North Anatolian Fault Under Strain?
The North Anatolian fault in Turkey has gone quiet: this fault has been, and will continue to be, a major source of powerful earthquakes over the decades. It is ones of the world’s most energetic and longest fault lines. It lies on the edge of the African and Eurasian plates. The line of this fault runs along the north of Turkey and then into the Aegean Sea. There have been a number of earthquakes along this fault over the decades and they have shown a pattern tracking east to west. The last major earthquake occurred in 1999 in the area of Izmit, east of Istanbul. The earthquake killed thousands and there is a risk that another similar quake could hit Istanbul.
When a major fault line goes quiet such as this one: it can mean one of two things. Firstly the “seismic gap” could have become inactive (the plates may slide past each other without incident) or, secondly, the fault line segment may be building up tension over decades leading to an inevitable earthquake after a period of time.
Geophysical researchers have been monitoring the movement of the ground along the fault line using GPS sensors. The fault then continues under the Sea of Marmara to the south of Istanbul. This is an area where it is difficult to monitor movement along the fault line. Models have been developed to try and calculate movements. The ground is generally moving around 25mm per annum (around 1 inch). The section of the fault line near to Istanbul has not been moving and has not shifted for around 250 years. This suggests that when a movement occurs it is going to be large. That means it could be a catastrophic event for Istanbul, a city of around 14 million people, which lies to the north of the fault line. On the other hand there are theories that say the area around the city is very stable: many old buildings survive being many hundreds of years old.
Unfortunately there is not yet any reliable way to predict earthquakes. We know where they will occur: at locations along the boundaries of the earth’s plates (in this case the African and Eurasian plates). It is difficult to know if there will be an earthquake that affects this area or occurs elsewhere along the fault line. Details of research can be found here
Deforestation At Pace
There has been an increased rate of deforestation during the years from 2000 onwards. A satellite study has shown that since 2000 more than 104 million hectares of forests have been removed. In context this is the same size as an area that is three times the size of Germany. Much of the deforestation is not in the Amazon in Brazil or other tropical forest areas (although much is occurring there) but in Canada. The country has been leading the world in terms of forest loss since 2000 and has accounted for 21 percent of global forest loss.
Much of Canada’s forest loss is associated with the oil sands industry. In Northern Alberta more than 12.5 million hectares of forest have been dissected by infrastructure used in the oil sands industry: it includes roads, pipelines, power transmission lines and other types of infrastructure.
The result of the forest destruction is the fact that more carbon dioxide (CO2) is now getting into the atmosphere: trees would normally soak up the CO2. This is also a double whammy with the production of carbon based fuels from the Alberta oil sands: the fuel is very inefficient to extract and will ultimately lead to even more CO2 pollution when the fuel is sold and burnt.
Trees and forest ecosystems provide humanity with a range of vital services that include storing and cleaning of water, cleaning air, soaking up CO2 and producing oxygen, as well as being useful resource stores for food and wood. Their destruction means that forest ecosystems will not be replaced quickly: this can take hundreds of years to grow mature trees in a forest and the ecosystems take much more time to recover, if they do at all. Further details on the Canadian deforestation and for some other areas is available on this link.