Earthquakes and Weird Atmospheric Phenomena: Which Comes First ... The Chicken Or the Egg?

George Washington's picture

MIT's Technology Review notes today:

have long puzzled over anecdotal reports of strange atmospheric
phenomena in the days before big earthquakes. But good data to back up
these stories has been hard to come by.


In recent years, however,
various teams have set up atmospheric monitoring stations in
earthquake zones and a number of satellites are capable of sending back
data about the state of the upper atmosphere and the ionosphere during
an earthquake.


Last year, we looked at some fascinating data
from the DEMETER spacecraft showing a significant increase in ultra-low
frequency radio signals before the magnitude 7 Haiti earthquake in
January 2010


Today, Dimitar Ouzounov at the NASA Goddard Space
Flight Centre in Maryland and a few buddies present the data from the
Great Tohoku earthquake which devastated Japan on 11 March. Their
results, although preliminary, are eye-opening.


They say that
before the M9 earthquake, the total electron content of the ionosphere
increased dramatically over the epicentre, reaching a maximum three
days before the quake struck.


At the same time, satellite
observations showed a big increase in infrared emissions from above the
epicentre, which peaked in the hours before the quake. In other words,
the atmosphere was heating up.


These kinds of observations are
consistent with an idea called the Lithosphere-Atmosphere-Ionosphere
Coupling mechanism. The thinking is that in the days before an
earthquake, the great stresses in a fault as it is about to give cause
the releases large amounts of radon.


The radioactivity from
this gas ionises the air on a large scale and this has a number of
knock on effects. Since water molecules are attracted to ions in the
air, ionisation triggers the large scale condensation of water.


the process of condensation also releases heat and it is this that
causes infrared emissions. "Our first results show that on March 8th a
rapid increase of emitted infrared radiation was observed from the
satellite data," say Ouzounov and co.


These emissions go on to effect the ionosphere and its total electron content.

The BBC pointed out in 2008:

Nasa scientists have said they could be on the verge of a breakthrough in their efforts to forecast earthquakes.


say they have found a close link between electrical disturbances on
the edge of our atmosphere and impending quakes on the ground below.


Just such a signal was spotted in the days leading up to the recent devastating event in China.


They have teamed up with experts in the UK to investigate a possible space-based early warning system.


in the scientific community remain deeply sceptical about whether
such signals are indeed indicators of an approaching earthquake.


But Minoru Freund, a physicist and director for advanced aerospace
materials and devices at Nasa's Ames Research Center in California,
told BBC News: "I do believe that we will be able to establish a clear
correlation between certain earthquakes and certain pre-earthquake
signals, in an unbiased way."




The ionosphere is
distinguished from other layers of Earth's atmosphere because it is
electrically charged through exposure to solar radiation.


On a
significant number of occasions, satellites have picked up
disturbances in this part of the atmosphere 100-600km above areas that
have later been hit by earthquakes.


One of the most important
of these is a fluctuation in the density of electrons and other
electrically-charged particles in the ionosphere.


One study
looked at over 100 earthquakes with magnitudes of 5.0 or larger in
Taiwan over several decades. The researchers found that almost all of
the earthquakes down to a depth of about 35km were preceded by distinct
electrical disturbances in the ionosphere.


The analysis was carried out by Jann-Yeng Liu, from the Center for Space and Remote Sensing Research in Chung-Li, Taiwan.


full details have yet to be released, the BBC understands that
scientists also observed a "huge" signal in the ionosphere before the
Magnitude 7.8 earthquake in China on 12 May.




and his father Friedemann Freund, also from Nasa Ames Research Center,
developed the scientific theory behind these earthquake precursors. It
boils down to the idea that when rocks are compressed - as when
tectonic plates shift - they act like batteries, producing electric


"We now pretty much understand the solid-state physics of these rocks," Minoru added.


to their theory, the charge carrier is a "positive hole", known as a
phole, which can travel large distances in laboratory experiments.


they travel to the surface of the Earth, the surface becomes
positively charged. And this charge can be strong enough to affect the
ionosphere, causing the disturbances documented by satellites.


these pholes "recombine" at the surface of the Earth, they enter an
excited state. They subsequently "de-excite" and emit mid-infrared
light particles, or photons. This may explain the IR observations.

Some Allege High Tech Warfare

Many claim that the strange atmospheric effects preceding earthquakes must prove that this is caused by high-tech warfare.

They point, for example, to the fact that humans have modified weather for military purposes and climate control for decades.

They also point to secretary of defense William Cohen's statement to a conference on terrorism on April 28, 1997 that people can:

Alter the climate, set off earthquakes, volcanoes remotely through the use of electromagnetic waves.

point to the statement of top Russian politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky -
Vice-Chairman of the Russian State Duma and leader of the Liberal
Democratic Party of Russia - who supposedly said that Russia possesses
"secret" weapons that can cause tsunamis like the March tsunami which
devastated Japan:



(And they point to Haarp.)

But This Has Been Happening for Thousands of Years

A contrary argument, however, is that strange atmospheric phenomena have been observed for thousands of years ... long before any high technology was invented.

As I noted last year:


Strange lighting phenomenon has been observed in connection with earthquakes throughout history.

For example, "immense columns of flame" were reported by Greek writings prior to the giant earthquake in 373 BC in which destroyed the cities of Helike and Bura.

And the New England Earthquake of 1727 was preceded by strange lighting phenomena:


that were awake when the earthquake came said that a flash of light
preceded it. It was seen as it passed the windows, and a blaze seemed to
run along the ground, dogs that saw it giving a sudden bark as if
frightened. Before they had time to consider the source or cause of the
light a sound like a gentle murmur floated to them on the still evening
air, followed by a slight ruffling wind. Then came a rumbling as of
distant thunder, which approached nearer and nearer and grew louder and
louder till it sounded as if innumerable heavy carriages were being
rapidly driven over pavements, or like the roaring of a great furnace,
but incomparably fiercer and more terrible, having a hollow sound as if
it came from under the earth. Then the shock came suddenly and severely
and the houses were felt to totter and reel with the trembling and
heaving of the ground.

See this and this. [Strange blue lights also appeared during the huge Japanese earthquake on March 11th.]

There are numerous theories about the cause of "earthquake lights", including:

  • Sparks or gas ionisation due to a piezoelectric effect in quartz-bearing rock
  • Frictional heating
  • Exoelectron emissions
  • Sonoluminescence
  • Triboluminescence
  • Generation and ignition of flammable gases either from pockets of natural gas or from rocks under enormous stress.
  • Gas ionisation or electrical effects due to electrokinetics
  • Separation of positive hole charge carriers that turn rocks momentarily into p-type semiconductors

Another Mechanism?

There is another possible explanation.

Battros theorized in 1998 that large solar flares affect Earth's
magnetic field, which in turn shifts the oceanic and atmospheric
currents, which can cause earthquakes and extreme weather. As Battros
summarizes his formula:

Sunspots => Solar Flares
(charged particles) => Magnetic Field Shift => Shifting Ocean and
Jet Stream Currents => Extreme Weather and Human Disruption

While this may sound crazy, Battros' theories have been endorsed to one degree or another by:

  • Dr. Ernest Hildner, Director NOAA Space Weather Center
  • Dr. Tom Van Flandern, former US Naval Observatory Chief of Celestial Mechanics
  • Dr. Stefaan Poedts: Lead Scientist University of Leuven Center for Plasma Astrophysics
  • Dr. Ronald van der Linden, Director of Solar Physics Department of the Royal Observatory
  • Dr. Pål Brekke, Deputy Director of SOHO project- European Space Agency

As I noted last year:

The sun itself also affects the Earth more than previously understood. For example, according to the European Space Agency:

... have proven that sounds generated deep inside the Sun cause the
Earth to shake and vibrate in sympathy. They have found that Earth’s
magnetic field, atmosphere and terrestrial systems, all take part in this cosmic sing-along.

And NASA has just discovered that "space weather" causes "spacequakes" on Earth:

using NASA's fleet of five THEMIS spacecraft have discovered a form of
space weather that packs the punch of an earthquake and plays a key
role in sparking bright Northern Lights. They call it "the spacequake."


spacequake is a temblor in Earth's magnetic field. It is felt most
strongly in Earth orbit, but is not exclusive to space. The effects can
reach all the way down to the surface of Earth itself.


reverberations have been detected at ground stations all around the
globe, much like seismic detectors measure a large earthquake," says
THEMIS principal investigator Vassilis Angelopoulos of UCLA.


It's an
apt analogy because "the total energy in a spacequake can rival that
of a magnitude 5 or 6 earthquake," according to Evgeny Panov of the
Space Research Institute in Austria.




"Now we know," says THEMIS project scientist David Sibeck of the Goddard Space Flight Center. "Plasma jets trigger spacequakes."


to THEMIS, the jets crash into the geomagnetic field some 30,000 km
above Earth's equator. The impact sets off a rebounding process, in
which the incoming plasma actually bounces up and down on the
reverberating magnetic field. Researchers call it "repetitive flow
rebuffing." It's akin to a tennis ball bouncing up and down on a
carpeted floor. The first bounce is a big one, followed by bounces of
decreasing amplitude as energy is dissipated in the carpet.




plasma jets hit the inner magnetosphere, vortices with opposite sense
of rotation appear and reappear on either side of the plasma jet,"
explains Rumi Nakamura of the Space Research Institute in Austria, a
co-author of the study. "We believe the vortices can generate
substantial electrical currents in the near-Earth environment."


together, vortices and spacequakes could have a noticeable effect on
Earth. The tails of vortices may funnel particles into Earth's
atmosphere, sparking auroras and making waves of ionization that disturb
radio communications and GPS. By tugging on surface magnetic fields,
spacequakes generate currents in the very ground we walk on. Ground
current surges can have profound consequences, in extreme cases bringing
down power grids over a wide area.

What does this mean?

Some allege that spacequakes cause actual, physical earthquakes on Earth. I have no idea whether or not that is true.

The above-quoted NASA article from with a poem which implies such a connection:

Vortices swirl
plasma a'twirl
Richter predicts
a magnitude six

However, the poem may use artistic license rather than scientific rigor.

stakes are enormous. And it is vital to fund research into cause and
effect interactions between atmosphere and earthquake faults.

we can forecast earthquakes through measuring solar radiation (as
Battros believes) or heat, radon and fracture stress (as many mainstream
scientists believe), we can finally formulate an early-warning system
for earthquakes.

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dimichzh's picture

If NASA knows, they are not telling you.

How about complete mind-set shift, electrical universe theory and mythical science religion "Big Bang" and it is time of "flat land" again that needs to be broken?

Our misunderstood Sun and stupidity of established science:


Long Strange Trip's picture

Certain types of cloud formations have also been theorized as precursors to earthquakes:



sundown333's picture

NASA has just discovered the Bernanke seems to glow right before an earthquake!

/sarc off

Drag Racer's picture

Strange lighting phenomenon has been observed in connection with earthquakes throughout history.

I was a witness to that effect during the Northridge quake. I was just a couple miles from the epicenter. During each large shift of the earth a coinciding flash of light similar in intensity to lightning along with very loud noises.

gerryscat's picture

The egg came first. Birds evolved from dinosaurs.

Orly's picture

You are correct, sir!

Eternal Student's picture

@GW: I was about to write this article off as wacky, based on the title. But this is a seriously good article, and I thank you for posting it. Especially as I live in earthquake country.

For your amusement, I shall answer the question: "Earthquakes or Atmospheric Phenonema"? The answer is watermelons.

Sell everything NOW. You've got until Saturday to get your load of chickas and blow, and then Jesus.

knowless's picture

im looking forward to the 22nd personally.

TSA gropee's picture

With regards to radar type emitters, the introduction of phased arrays was a quantum leap in power vs. size vs. directional control. Large shipborne arrays such as the Aegis vessels brought enhanced range and resolution along with the ability of the vessel to stay on a heading while adjusting the power of each individual emitter in concert to "move" the beam to a particular direction.

Now we have HAARP and HIPAS, which brought serious largeness to phased arrays. Couple that with an array of 8 similar installations in one area and the possibilities could be well, staggering. These installations instead of emitting horizontally they emit vertically to ride predefined lines of force that as the energy travels through the ionosphere, is naturally amplified to probably massive levels of power. Interesting that DARPA, the Navy and Air Force manage this technology instead of NOAA or some research group.

Drag Racer's picture

'phased array' has nothing to do with power output or range.

Mad Max's picture

In some cases it's impractical to make a movable antenna large enough to efficiently handle desired power levels.  So to an extent phased array designs do have something to do with power and range.

red_pill_rash's picture

Yes, I understand that "terrorism"="Emanual Goldstein"....but

In 1997 US Secretary of Defense William Cohen made the following statement, "Others (terrorists) are engaging even in an eco type of terrorism whereby they can alter the climate, set off earthquakes, volcanoes remotely through the use of electromagnetic waves….So, there are plenty of ingenious minds out there that are at work finding ways in which they can wreak terror upon other nations…It's real, and that's the reason why we have to intensify our (counterterrorism) efforts."

petaloka's picture

Long on tin foil hats.

Richard Whitney's picture

Increased electron content in the ionosphere, and a heating up of the atmosphere due to infrared emissions, may be precursors to earthquakes. But how frequently do these things occur? Do they happen anyway, and regularly, thus simply coincidental, or can we determine that they have only happened at an epicenter in the days before a major quake?

9/11, the Madrid bombing of March 11 and the Honshu event of March 11 each happened on the 11th of the month, but you wouldn't conclude that the date had anything to do with those events; it is just coincidence.

b_thunder's picture

One problem here - quoting Zhirinovskiy on the geo-political issues is like quoting Ralph Nader in the Chamber of Commerce, or like using van Havenstein to formulate central bank's anti-inflationary policy.

Regardless whether you think Zhirinovskiy is an eccentric politician or just a clown in a business suit, there's no effing way he'd know what kind of weapons the Russkies have....  well, unless he heard soemthing from a taxi driver or from a shoe-shine boy!


Cognitive Dissonance's picture

First they mock you, then they fight you, then they rush to see who can be the first to agree with you.

Regardless of whether this particular post is all about something or nothing, the biggest roadblock to accepting that the world is not as it appears to our feeble brain and distorted perception is the word 'impossible' in 'that's just impossible'.

History is full of countless 'impossibles' eventually becoming possible just as soon as the human mind, more accurately his imagination, catches up to reality.

Kitler's picture

Sichuan China

Luminescent cloud 30 minutes before the earthquake.

achmachat's picture

I am about 400km east of Paris. Today we had a beautiful blue sky with a few clouds, and some of the clouds had exactly those rainbow colours in them. I took a picture with my phone.

If there's an earthquake here tomorrow or so, there might be something to this theory.

If not, then this means that sometimes you just have rainbows inside clouds. That's all.

Rusty Shorts's picture

The Rooster came first.

Minimum Clearance's picture

Excellent!  Finally an answer to an age-old conundrum!

AR15AU's picture

No, no the Iditarod began just days before the earthquake. All those Huskies mushing their paws in Alaska set off a butterfly effect which resulted in the devastation in Japan a few days later. Put this quackery about the atmosphere aside and lets study what we know is a fact - dog racing led up to the quake.

MrBinkeyWhat's picture

Who would have thunk it. The Earth has interrelated systems. Rub some tectonic plates together and it gets hot. Damn amazing.

Personally I have my "silver hat" on, and I blame DARPA. Bastards!

Nothing to see here...move on.

Manthong's picture

Got my Agfoil hat on too. Reminds of transistor theory.. Electron Pholes transiting semiconductive mediums (maybe the out of the earth's Ahole) with enough jig-a-watts to shoot a DeLorean back to the future.

hangemhigh77's picture

Look out Jersey, Russia is gonna take you out with a quake.

Acidtest Dummy's picture

Given the ubiquity eggs in nature, I'd have to guess that eggs preceded chickens.

Confucious 222's picture

Hate to HAARP on the subject, but there seems to be a causal connection between pumping billions of watts of power in particular directions and earthquakes happening along those lines.

Don't think there is any degree of remorse among those doing the pumping, either.

Ckashan's picture

Energy is neither created nor destroyed; only transferred.  Any layman can understand that simple precept of reality.

Mad Max's picture

Billions of watts, you say?  Is there a >5GW power plant near HAARP that I somehow missed?

Ahmeexnal's picture

Billions of fiat watts?
That means more watts will be printed outta thin air by the MIC!!