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Geologists to study eastern Turkey quakes

March 12, 1999
Web posted at: 10:00 AM EST

Geologists hoping to better understand the mechanics behind earthquakes and the collision of continents are heading to eastern Turkey to take an in-depth picture of one of the most seismically active regions in the world.

Scientists from the University of Cornell have received a $400,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to embark on the three-year study of the Turkish Plateau, the youngest continent-to-continent plate boundary region on Earth. It is also one of the least studied.

"In eastern Turkey, the collision process is only about 10 million years old and depicts what the Tibet plateau looked like 25 million years ago. In other words, Turkey could have mountains like the Himalayas 20 million years from now," according to Eric Sandvol, a geology department research associate at Cornell.

Sandvol will spend several months over the next year in Turkey setting up and monitoring an array of 30 temporary seismic recording stations, spanning about 300 miles. He will be joined by Cornell research associate Dogan Seber, Cornell graduate student Ali Al-Lazki and team leader Muawia Barazangi, a geology professor and associate director of the Institute for the Study of the Continents. The geologists will collaborate with Turkish scientists at the Kandilli Seismological Observatory in Istanbul.

The Cornell team will record seismic waves produced by earthquakes in the region with a portable broad-band instrument -- basically a seismometer attached to a computer. These recordings will be documented continuously for a year, giving the geologists a picture of the Earth 250 miles deep, according to Sandvol. The technique is similar to CAT scan imaging of the body's internal organs. But instead of sending X-rays through the body, researchers record waves of energy from earthquakes

The scientists will combine their data with geophysical, geological, geochronological and geochemical measurements that geologists have collected from the surface to produce a coherent picture of the geodynamic processes in the region. This information will help assess the earthquake hazards in the region and add vital information to what is known about plate tectonics and the building of mountains.

"Ever since the advent of plate tectonics in the 1960s, earth scientists have been trying to better understand the nature of continental collision and deformation. The Anatolian Plateau in eastern Turkey offers a unique and excellent opportunity to understand the early stages of this process," says Barazangi. "Understanding these early stages is essential to modeling the later stages of continental collision."

For more information, contact Susan S. Lang, Cornell University, (607)255-3613, email:

Copyright 1999, Environmental News Network, All Rights Reserved

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Cornell University's Geoscience Information System
National Science Foundation
Cornell University Department of Geological Sciences
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