May 16 (UPI) -- It's only a matter of time before a sizable earthquake hits Istanbul. But scientists have struggled to determine which direction an earthquake is most likely to originate from.
New research -- detailed in the Geophysical Journal International -- suggests the next major earthquake to strike Istanbul is likely to originate from the eastern Marmara Sea.
The capital of Turkey is situated just north of a massive fault system running across the Marmara Sea. Determining where an earthquake is most likely to originate from can help scientists predict the earthquake's size and behavior, and can improve researchers ability to warn residents most at risk.
That Istanbul is most likely to be struck by seismic activity propagating from the eastern Marmara Sea is "both good news and bad news," researcher Marco Bohnhoff said in a news release.
"The rupture propagation will then run eastwards, i.e. away from the city," said Bohnhoff, a seismologist at the GFZ German Research Centre for Geoscience. "The bad news is that there will only be a very short early warning phase of a few seconds."
Researchers arrived at their conclusions after studying the dynamics of different portions of the Marmara fault. To the west, the two tectonic plates are slowly slipping by one another, regularly triggering small tremors called "repeaters."
Farther east, very little slippage has been measured and no repeaters have been observed. The findings suggest tectonic energy is being stored up in the eastern portions of the fault line, increasing the chance of a major earthquake there.
Should an earthquake originate in the west, the city of Istanbul would have a greater warning time but would likely suffer more intense and damaging seismic activity.