False: The earthquake in Turkey on February 6 was a HAARP operation.

By: Ishita Goel
February 8 2023

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False: The earthquake in Turkey on February 6 was a HAARP operation.


The Verdict False

According to experts, HAARP cannot be used to cause natural disasters. Further, there are scientific and geological explanations for the earthquakes.

Claim ID 6b82df13


On Monday, February 6, two large earthquakes, measuring 7.8 and 7.6 in magnitude, struck Turkey and its border with Syria, leaving thousands dead and many more injured, bringing down buildings across the region. Since then, there have been multiple aftershocks. The quake's death toll has reached nearly 8,000 and continues to climb as rescuers clear the rubble.

Amid this, social media has been flooded with videos of earthquakes and their effects. Fact-checking organizations have been debunking these videos, many of which have proven old and unrelated. As videos continued to emerge, several social media users began claiming that the earthquakes were not of natural causes but were brought about by the High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP). One viral tweet has garnered over 1,300 retweets and 2,600 likes and carries what appears to be a clip of a news broadcast. The video purportedly shows Turkey during the earthquake and captures several bursts of light, like lightning. The tweet's caption says that it looked like the earthquake resulted from the punitive action of NATO or the U.S. against Turkey using HAARP, explaining that lightning strikes occurred in HAARP operations, not earthquakes.

Another post doing the rounds on Facebook and Instagram also claimed there was a link between Turkey's rejection of a NATO expansion and the recent earthquakes and accused HAARP of being responsible. "No such thing as coincidence," the post read.

However, HAARP is a project based in an observatory in Alaska that studies the ionosphere's properties and behavior using radio transmitters, and it cannot cause natural disasters. There is no evidence that the earthquake had anything but natural, geological causes or that HAARP influenced the disaster.

In Fact

The video claiming to show lightning strikes during the February 6 earthquake carried a timestamp in the top left corner showing the year 2022 and the date as 23. A news report in Turkish published by the same agency that uploaded the footage and linked to the video said that the 5.9 magnitude quake occurred in Turkey's Gölyaka district in Düzce province on November 23, 2022. The report speaks about the beams of light that showed up seconds after the earthquake began but does not suggest the cause. The news broadcast further explains in Turkish that the footage captured by a security camera shows beams of light shooting from the earth precisely at the time of the earthquake. It also specifies that the quake hit the Düzce province, far away from the region where the February quakes hit. 

In addressing the claim that lightning flashes are seen only during HAARP operations and not earthquakes, we referred to a report by National Geographic. The report states that the flashes of light supposedly seen during the February and other quakes are a relatively rare phenomenon that has puzzled scientists. The report quotes Friedemann Freund, an adjunct professor of physics and a senior researcher at NASA's Ames Research Center, who says that these lights can take many shapes, forms, and colors. Having studied 65 accounts of such lights, Freund and his team concluded that they are caused by "electric charges activated in certain types of rocks during seismic activity." Another study from 2014 found that the friction between different grains of materials produced voltage spikes when agitated, which could be one explanation. The cause of such lights is still being researched, and various conflicting scientific theories have emerged.

Further, according to a report by Washington Post, Turkey sits in an earthquake hotspot, and the recent earthquakes were typical of the area. Quoting Yaareb Altaweel, a seismologist at the National Earthquake Information Center in Colorado, the report says that there are three tectonic plates in the Turkish region – the Arabian, Anatolian, and African plates. These meet, and "as they slide past and squeeze against each other, they build up friction and stress that gets released as earthquakes," Altaweek told Washington Post. Further, Stephen Hicks, a seismologist at University College London, wrote on Twitter that while most of Turkey's earthquakes originate on the North Anatolian fault, the recent one originated on the East Anatolian fault. He added that this was likely due to the lack of tremors along the fault in the last century and the northward movement of the Arabian plate. These two factors have likely caused pressure to build up in the region. Writing for The Conversation, Jenny Jenkins, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Earth Sciences at Durham University, also provided the scientific explanation that the latest earthquake was caused by the movement of tectonic plates building up pressure on fault zones.

Turkey has blocked Sweden and Finland's accession to NATO, demanding stricter counter-terrorism measures. Turkey wants both nations, especially Sweden, to make laws to deal with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and other groups it deems terrorist and lift embargoes placed on Turkey since 2019. However, the claim that the earthquakes were caused by U.S. or NATO in response to Turkey's opposition to NATO expansion has no foundation. Claims that HAARP is used to create natural disasters such as fires, floods, and earthquakes have been rampant among conspiracy theorists. However, Mick West, a science writer who debunks pseudoscientific claims and conspiracy theories, told The Observer's France 24 in November 2021 that the HAARP theory is easily debunked by explaining how HAARP works, that HAARP is a radio transmitter and can only affect a small amount of the air above it. "The actual power used by this radio transmitter is very, very small compared to what you would need if you actually wanted to do some of the things that are being suggested," he said.

In 2021, Climate Feedback, a network of scientists who fact-check viral climate and science-related claims, reviewed the theory that HAARP can be used to deliberately cause destruction on a global scale, such as earthquakes, cyclones, flooding, and snowstorms around the world, and found it to be false. Robert McCoy, director of the Geophysical Institution at the University of Alaska, told Climate Feedback that "HAARP is a high-frequency transmitter," the transmissions from which can only cause minor effects in the ionosphere, lasting a few seconds. "In addition, the facility is operated only a few hours each year. The amount of high-frequency energy coming from amateur radio operators around the world almost certainly exceeds transmissions from HAARP. HAARP cannot affect any of the natural phenomena mentioned in the article, such as earthquakes and snowstorms, and there is no way it can interact with humans or influence them," he added.

The Verdict

There is no evidence that the U.S. or NATO was behind the quake or that any entity used HAARP to cause it. According to scientists, HAARP cannot change weather conditions or induce natural disasters. Further, several reputed figures who studied the Turkey earthquake have found conclusive geological reasons behind it. Therefore, we have marked the claim as false.

(Note: This story has been updated to include social media posts that claim HAARP was used to cause the recent earthquakes in Turkey.)

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