Massive Middle East earthquake has UA professor wondering 'what's next?'

Updated: Nov. 13, 2017 at 8:36 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The death toll continues to rise after the massive earthquake in the Middle East, and educators in southern Arizona wonder what's going to happen closer to home.

"It's on the other side of the earth, near the Iran-Iraq border, but the seismic waves still get recorded around the world for a magnitude 7.3," said Susan Beck, as she showed the readings captured during Sunday's deadly earthquake.

The University of Arizona Professor of Global Seismology and Tectonics said the sensors in the Catalina Mountains will pick up anything larger than a magnitude 5 earthquake worldwide.

"It's a good learning experience to see, when these earthquakes happen, what's going on," Beck said.

On average each year worldwide, Beck said a magnitude 8 earthquake hits once and 10 magnitude 7 earthquakes strike.


Major faults sit along the west coast of the United States, making California, Oregon, and Washington, high-risk areas.

So while it's unlikely an earthquake would shake southern Arizona, the natural disaster is not impossible.

"We know these earthquakes can happen. We think they're rare here, and they're unlikely to happen. They might have a recurrence of thousands of years, or tens of thousands of years. But it's always a good reminder that even if we haven't had an earthquake in several generations, it doesn't mean something can't happen," Beck said.

In Arizona, Yuma would likely feel the shock waves from a southern California earthquake, Beck explained, and the Grand Canyon could shake along what's called the Hurricane Fault.

It's why, even in southern Arizona, that you should have a safety plan in place just in case.

"You should know how to shut the gas off in your house because a lot of disasters break gas pipelines, and then you get fires," Beck said. "Having some emergency water and a radio, batteries, and flashlights handy, in a little emergency kit, is a good idea no matter what."

As of Monday evening, Iran's semi-official Tasnim news agency was reporting that 445 people were killed and 7,370 injured in Sunday's earthquake.

The magnitude 7.3 quake was centered 19 miles outside the eastern Iraqi city of Halabja, according to the USGS.

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