A researcher from the Netherlands has gone viral for allegedly predicting the earthquake which struck Turkey and Syria, just three days before two massive quakes affected the region on Monday, February 6.
Frank Hoogerbeets, a Dutch researcher from the Solar System Geography Survey (SSGEOS), took to social media to issue the warning on Friday, February 3. The seemingly prophetic tweet currently has over 27 million views.
The human cost of the earthquake has been enormous. Over 2,000 have been killed with an even larger number injured across affected areas in Turkey and Syria.
On Friday, February 3, Frank Hoogerbeets posted on Twitter, “Sooner or later there will be a ~M 7.5 earthquake in this region (South-Central Turkey, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon).”
The post was accompanied by a map highlighting the area Hoogerbeets expected to be affected by seismic activity. Since the earthquakes struck, just three days later, on Monday, the tweet has gone viral with 32.6 million views and over 32,000 retweets.
Hoogerbeets works for a research institute called the SSGEOS. The institute’s purpose is “monitoring geometry between celestial bodies related to seismic activity.” According to the SSGEOS, their monitoring activities are based on evidence that “specific geometry in the Solar System may cause larger earthquakes”.
On February 2, the SSGEOS posted an earthquake forecast which stated “Larger seismic activity may occur from 4 to 6 February, most likely up to mid or high 6 magnitude. There is a slight possibility of a larger seismic event around 4 February.”
— Frank Hoogerbeets (@hogrbe) February 3, 2023
Can earthquakes be predicted?
The methodology and scientific rationale used by Frank Hoogerbeets and the SSGEOS are not universally accepted. The viral tweet has inspired a debate on Twitter as to the validity of the earthquake prediction.
According to Caltech Science Exchange, “It is not currently possible to predict exactly when and where an earthquake will occur, nor how large it will be. However, seismologists can estimate where earthquakes may be likely to strike by calculating probabilities and forecasts.”
The US Geological Survey (USGS) says that “Neither the USGS nor any other scientists have ever predicted a major earthquake. We do not know how, and we do not expect to know how any time in the foreseeable future.”
“USGS scientists can only calculate the probability that a significant earthquake will occur (shown on our hazard mapping) in a specific area within a certain number of years,” the organization also says.
According to the USGS, for an earthquake prediction to be legitimate, three criteria must be accurately predicted:
- the date and time
- the location
- the magnitude.
Earthquakes in Turkey and Syria
More than 2,000 people have been killed and many more injured in Turkey and Syria after the two powerful earthquakes occurred on Monday within the space of 12 hours.
The first quake struck as people slept, and measured magnitude 7.8. It was one of the most powerful quakes in the region in at least a century. It was felt as far away as Cyprus and Cairo.
The European Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC) said preliminary data showed the second large quake measured 7.7 magnitude, and was 67km (42 miles) northeast of Kahramanmaraş, Turkey, at a depth of 2km.