 10. A 7.0 earthquake is ten times stronger than a 6.0 and a hundred times stronger than a 5.0.
The difference between the energy released from an earthquake is even larger. Digit to digit, the force from an earthquake is 32 times greater than the previous.
Dara Goldberg, a research geophysicist at the United States Geological Survey, says it’s especially important to think about this scale when you get to larger magnitude earthquakes: “The difference in energy between a magnitude 4.0 and 4.1 absolute pales in comparison between the difference between a magnitude 7.7 and 7.8 … that magnitude value is critical for understanding what its impacts might be.”
Here’s the force of all earthquakes the world experienced in the last year.
Put another way, the energy generated by Turkey-Syria’s recent earthquakes is greater than the sum of all of California’s in the last year. It’s greater than the sum of all quakes from the past three months.
It’s important to remember that in the case of Turkey and Syria, Golderberg says, “that already partially damaged sectors are especially vulnerable, even to moderate magnitude aftershocks.”
With aftershocks typically occurring for weeks or months after the main earthquake in a sequence, the Turkey-Syria region will be bracing though its lengthy rescue, recovery and rebuilding process.
*This story has not been edited by The Infallible staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.