1033 Jordan Rift Valley earthquake

An earthquake struck the Jordan Rift Valley on December 5, 1033 and caused extreme devastation in the Levant region. It was part of a sequence of four strong earthquakes in the region between 1033 AD and 1035 AD. Scholars have estimated the moment magnitude to be greater than 7.0 Mw  and evaluated the Modified Mercalli intensity to X (Extreme). It triggered a tsunami along the Mediterranean coast, causing damage and fatalities. At least 70,000 people were killed in the disaster.

1033 Jordan Rift Valley earthquake
1033 Jordan Rift Valley earthquake is located in Israel
1033 Jordan Rift Valley earthquake
Local date5 December 1033 (1033-12-05)
Magnitude~7.3 Mw
Epicenter32°30′N 35°30′E / 32.5°N 35.5°E / 32.5; 35.5Coordinates: 32°30′N 35°30′E / 32.5°N 35.5°E / 32.5; 35.5[1]
Areas affectedmodern-day Israel and State of Palestine
Max. intensityX (Extreme)
Casualties70,000 dead
The Jordan Valley Fault (abbreviated JVF) was the source of the large earthquakes of 31 BC, 346 AD, 749 AD and 1033 AD.

Tectonic settingEdit

In the past 2,000 years of human history, documented earthquakes have been associated with the 1,100 km (680 mi) long Dead Sea Transform Fault System, a left-lateral transform boundary.[2] Since the early Miocene, the fault system has accounted for between 110 km (68 mi) and 70–80 km (43–50 mi) of left-lateral displacement between the African and Arabian Plates. While left-lateral strike-slip is dominant, the fault also display features of normal and thrust faulting. The fault displays varying slip rates across its segments, 2–10 mm (0.079–0.394 in) per year. The Jordan Valley fault forms part of the larger system of faults that is collectively known as the Dead Sea Transform. This segment is 110 km (68 mi) long and trends north–south; beginning at the Dead Sea and terminating at the Sea of Galilee.[3]


The earthquake is thought to have ruptured the entire Jordan Valley Fault segment, based on reports of heavy damage reported from the Dead Sea to the Sea of Galilee. The historical record also showed that the pattern of damage was similar to another earthquake in AD 749.[4] Both the 749 AD and 1033 AD earthquakes ruptured the Jordan Valley Faults with magnitudes exceeding 7.0. Earlier earthquakes in 31 BC and 363 AD are thought to have been caused by the same segment rupturing.[5] Paleoseismological studies near Jericho and the Sea of Galilee revealed evidence of surface ruptures.[3] Evident in the sedimentary layers are also signs of disturbed sediments thought to be caused by the earthquake.[6]

Little research has been made to estimate the magnitude of the earthquake, and there is a great discrepancy in the range of magnitudes. A 2004 study by Migowski and others estimated the magnitude at 7.1, basing the number on the studies of disturbed sedimentary layers. Older papers also placed the magnitude as low as 6.0–6.7.[7] Most scholars however, agree with a magnitude range of 6.7–7.1.[7][8] Earthquake magnitude catalogs prepared by researchers have also been scrutinized with its reliability and credibility questioned.[1] Italy's National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology placed the energy magnitude (Me) at 7.3,[9] and a recent (2020) catalog reevaluated the earthquake to a moment magnitude of 7.3 Mw .[1]


Heavy damage was reported in a north–south trend for 190 km (120 mi) from the Dead Sea to the Sea of Galilee. One-third of the city of Ramla was destroyed.[10] Half of Nablus was destroyed and 300 residents died. The landscape around the city was also devastated. Acre experienced great damage and a high death toll. The cities of Nablus, Baniyas and Jericho also suffered the greatest destruction. A landslide buried al-Badan, a village, killing all its residents and livestock. Landslides also destroyed other villages and killed most of its population. Banias was partially destroyed. In Syria, entire villages were "swallowed" by the earth, causing fatalities. In Gaza, a mosque and the surrounding minarets collapsed. A lighthouse in the city sustained heavy damage. Reports of serious damage also came from Ashkelon. Damage was reported as far away as Egypt. Sahil A. Alsinawi and others reported a death toll of 70,000.[11]

Parts of the Walls of Jerusalem collapsed and many churches were damaged. A side of the Temple Mount and the mihrab Daud, located near the Jaffa Gate collapsed. The entire southern section of the city walls which enclosed Mount Zion above the Kidron Valley, which were built by Aelia Eudocia (the fifth century wife of the Byzantine Roman emperor Theodosius II), were abandoned by Fatimid caliph Al-Zahir li-i'zaz Din Allah who established major restoration projects that lasted from 1034 AD to 1038 AD.[12] It is believed to be the largest restoration project in the city's history. The Dome of the Rock was enforced with wooden beams to strengthen the structure. Wooden beams and mosaics were added to the al-Aqsa Mosque. Solomon's Stables and al-Aqsa Mosque were among the structures that underwent restoration.[13][12]

Shear fractures and column failures at Hisham's Palace photographed in the 1930s.

Hisham's Palace was destroyed. It was previously thought that the palace was destroyed during the 749 AD earthquake, but the relatively low intensity (VII) suggest it was not the responsible earthquake. Academic studies noted fracture alignments on the ruin floor. Evidence of column and wall failures were present. Geological faulting was also found in the excavated area, the ruins displayed up to 10 cm (3.9 in) of left-lateral faulting. Human remains discovered beneath the rubble of a collapsed arch were possibly caused by the earthquake. The Modified Mercalli intensity in at the palace was assigned IX–X. It is possible that the palace site was abandoned after the earthquake, and occupied sometime later.[14]

A tsunami struck the coastal city of Acre, Israel. It was reported that the city port became dry for an hour, and a large wave arrived. Waves were also reported along the coast of Lebanon. Greek seismologist Nicholas Ambraseys reported that the tsunami caused no damage or casualties, but this is thought to be a confusion with the 1068 earthquake. Destruction was reported in Acre due to the tsunami. People who scoured the exposed seafloor drowned when the waves arrived. Additional shocks in April or May 1035 AD caused further damage and might be associated with tsunamis.[15]

Future threatEdit

View of the Jordan Valley, where the earthquake occurred.

The 1033 AD event was the last large earthquake on the Jordan Valley Fault. Given the estimated slip rate is 4.9 ± 0.2 mm (0.1929 ± 0.0079 in) per year, approximately 5 m (16 ft) of potential slip has been accumulated. An estimated 3.5–5 m (11–16 ft) of slip could be produced during a future earthquake along a 110 km (68 mi) × 20 km (12 mi) fault area. Such an event would suggest an earthquake of Mw  7.4, posing a great seismic threat to the region.[3]

In late 2020, researchers at Tel Aviv University said that an earthquake of magnitude 6.5 is expected to occur in the area, resulting in many fatalities. Researchers also stated that the frequency of large earthquakes in the region is significantly underestimated.[16] Previous studies suggested a recurrence interval of 10,000 years for magnitude 7.5 earthquakes, but the researchers said the figure was 1,300 to 1,400 years.[17] Yosef Shapira, the then State Comptroller of Israel, said that a major earthquake in Israel could kill up to 7,000 people if safety recommendations are not enforced. Reports of the years 2001, 2004 and 2011 found that the Israeli government did not fund any retrofitting works to old construction. Although the government said in 2008 that it would retrofit hospitals and schools, no major changes were made.[18]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c Grigoratos, Iason; Poggi, Valerio; Danciu, Laurentiu; Rojo, Graciela (14 February 2020). "An updated parametric catalog of historical earthquakes around the Dead Sea Transform Fault Zone". Journal of Seismology. 24 (4): 803–832. Bibcode:2020JSeis..24..803G. doi:10.1007/s10950-020-09904-9. S2CID 211102430.
  2. ^ Freund R.; Garfunkel Z.; Zak I.; Goldberg M.; Weissbrod T.; Derin B.; Bender F.; Wellings F.E.; Girdler R.W. (1970). "The Shear along the Dead Sea Rift (and Discussion)". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series A, Mathematical and Physical Sciences. 267 (1181): 107–130. Bibcode:1970RSPTA.267..107F. doi:10.1098/rsta.1970.0027.
  3. ^ a b c Ferry, Matthieu; Meghraoui, Mustapha; Karaki, Najib Abou; Al-Taj, Masdouq; Amoush, Hani; Al-Dhaisat, Salman; Barjous, Majdi (30 August 2007). "A 48-kyr-long slip rate history for the Jordan Valley segment of the Dead Sea Fault". Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 260 (3–4): 394–406. Bibcode:2007E&PSL.260..394F. doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2007.05.049.
  4. ^ Marco S.; Hartal M.; Hazan N.; Leve L.; Stein M. (2003). "Archaeology, history, and geology of the A.D. 749 earthquake, Dead Sea transform" (PDF). Geology. 31 (8): 665–668. Bibcode:2003Geo....31..665M. doi:10.1130/G19516.1. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-07-09.
  5. ^ Wechsler, Neta; Rockwell, Thomas K.; Klinger, Yann; Štěpančíková, Petra; Kanari, Mor; Marco, Shmulik; Agnon, Amotz (2014). "A Paleoseismic Record of Earthquakes for the Dead-Sea Transform Fault Between the 1st and 7th centuries CE: Non-Periodic Behavior of a Plate Boundary Fault". Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America. 104 (3). doi:10.1785/0120130304. S2CID 54590859.
  6. ^ Migowski, Claudia; Agnon, Amotz; Bookman, Revital; Negendank, Jörg F.W; Stein, Mordechai (15 May 2004). "Recurrence pattern of Holocene earthquakes along the Dead Sea transform revealed by varve-counting and radiocarbon dating of lacustrine sediments" (PDF). Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 222 (1): 301–314. Bibcode:2004E&PSL.222..301M. doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2004.02.015.
  7. ^ a b Zohar, Motti; Salamon, Amos; Rubin, Rehav (31 January 2017). "Earthquake damage history in Israel and its close surrounding - evaluation of spatial and temporal patterns". Tectonophysics. 696–697: 1–13. Bibcode:2017Tectp.696....1Z. doi:10.1016/j.tecto.2016.12.015.
  8. ^ Zohar, Motti; Salamon, Amos; Rubin, Rehav (16 April 2016). "Reappraised list of historical earthquakes that affected Israel and its close surroundings". Journal of Seismology. 20 (3): 971–985. Bibcode:2016JSeis..20..971Z. doi:10.1007/s10950-016-9575-7. S2CID 131324312.
  9. ^ Guidoboni E., Ferrari G., Tarabusi G., Sgattoni G., Comastri A., Mariotti D., Ciuccarelli C., Bianchi M.G., Valensise G. (2019). "CFTI5Med, the new release of the catalogue of strong earthquakes in Italy and in the Mediterranean area". Scientific Data. 6 (1): 80. Bibcode:2019NatSD...6...80G. doi:10.1038/s41597-019-0091-9. PMC 6546750. PMID 31160582. S2CID 174808667. Retrieved 22 June 2022.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  10. ^ Kallner-Amiran, D. H. (1950). "A Revised Earthquake-Catalogue of Palestine" (PDF). Israel Exploration Journal. Israel Exploration Society. 1 (4): 223–246. JSTOR 27924451.
  11. ^ National Geophysical Data Center / World Data Service (NGDC/WDS): NCEI/WDS Global Significant Earthquake Database. NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information (1972). "Significant Earthquake Information". NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information. doi:10.7289/V5TD9V7K. Retrieved 22 June 2022. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  12. ^ a b Ma'oz, Moshe and Nusseibeh, Sari (2000). Jerusalem: Points of Friction, and Beyond. Brill. pp. 136–38. ISBN 90-411-8843-6.
  13. ^ "The Earthquake of 1033 CE". archpark.org.il. The Jerusalem Archaeological Park. Retrieved 22 June 2022.
  14. ^ Alfonsi, Laura; Cinti, Francesca (2013). "The Kinematics of the 1033 A.D. Earthquake Revealed by the Damage at Hisham Palace (Jordan Valley, Dead Sea Transform Zone)". Seismological Research Letters. 84 (6): 997–1003. doi:10.1785/0220130060.
  15. ^ National Geophysical Data Center / World Data Service (NGDC/WDS): NCEI/WDS Global Significant Tsunami Database. NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information. "Significant Earthquake Information". NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information. doi:10.7289/V5PN93H7. Retrieved 23 June 2022. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  16. ^ Winer, Stuart (29 December 2020). "Major earthquake, killing hundreds, likely to hit Israel in coming years – study". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 22 June 2022.
  17. ^ Lu, Yin; Wetzler, Nadav; Waldmann, Nicolas; Agnon, Amotz; Biasi, Glenn P.; Marco, Shmuel (2020). "A 220,000-year-long continuous large earthquake record on a slow-slipping plate boundary". Science Advances. 6 (48). Bibcode:2020SciA....6.4170L. doi:10.1126/sciadv.aba4170. PMC 7695470. PMID 33246948.
  18. ^ "State comptroller: Israel unprepared for major quake, ignoring warnings". The Times of Israel. 18 July 2018. Retrieved 22 June 2022.