American Geography Society, 1917 
1: 3,000,000 

Hello everyone,

Hope you all are doing well! I believe you have all probably heard about the Turkey-Syrian earthquake that happened on February 6, last Monday. Around 4:15 a.m. local time, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck south-central Turkey near the Turkey/Syria border (at the west of the city of Gaziantep); later at 10:24 a.m., a strong aftershock of a magnitude 7.5 followed, centered 95 km to the north–northeast in Kahramanmaraş Province. The Turkey-Syrian earthquake and its aftershocks caused great casualties and economic damage to both countries.

The Anatolian Plate, the tectonic block that constitutes most of the territory of contemporary Turkey, is surrounded by three major tectonic plates (Arabia, Eurasia, and Africa). The 2023 Turkey-Syrian earthquake is located at the triple junction between the Anatolian, Arabian, and African plates. According to USGS, the earthquakes occurred within the East Anatolian fault system, a transform boundary between the Anatolian Plate and the northward-moving Arabian Plate. Both of the two magnitude 7+ earthquakes have rather shallow epicenters: the Mw 7.8 earthquake is 18 km deep whereas the Mw 7.5 earthquake is 10 km deep. Because of their shallow depth, the shake waves experienced little energy loss to reach the surface. The resulting severe intensity of the shaking makes shallow earthquakes far more damaging than deep earthquakes. The Turkey-Syrian earthquake is therefore particularly disastrous and devastating for people living in that region.  

Made in 1917, the map for this week shows the topography of Turkey at the time when the region was under the reign of the Ottoman Empire. The two epicenters of the 2023 earthquakes are easy to locate on this map for they lie almost precisely in the center of the map. The city of Gaziantep in south-central Turkey was shown in its former name “Aintab.” Kahramanmaraş, a historical city whose history can be traced back to ancient Assyria, was named  Maraş (Marash) in the Ottoman Empire.

Have a great week!

Yidan Xu ’24

tectonic map of Turkey 

Shakemap of the Mw 7.8 earthquake
Shakemap of the Mw 7.5 earthquake