Earthquake light

Earthquake light

An earthquake light is an unusual luminous aerial phenomenon, similar in appearance to the aurora borealis, that allegedly appears in the sky at or near areas of tectonic stress, seismic activity or volcanic eruptions. Scientific evidence for the presence of lights is unreliable, given that there are few references documenting the phenomenon.


The lights are most evident in the middle period of an earthquake, although there are reports of lights that occurred after or quite often before the earthquake, such as before the 1976 Tangshan earthquake.Fact|date=May 2008 They usually have shapes similar to those of the auroras with white to bluish hue, but occasionally they have been reported to have a wider color spectrum.Fact|date=May 2008 The luminosity is typically visible for several seconds, but there have been cases in which they lasted tens of minutes. In the 1930 Idu earthquake, lights were reported up to 70 miles from the epicentre.Lane, F. W. "The Elements Rage" (David & Charles 1966), pp175-6] , although most lights are not so far away.Fact|date=May 2008

There have also been cases in which electromagnetic waves caused by the earthquake interfered with radio transmissions, such as during the Great Chilean Earthquake of 1960 [" [ Sun induces semi-diurnal stresses on earth’s surface, which trigger earthquakes and volcanic eruptions] ", Vinayak G. Kolvankar in "New Concepts in Global Tectonics Newsletter", no.47, June 2008.] .

Distinguishing earthquake lights from other transient optical phenomena can be difficult during the chaos of a tremor. For example, a bluish-white flashes that are accompanied by loud bangs or hissing during an earthquake are more likely the result of electrical arcing in power lines or transformers. However, in some videos, the light can be seen as a long flash in the night high in the sky [ [ Earthlights on Peru’s Earthquake?] Editor: Kentaro Mori, August 17th, 2007,] .


Records of earthquakes that were accompanied by lights can be found as far back as 373 BC in ancient Greek writings, that "immense columns of flame" foretold the earthquake that destroyed the cities of Helike and BouraFact|date=May 2008. However, even in the early 20th century they were still considered a myth, despite an investigation of lights seen during the 1930 Izu earthquake by researchers from Tokyo University, until photographs of actual lights were taken during the 1966 earthquake swarm in Matsushiro, Japan [Derr J. S., "Earthquake lights: a review of observations and present theories", Bull. Seism. Soc. Am. 63, 2177–2187 (1973).] .

The night before the 1976 Tangshan earthquake, many people in Tangshan reported seeing strange lights.Fact|date=May 2008

In Peru's earthquake that occurred south of Lima on August 15, 2007, earthquake lights could be seen across the Lima sky before and during the earthquake. Several videos were taken. [ [ Earthquake Lights (EQLs) ] ]

On 2008-05-12, 30 minutes prior to the Sichuan Earthquake, a cell phone captured footage of multi-colored clouds in the sky [] . The footage was uploaded to Youtube [ [ Colorful clouds spotted in Tianshui, Gansu province, 30 minutes before the 2008 Sichuan earthquake] ] . There is also footage from Meixian, Shaanxi, [ [ Colorful clouds spotted in Meixian, Shaanxi province, 10 mins before the 2008 Sichuan earthquake] ] approximately 550km northeast of the epicenter, recorded 10 minutes before the earthquake. However, the footage appears to show a circumhorizontal arc, which is caused by refraction of the sun's light through ice particles in a cirrus cloud, similar to a rainbow.Fact|date=May 2008 Earthquake lights were also spotted in Tianshui, Gansu [cite web|url=|title="Buddha's Halo" appears at Nanguo Temple|publisher=Tianshui Online|date=2008-05-12|accessdate=2008-05-20|language=Chinese] [cite web|url=|title=Glowing lights around an earthquake's epicentre|author=Paul Simons|publisher=Times Online|date=2008-03-15|accessdate=2008-05-20] , approximately 400 km north-northeast of the epicenter.

On the 2008-07-29 edition of Coast to Coast AM with George Noory, geologist Jim Berkland as well as a caller reported seeing earthquake lights a week before the 2008-07-29 Chino Hills earthquake.


The precise mechanism, if such a phenomenon exists—as opposed to being coincidence with aurora or mistaken recall after a traumatic event such as an earthquake—is unknown. One theory suggests that earthquake lights are a form of plasma discharge caused by the release of gases from within the Earth and are electrically charged in the air, which might be confirmed by or simply related to the reports of steam venting out of the earth in recent Peruvian earthquakes.

Another possible explanation is local disruption of the Earth's magnetic field and/or ionosphere in the region of tectonic stress, resulting in the observed glow effects either from ionospheric radiative recombination at lower altitudes and greater atmospheric pressure or as aurora. However, the effect is clearly not pronounced or notably observed at all earthquake events and is yet to be directly experimentally verified.Fact|date=May 2008

Another explanation involves intense electric fields created piezoelectrically by tectonic movements of rocks containing quartz [Takaki, Shunji and Ikeya, Motoji, "A Dark Discharge Model of Earthquake Lightning", Japanese Journal of Applied Physics, Volume 37, Issue 9A, pp. 5016 (1998)] .

Some similar clouds have been reported during nuclear tests [ [ earthquake prediction-meteoquake ] ] and radon is likely to be an earthquake precursor [ Richon P., Sabroux J.-C., Halbwachs M., Vandemeulebrouck J., Poussielgue N., Tabbagh J., Punongbayan R. (2003), Radon anomaly in the soil of Taal volcano, the Philippines: A likely precursor of the M 7.1 Mindoro earthquake (1994), Geophysical Research Letters, Volume 30, Issue 9, pp. 34-1] , so another theory is that glowing clouds might be light emission produced by ionization or plasma-chemical reactions []

If such a phenomenon exists, it will bring a new explanation to many cases of UFO sightings.

ee also

*Earthquake cloud
*Earthquake prediction


External links

* [ USGS FAQ discussion on Earthquake Lights]
* [ Earthquake lights photos]
* [ Youtube Video: Peru Earthquake 15/08/2007, Lights in the sky at 00:33 and 00:39]
* [ Youtube Video: Peru Earthquake 15/08/2007, Lights in the sky at 00:47 and 00:50]
* [ Youtube Video: Peru Earthquake 15/08/2007, Lights in the sky FULL]
* [ Youtube Video: Peru Earthquake 15/08/2007, Lights in the sky]
* [ Youtube Video: Multi-colored clouds recorded 30 minutes before Sichuan Earthquake]

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