image Photo: IDF

Study shows major earthquake in Israel likely soon

New research from the Tel Aviv University (TAU) reveals that a significant earthquake with a magnitude of at least 6.5 could potentially hit Israel and the nearby region in the near future.

The study entitled “A 220,000-year-long continuous large earthquake record on a slow-slipping plate boundary” was published in the Science Advances journal. It was authored by Prof. Shmuel Marco, who is the director of TAU’s Porter School of Environmental and Earth Sciences, who headed a team including TAU colleague Dr. Yin Lu, Prof. Amotz Agnon from the Institute of Earth Sciences, Dr. Nicolas Waldmann from the University of Haifa, Dr. Nadav Wetsler from the Geological Survey of Israel (GSI) and Dr. Glenn Biasi from the American Geological Survey.

The team’s review of Dead Sea geology over the past 220 millennia through drilling and analysis of the seabed led to determination that major seismic events occur every 130 to 150 years.

“Large earthquakes (magnitude ≥ 7.0) are rare, especially along slow-slipping plate boundaries. Lack of large earthquakes in the instrumental record enlarges uncertainty of the recurrence time; the recurrence of large earthquakes is generally determined by extrapolation according to a magnitude-frequency relation. We enhance the seismological catalog of the Dead Sea Fault Zone by including a 220,000-year-long continuous large earthquake record based on seismites from the Dead Sea center. We constrain seismic shaking intensities via computational fluid dynamics modeling and invert them for earthquake magnitude,” reads the TAU report Abstract.

Historical data indicates that the last 6.5 magnitude quake struck the Dead Sea region in 1927 led to the conclusion that the next will come within the next few decades – or even a matter of weeks.

Some 250 inhabitants of Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Jaffa, Jericho and Amman are believed to have been killed in the 1927 earthquake. Given that the population has doubled or tripled in many of these areas over the past century “means the number of casualties will be two to three times as much – not to mention the massive damages to infrastructure and property,” Prof. Marco told Ynet.

“I do not wish to sow fear, but we are living in a tectonically active period,” he emphasized, adding that “The geological record does not lie and a major earthquake in Israel will come.”

Other findings include that devastating 7.5 magnitude strike the Dead Sea on average about every 1,300 to 1,400 years – rather than the 10,000 years as previously thought. The last such tremors are believed to have occurred in the year 1,033 – indicating that the next macroseism of that scale can be expected in the next few centuries.

According to the TAU researchers, “Our analysis shows that the recurrence time of large earthquakes follows a power-law distribution, with a mean of 1400 ± 160 years. This mean recurrence is notable shorter than the previous estimate of 11,000 years for the past 40,000 years. Our unique record confirms a clustered earthquake recurrence pattern and a group-fault temporal clustering model, and reveals an unexpectedly high seismicity rate on a slow-slipping plate boundary.”