A magnitude 7.8 earthquake hit southern Turkey on Monday, 6 February, causing widespread damage and killing thousands of people. The quake, felt in nearby countries, was followed by a 7.5 magnitude aftershock and numerous smaller ones. The earthquake was shallow, only 11 miles below the Earth’s surface, leading to large surface movements and the collapse of thousands of buildings in Turkey and Syria, killing over 5,000 people.
Rescue missions are working round the clock and dozens of countries have offered their help, as rescue workers and residents frantically search the rubble for survivors.
Space for Disaster Management
Space provides disaster management professionals with timely, unbiased and accurate data on forecasted and ongoing disasters to make effective decisions. The Copernicus Emergency Management Services (CEMS) is one of the most important.
From remote sensing to mapping and communications, space technologies play a crucial role in disaster management, by providing information and support in various stages of the disaster cycle, including risk assessment, preparedness, response, and recovery.
How Satellites Are Revolutionising Earthquake Relief Efforts
Satellites play an important role in helping respond to and recover from earthquakes. Some of the ways they do this include:
- Mapping damage: Satellites equipped with high-resolution imaging capabilities can be used to produce detailed maps of the affected area, providing information on the extent of damage to buildings and infrastructure.
- Assessing the risk of aftershocks: Satellites can be used to detect changes in the Earth’s surface that may indicate an increased risk of aftershocks.
- Communication and navigation: Satellites provide crucial communication and navigation services to first responders and aid workers, enabling them to coordinate their efforts and reach affected areas quickly.
- Relief efforts: Satellites can be used to monitor the delivery of aid and supplies, as well as to track the movements of displaced people.
- Environmental monitoring: Satellites can be used to monitor the environmental impact of earthquakes, including changes in land and water use and the release of pollutants into the air and water.
Overall, satellites play a critical role in helping communities respond to and recover from earthquakes, providing valuable information and support to aid workers, first responders, and decision-makers.
Starlink in Action
Assistant Professor of Radiology at Yale, Dr Mehmet Emin Adin, reached out to SpaceX founder Elon Musk via Twitter. Dr Adin asked Musk if the Starlink broadband constellation could aid in alleviating communication shortages. In his response, Mr Musk said that SpaceX can supply Starlink terminals immediately, but it hasn’t been approved by the Turkish authorities yet.
It’s not the first time Musk has offered to help countries in crisis. At Groundstation.space we followed the ongoing story of Starlink in support of relief efforts in Ukraine.
Can Earthquakes be Predicted from Space?
Satellites can be used to detect changes in the Earth’s surface that may indicate an impending earthquake, but they cannot directly predict earthquakes.
Satellite-based techniques, such as Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) and Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) can detect changes in ground deformation and detect the subtle movements of the Earth’s surface before, during, and after an earthquake. These changes in the Earth’s surface can provide valuable information for scientists and seismologists to better understand the underlying causes of earthquakes, but they are not reliable enough to predict the exact timing or location of an earthquake.
In general, earthquakes are difficult to predict because they are caused by complex interactions between the Earth’s tectonic plates, and the exact timing and location of an earthquake can be difficult to determine. The scientific community is still working to develop more accurate methods for earthquake prediction.
Featured image: This drone footage shows residents searching for victims and survivors amid the rubble of buildings left after an earthquake in the village of Besnia, Syria / AFP, Радіо Свобода