Was the devastating temblor that struck Turkey on February 6, 2023 actually a human-caused earthquake triggered by a weapon from an ionospheric research program called HAARP, in response to the Turkish president's move to block an expansion of NATO? No, that's not true: Experts that spoke to Lead Stories say the quake's occurrence is a natural event supported by scientific evidence and that HAARP's research equipment could not create such an event, although conspiracy theorists have long tried to tie the science center to natural disasters and other phenomena.
The claim appeared on BitChute on February 7, 2023 (archived here), with the title, "HAARP WEAPON ATTACK SUSPECTED AFTER TURKEY BLOCKS NATO EXPANSION - STRANGER THAN FICTION NEWS." A nearly 20-minute video opened with a purported link between Turkey's politics and the earthquake before moving on to other conspiracy driven theories. The narration with the video began:
Turkey dropped a bombshell last week and rejected the NATO expansion, rejected Sweden from joining in and escalating the Cold War against the Russians. And just a few short days later, there was a massive earthquake, and everybody is talking about HAARP. Was it a HAARP weapon?
Here's how the post appeared on the day of this writing:
(Source: BitChute screenshot taken Mon Feb 13 at 18:05:43 2023 UTC)
The post appeared originally on the Telegram platform, also on February 7, 2023.
The post's graphic, "Breaking News" tag and headline look make it look like a real television news story, but it lacks any credible sourcing of its claims. The video also lacks information that would identify its producer or narrator. Beyond its opening minutes, which are focused on Turkey, NATO and alleged HAARP weapon that triggered an earthquake, the majority of the video warns of a host of other conspiracy theories, including a "New World Order" that would see a cabal of powerful people working to implement a totalitarian one-world government.
Lead Stories is focusing this fact check only the post's primary claims about Turkey's earthquake and HAARP. A geophysicist from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and a program director from HAARP say the claims are false.
HAARP -- the The High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program -- is an ionospheric research program started by the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Navy, the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. In 2015. According to the program's website, "Responsibility for the HAARP facilities and equipment formally transferred from the military to UAF on Aug. 11, 2015.")
Seismic centers around the world, including USGS, recorded the February 6, 2023, earthquake's tremors at 1:17 UTC -- or about 4:17 a.m. local time -- in south central Turkey near the country's border with Syria. The recorded magnitude was 7.8 magnitude, according to the USGS and the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC). An USGS analysis found the quake occurred on the East Anatolian fault system, a large strike-slip fault that has been the source of quakes in the region for thousands of years.
"There is absolutely no evidence that this was caused by man," USGS geophysicist Paul Caruso told Lead Stories in a telephone interview on February 10, 2023. "The fault ruptured, the rocks moved and the ground shook."
Earthquakes can be caused by human activities such as mining, fracking, nuclear explosions from testing or large building construction. In the U.S., Caruso said, fracking-related quakes typically register at magnitudes of 2.0-3.0, although a few have been in the magnitude 5 range. For a man-made quake to reach 7.8 magnitude would be extremely rare, and likely require a nuclear explosion level of force -- evidence of which could be seen on seismometers, he said.
"The motion is different," Caruso said. "When you have an earthquake, you're getting expansion and contraction, instead of just expansion, like an explosion. There's no evidence for that (in Turkey)."
There is also no evidence that HAARP or its Ionospheric Research Instrument technologies at its Gakona, Alaska, site were in any way involved -- that's not what HAARP does, Jessica Matthews, HAARP's program manager told Lead Stories in an email on February 11, 2023.
"The recent earthquake and tragic loss of life in Turkey highlight the destruction that natural disasters can cause," she said. "The research equipment at the HAARP site cannot create or amplify natural disasters."
According to Matthews and information from the program's website, the research scientists conduct at HAARP is related to the study of the properties and behaviors of the ionosphere, the 50- to 400-mile boundary between Earth's lower atmosphere and space, or, in other words, space weather.
"Research conducted at HAARP helps fill in gaps in our knowledge of near-Earth space," Matthews wrote in her email. "This allows scientists to make better space weather predictions. New research may also improve systems to help satellites avoid collision and advance remote sensing technologies for near-Earth asteroid detection."
Additionally, HAARP doesn't operate continuously, she added. Research projects occur only two to four times a year and run for periods of weeks. The last was conducted in October 2022, the HAARP FAQ page states, so even if the science center could trigger a quake, as the post suggests, HAARP's high-powered radio frequency array wasn't in operation when the temblor was measured along the East Anatolian Fault.
HAARP has been a frequent target of conspiracy theorists who believe it has the capacity to weaponize weather. It was previously blamed by some for Haiti's 7.0 magnitude earthquake in 2010. Information from an FAQ section of HAARP's web page, however, notes that the systems cannot control the weather, because the radio waves it transmits aren't absorbed by either the troposphere or the stratosphere -- the two levels of the atmosphere that produce Earth's weather.
Other Lead Stories fact checks about the February 6, 2023, earthquake can be found here.