1939 Erzincan earthquake

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1939 Erzincan earthquake
1939 Erzincan earthquake is located in Turkey
1939 Erzincan earthquake
UTC time1939-12-26 23:57:23
ISC event902291
Local dateDecember 27, 1939 (1939-12-27)
Local time1:57:23 a.m.
Magnitude7.8 Mw [1]
Depth20 km (12 mi) [1]
Epicenter39°46′N 39°35′E / 39.77°N 39.58°E / 39.77; 39.58Coordinates: 39°46′N 39°35′E / 39.77°N 39.58°E / 39.77; 39.58 [1]
FaultNorth Anatolian Fault
Areas affectedErzincan Province
Max. intensityXII (Extreme) [2]
Tsunami0.53 m (1 ft 9 in) [3]
Casualties32,700–32,968 dead [3]
100,000 injured [3]

The 1939 Erzincan earthquake struck eastern Turkey at 1:57:23 a.m. on 27 December local time with a moment magnitude of 7.8 Mw and a maximum Mercalli intensity of XII (Extreme). It was the second most powerful earthquake recorded in Turkey, after the 1668 North Anatolia earthquake.[4] This was one of the largest in a sequence of violent shocks to affect Turkey along the North Anatolian Fault between 1939 and 1999. Surface rupturing, with a horizontal displacement of up to 3.7 meters, occurred in a 360 km long segment of the North Anatolian Fault Zone.[5][6] The earthquake was the most severe natural loss of life in Turkey in the 20th century, with 32,968 dead,[6] and some 100,000 injured.[7]


The North Anatolian Fault in Asia Minor is a major transform fault boundary where the Eurasian Plate slides past the smaller Anatolian Microplate. Running for over 1,600 km, the fault stretches from Eastern Turkey to the Sea of Marmara.[8] The North Anatolian fault has been, and remains very active. Erzincan has been destroyed by earthquakes at least 11 times since 1,000 AD.[9] Between 1942 and 1967, there were six major earthquakes along the same fault, with three above 7 Mw.[6][10]


With an epicenter near the city of Erzincan, the earthquake rupture propagated westwards for a length of 400 km.[11] Surface ruptures are still visible to this day. Up to 360 km of surface rupture was formed. An average surface displacement of between 2.3 meters and 8.8 meters was calculated.[12] Vertical displacements measured 0.5–2.0 meters.[12] The maximum horizontal slip was 10.5 meters.[13] The shaking lasted for 52 seconds.[14][better source needed] It resulted in a tsunami with heights of 1–3 m (3.3–9.8 ft) that hit the Black sea coast.[15] Coulomb stress transfer from the 1939 earthquake promoted westward-progressing ruptures along the North Anatolian Fault. Ten earthquakes greater than magnitude 6.7 have ruptured a 1,000 km portion of the fault since 1939.[16]


The earthquake seriously damaged some 116,720 buildings.[17] Occurring in winter, it was difficult for aid to reach the affected areas.

Initially, the death toll was about 8,000 people. The next day on 27 December, it was reported that it had risen to 20,000. During the same day, the temperature fell to −30 °C (−22 °F). An emergency rescue operation began. By January 5, almost 33,000 had died due to the earthquake and due to low temperatures, blizzard conditions and floods.[18]


The total destruction of the earthquake prompted Turkey to adopt seismic building regulations.[19] So extensive was the damage to the city of Erzincan that its old site was entirely abandoned and a new settlement was founded a little further to the north.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c ISC (2015), ISC-GEM Global Instrumental Earthquake Catalogue (1900–2009), Version 2.0, International Seismological Centre
  2. ^ National Geophysical Data Center / World Data Service (NGDC/WDS) (1972), Significant Earthquake Database, National Geophysical Data Center, NOAA, doi:10.7289/V5TD9V7K
  3. ^ a b c d USGS (September 4, 2009), PAGER-CAT Earthquake Catalog, Version 2008_06.1, United States Geological Survey
  4. ^ "Historic Worldwide Earthquakes". United States Geological Survey. Archived from the original on 25 August 2009. Retrieved 27 September 2021.
  5. ^ "Erzincan, Turkey, 1939 December 26 23:57 UTC, Magnitude 7.8". Historic Earthquakes. USGS. Archived from the original on 23 March 2016.
  6. ^ a b c Gürsoy, Halil; Tatar, Orhan; Akpınar, Zafer; Polat, Ali; Mesci, Levent; Tunçer, Doğan (2013-04-01). "New observations on the 1939 Erzincan Earthquake surface rupture on the Kelkit Valley segment of the North Anatolian Fault Zone, Turkey". Journal of Geodynamics. SI : Tethyan Evolution and Active Tectonics in Anatolia dedicated in honour of Prof. Dr. Ali Koçyiğit’s retirement. 65: 259–271. Bibcode:2013JGeo...65..259G. doi:10.1016/j.jog.2012.06.002. ISSN 0264-3707.
  7. ^ Gürsoy, H.; Akpınar, Z.; Tatar, O.; Koçbulut, F.; Sezen, T.F.; Mesci, B.L.; Polat, A.; Kavak, K.Ş.; Tunçer, D.; Yaman, S. (November 2006). "1939 Erzincan depremi yüzey kırığı haritalama çalışmaları (Reşadiye batısı - Koyulhisar arası): ilk gözlemlere ait bulgular" (PDF) (in Turkish). Dokuz Eylül Üniversitesi. pp. 2–4. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 November 2009.
  8. ^ "The North Anatolian Fault". Lamont–Doherty Earth Observatory. Columbia University. Retrieved 16 March 2021.
  9. ^ HAÇİN, İlhan (March 2014). "1939 ERZİNCAN BÜYÜK DEPREMİ". Cumhuriyet Üniversitesi.
  10. ^ "Major Turkish Earthquakes of the 20th Century". Buffalo, NY: MCEER. 2010. Archived from the original on 4 April 2010. Retrieved 26 December 2012.
  11. ^ H. Fuenzalida, L. Dorbath, A. Cisternas, H. Eyidogan, A. Barka, L. Rivera, H. Haessler, H. Philip, N. Lyberis (April 1997). "Mechanism of the 1992 Erzincan earthquake and its aftershocks, tectonics of the Erzincan Basin and decoupling on the North Anatolian Fault". Geophysical Journal International. 129 (1): 1–28. Bibcode:1997GeoJI.129....1F. doi:10.1111/j.1365-246X.1997.tb00935.x. Retrieved 16 March 2021.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  12. ^ a b Gürsoy, Halil; Tatar, Orhan; Akpınar, Zafer; Polat, Ali; Mesci, Levent; Tunçer, Doğan (2013). "New observations on the 1939 Erzincan Earthquake surface rupture on the Kelkit Valley segment of the North Anatolian Fault Zone, Turkey". Journal of Geodynamics. Elsevier. 65: 259–271. Bibcode:2013JGeo...65..259G. doi:10.1016/j.jog.2012.06.002.
  13. ^ Ömer, Emre; Hisao, Kondo; Selim, Özalp; Hasan, Elmaci (2021). "Fault geometry, segmentation and slip distribution associated with the 1939 Erzincan Earthquake rupture along the North Anatolian Fault, Turkey". Geological Society, London, Special Publications. 501 (1): 23–70. Bibcode:2021GSLSP.501...23E. doi:10.1144/SP501-2019-141. S2CID 218814351.
  14. ^ "Erzincan depreminin 80.yıl dönümü! Büyük Erzincan depremi kaç şiddetinde oldu?". Sabah (in Turkish). 27 December 2019. Archived from the original on 27 December 2019. Retrieved 31 October 2020.
  15. ^ "Tsunami Türkiye'yi de vurmuş". Hürriyet (in Turkish). Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  16. ^ Stein, Ross S.; Barka, Aykut A.; Dieterich, James H. (1997). "Progressive failure on the North Anatolian fault since 1939 by earthquake stress triggering". Geophysical Journal International. 128 (3): 594–604. Bibcode:1997GeoJI.128..594S. doi:10.1111/j.1365-246X.1997.tb05321.x. S2CID 52234859.
  17. ^ Flight, Tim (26 December 2018). "The Erzincan Earthquake killed around 33, 000 people on December 26th 1939". History Collection.
  18. ^ Ranguelov, Boyko. "The Erzincan 1939 Earthquake" (PDF). Second Balkan Geophysical Conference and Exhibition. Retrieved 26 December 2012.
  19. ^ Reitherman, R. (2012). Earthquakes and Engineers: An International History. American Society of Civil Engineers. pp. 226–228. ISBN 978-0-7844-1071-4.

Further reading[edit]

  • Yalciner, A. C.; Pelinovsky, E. N. (2004), "The Source Mechanism of 1939 Black Sea Tsunami", AGU Spring Meeting Abstracts, 2004: OS13A–06, Bibcode:2004AGUSMOS13A..06Y

External links[edit]