Flashing lights have been recorded on video supposedly occurring in conjunction with the shaking from this weekend’s strong quake in New Zealand. The strong event occurred just after midnight on Monday and caused massive damage, a small tsunami and several deaths.
We’ve covered EQ lights before and I have done some research on natural anomalies associated with earthquakes. All such reports – lights, sounds, clouds, weather, animal responses – remain questionable and may have other mundane causes. But let’s take a closer look at the latest reports.
From the videos, you can see that the flashes appear like lightning. There are no videos so far of the lights close up and the location of the lights is not discernible from media reports. So we can’t really tell what they represent.
The coverage of EQ lights in relation to this latest event has been widespread, with the idea being spread via viral sites and “earth changes” type websites that emphasize the myteriousness. This piece from “Stuff” New Zealand is not bad providing a good overview of the speculation about EQ lights without making it so mysterious.
Reports of EQ lights are not uncommon after large quakes. Two explanations are proposed for this. First, stronger quakes break electrical wiring and cause transformers to explode, causing the flashes. Second, stronger quakes allow for the build up and release of ionized air from the fault zone that results in a natural electrical discharge. That disruption of electrical lines occurs is a given. Polls fall and transformers explode. So, it’s a very good bet that some of these are reported as EQ lights. The natural electrial discharge from the earth is gaining creedance, however. Several studies have shown local perturbations in the ionosphere associated with large quakes. While there are wide daily fluctuations of total electron content (TEC) of the ionosphere, usual spikes close to the location of forthcoming earthquakes have been detected. This study from 2015 in New Zealand showed such a result:
We mapped TEC in the ionosphere on a spatial grid covering the whole of New Zealand, at half-minute intervals, for several weeks before, and a few days after, four recent major earthquakes – the 2010 Darfield, 2011 Christchurch, 2013 Seddon and 2013 Lake Grassmere earthquakes.
It is likely that in the coming weeks, we may hear if this quake had similar perturbations and how this may relate to the EQ light phenomenon. Or, this TEC phenomena may be different than that which could cause visible and sudden electrical discharges. Some EQ lights are described as a glow on the ground or in the sky. Speculation is that this is related to the piezoelectric effect created in the fault zone or from ionization of the air above the highly stressed bedrock, called the “aerosol effect“. That this doesn’t occur for every earthquake is not unusual since the bedrock and fault stresses will differ for each fault zone. Not all faults behave the same and the geological setting in different, producing different behaviors on the surface as well as subsurface. An observation of reports suggests that rift area such as New Zealand and Japan and areas of normal (extension) faults (such as Canada, eastern US and Europe) are more conductive to EQ lights than areas of reverse (compression) faulting.
Many skeptics are reluctant to call EQ lights a valid phenomena. The failure to confirm the phenomenon is understandable because of the unreliability, irreproducibility and inadequate explanation for it. However, it could be that seismologists haven’t been measuring for it. Now that some researchers are looking for electrical signals of quakes around the world, we may get the reliability and reproducablity and, finally, be able to explain it. It’s less clear if EQ lights can be a reliable predictor but TEC anomalies may be in the future.
Thank you, Robert Vahry for the tip on our Facebook page
More from DN on this topic:
Earthquake lights reported along with Sunday’s Napa event – August 29, 2014
More news on earthquake lights – now the flashing variety – February 26, 2014
Ionospheric phenomena exciting new direction for earthquake prediction – October 24, 2012
New paper on earthquake lights show they are a reality – January 2, 2014