The recent earthquake in Turkey was not caused by a former U.S. military program called High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP), experts told Reuters, and HAARP does not have weather modification capabilities that cause earthquakes, contrary to claims circulating on social media.
On Monday Feb. 6, huge earthquakes struck Turkey and Syria, with a death toll that has reached more than 21,000 as of Friday (here).
Misinformation often spreads online after a catastrophe strikes and can include false images of the aftermath or misleading narratives on rescue efforts.
One tweet said, “The earthquake in Turkey looks like a punitive operation (HAARP) by NATO or the US against Turkey” while sharing a video that appears to show lightning strikes, adding that they “are not normal in earthquakes, but always happen in harp operations (sic)” (here). A similar claim can be seen on Instagram (here).
HAARP is a program that uses a high-power, high-frequency transmitter to study the properties and behavior of the ionosphere (haarp.gi.alaska.edu/). In 2015, the research facility’s operation was transferred from the U.S. Air Force to the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the site says.
Multiple experts told Reuters that HAARP could not have been responsible for the earthquake in Turkey or anywhere as it does not have such capabilities.
HAARP CANNOT TRIGGER EARTHQUAKES
According to the HAARP website’s FAQ section, it cannot control or manipulate the weather (haarp.gi.alaska.edu/faq).
Jessica Matthews, HAARP program manager at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, told Reuters that “the research equipment at the HAARP site cannot create or amplify natural disasters.” She said, “the recent earthquake and tragic loss of life in Turkey highlight the destruction that natural disasters can cause.”
HAARP is a radio transmitter that is larger than most other radio transmitters, according to David Hysell, a Thomas R. Briggs professor of engineering at Cornell University (here), and it is not theoretically possible for HAARP to create earthquakes.
David Malaspina, a research scientist at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado Boulder (here), told Reuters HAARP’s radio waves are similar to a strong AM radio broadcast station, and “there is no known mechanism by which an AM radio broadcast can cause an earthquake.”
He said these kinds of radio waves penetrate less than 1cm into the ground, while earthquakes are much deeper. “The 2023 Earthquake in Turkey originated ~17 km down.”
Artificial radio waves can indeed disturb the upper atmosphere locally, but it is comparable to disturbance caused by the Sun, Toshi Nishimura, a research associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Boston University (here), told Reuters. He added that he is not aware of any scientific evidence that “artificial waves can create much stronger disturbances and impact local seismic conditions.”
Further, there is currently “no technology to launch radio waves from the ground and hit a city precisely,” Nishimura said. “It doesn’t seem to be possible that radio waves can impact distant seismic conditions.”
LIGHTNING DURING EARTHQUAKES ARE COMMON
HAARP also “cannot create lightning,” Hysell told Reuters, contrary to the claims in the videos shared online that say lightning strikes “are not normal in earthquakes.”
A phenomenon known as Earthquake Lights, however, is in fact “fairly common,” Jamesina Simpson, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at The University of Utah (here) told Reuters, though “I’m not aware of lightning strikes being related to HAARP operations.”
Earthquake Lights are “created by sparks at power lines or power grids when they are disrupted by earthquakes,” Nishimura said, and this is likely what was visible in the videos online.
Nishimura said there may not have been lightning strikes at all in the video shared online. “The lights were soon followed by the power outage,” Nishimura said, suggesting the lights were “related to the power line and power grid failure.”
“The video suggests that it was cloudy in that night. The light is not coming from space but originates on the ground and is reflected by the clouds,” Nishimura said. “The lights also do not include thunders, suggesting that they aren’t lightning strikes.”
False. Experts say the Feb. 6 earthquake in Turkey was not a result of a HAARP operation because HAARP does not have capabilities to trigger earthquakes.
(Update Feb. 13, 2023: Replaces paragraph 8 with response from HAARP program manager)
This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts (here).