A series of posts shared widely on social media and on WhatsApp on Monday and Tuesday claimed that energy from the earthquake that struck Turkey is moving and increasing the risk of an earthquake striking Malta.
These posts, originally shared by a US-based Facebook page called “The Watchmen's Earth and Space connection”, were shared hundreds of times on Monday, also reaching local shores and raising concerns over an imminent danger to Malta.
One post reads: “Now we need to be on alert all over the Mediterranean and Balkans because this energy will spread out”, whilst another says “Models are showing a powerful low near Malta this weekend. This means all eyes on the Mediterranean and Balkans”.
This has also been picked up by local channels, warning that “Malta is still in the danger zone for a possible earthquake. Energy from the earthquakes in Turkey will move”.
These claims are not backed by any scientific evidence.
Speaking to Times of Malta, Pauline Galea, who heads the Seismic Monitoring and Research Group at the University of Malta, said that "the earthquakes in Turkey are happening on the East Anatolian fault, a well-known boundary between the Arabian and Anatolian plates. Malta is on a different fault line on the northern border of the African plate”.
Galea explained that it is very unlikely for earthquakes to travel across different distant faults.
Although it is possible for an earthquake taking place along one fault to impact seismic activity along another fault, this generally only happens when the two faults are in close vicinity to one another.
This is not the case in this instance, as Malta and Turkey are on two separate and distant fault lines. For this reason, any seismic activity that may take place in Malta is unrelated to the earthquake that struck Turkey, she said.
When contacted for comment, the Department of Geosciences at the University of Malta advised Times of Malta to consult with the Seismic Monitoring and Research Group, headed by Galea.
What is The Watchmen’s Earth and Space connection?
This Facebook page, based in Oklahoma City, reports on “earthquakes, solar flares and all space activity that affects our Earth”. It has amassed a strong audience of over 878,000 followers from around the world.
It claims to use a technique called the Blot Echo Wind Map to predict the likelihood of an earthquake. Seismologists and geologists in the Philippines have debunked this technique, saying it has no basis in science and that any seemingly correct predictions using this technique are a coincidence caused by the broad nature of the predictions.
Several other claims by the creators of the Blot Echo Wind Map, an organisation called Suspicious0bservers, have also been debunked by Climate Feedback, a worldwide network of scientists debunking disinformation in climate change media coverage.
This is not the first time that this page has warned of dangerous seismic activity around the Mediterranean.
In another post, dated March 2021, it claims that the Earth is due to suffer an increase in natural disasters because of it being hit by “cosmic rays from exploding stars”, resulting in “our core (is) being heated up” and “our magnetic poles (are) reversing”.
None of these claims are backed by scientific evidence within the post. Reputable scientific bodies including the World Meteorological Organisation say that the increase in natural disasters is “driven by climate change, more extreme weather and improved reporting”.
This Facebook page has been widely shared across Maltese Facebook groups over the past days, with some group administrators warning members not to post any further content from the page.
Can earthquakes be predicted?
The European Geosciences Union says that “there is yet no reliable way of predicting in the short term (days to weeks or months) when an earthquake of a given size will occur in a specific location”.
Likewise, the United States Geological Survey, 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 in a specific area within a certain number of years.”
This was echoed by Galea, who explained that seismologists can only forecast aftershocks to an earthquake but are not yet able to reliably predict a major earthquake.
Experts who spoke to Times of Malta explained that earthquakes do not travel across distant fault lines and that seismic activity in Malta is unrelated to that in Turkey, since the two countries lie on different fault lines.
The Facebook page making this claim does not use scientific methods and its statements are not backed up by scientific evidence. Claims made by the page have previously been debunked by international fact-checkers. Experts also say that it is not currently possible to predict an earthquake.
The claim is therefore false as the evidence clearly refutes the claim.
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