Advertisement

Pure and Applied Geophysics

, Volume 176, Issue 8, pp 3439–3450 | Cite as

Co-seismic Earthquake Lights: The Underlying Mechanism

  • Friedemann FreundEmail author
Article
  • 161 Downloads

Abstract

Earthquake lights (EQLs) have long been considered mysterious natural phenomena, for which no good physical explanation seemed to be available. Crucial to understanding EQLs, in particular the intense flashes of light bursting out of the ground while S waves propagate, is the presence of peroxy defects in igneous rocks, in particular in gabbroic rocks that typically fill the subvertical dykes in regions of past extensional tectonics. The peroxy defects tend to locate along grain boundaries or may even link adjacent mineral grains, making them highly susceptible to ever so slight displacements of mineral grains. Thus, the passage of an S wave will instantly activate peroxy bonds. If the number density of the stress-activated peroxy is so high that their delocalized wave functions overlap, the entire rock volume must instantly expand, supported from within by an electronic degeneration pressure. This process will be followed by a momentary dissociation of the peroxy defects, generating e′ and h· charge carriers, causing the volume to instantly contract again, at least partly. If an electric discharge can burst out from the top of the dyke, removing some of the charge carriers and generating an EQL, an additional volume contraction can be expected occur.

Keywords

Earthquake lights earthquake lightning earthquake flashes triboluminescence piezoelectric piezomagnetic active faults electric breakdown arcing flashover transformer explosions 

Notes

Acknowledgements

I thank an anonymous reviewer tor very insightful comments and suggestions. This study draws on work that was supported by the NASA Ames Research Center through several “Director’s Discretionary Fund” (DDF) grants, by the NASA “Earth Surface and Interior” (ESI) Grant 2010 NNX08AG81G_S03, and through a Goddard Earth Science and Technology (GEST) Fellowship at the Geodynamics Branch, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. I thank Dr. Bobby SW Lau and Dr. Akihiro Takeuchi for their contributions to the experimental work. I thank Professor Charles W. Schwartz, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Maryland, for laboratory support.

References

  1. Anonymous. (2010). Registran enormes luces en el cielo durante terremoto de 8.8 grados de magnitud que destruyó Chile, in Actualidad, Lima, Peru. https://web.archive.org/web/20100301224159/http://www.peru.com/noticias/portada20100228/83581/Registran-enormes-luces-en-el-cielo-durante-terremoto-de-88-grados-de-magnitud-que-destruyo-Chile.
  2. Batllo, F., LeRoy, R. C., Parvin, K., & Freund, F. (1990). Dissociation of O2 2− defects into paramagnetic O in wide band gap insulators: a magnetic susceptibility study of magnesium oxide. Journal of Applied Physics, 67, 588–596.  https://doi.org/10.1063/1.345984.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Batllo, F., LeRoy, R. C., Parvin, K., Freund, F., & Freund, M. M. (1991). Positive hole centers in MgO—Correlation between magnetic susceptibility, dielectric anomalies and electric conductivity. Journal of Applied Physics, 69, 6031–6033.  https://doi.org/10.1063/1.347807.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bortnik, J., Bleier, T. E., Dunson, G., & Freund F. (2010). Estimating the seismotelluric current required for observable electromagnetic ground signals. Annales Geophysicae 28, 1625–1624.  https://doi.org/10.5194/angeo-28-1615-2010.
  5. Chen, E.-H., & Chang, T.-C. (1998). Walsh diagram and the linear combination of bond orbital method. Journal of Molecular Structure: THEOCHEM, 431, 127–136.  https://doi.org/10.1016/S0166-1280(97)00432-6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chen, Q.-F., & Wang, K. (2010). The 2008 Wenchuan earthquake and earthquake prediction in China. Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, 100(58), 2840–2857.  https://doi.org/10.1785/0120090314.
  7. Corliss, W. R. (1982). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights: A Catalog of Geophysical Anomalies. The Sourcebook Project, Glen Arm, MD. 248 pages, 74 illustrations, 1070 refs. ISBN 915554-09-7.Google Scholar
  8. Derr, J. S. (1973). Earthquake lights: a review of observations and present theories. Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, 63, 2177–2187.Google Scholar
  9. Diaz, A., Friedman, J. S., Luciano, S., Martinez, S., Hernandez, A., de Jesus, J., & Maldonado, P. M. (2015). Propagation of Electromagnetic Waves through Homogeneous Media, paper DTE06 presented at ETOP Meeting of the Optical Society of America.Google Scholar
  10. Edwards, A. H., & Fowler, W. B. (1982). Theory of the peroxy-radical defect in a-SiO2. Physical Review, 26, 6649–6660.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fidani, C. (2010a). The earthquake lights (EQL) of the 6 April 2009 Aquila earthquake in Central Italy. Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences, 10, 967–978.  https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-10-967-2010.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fidani, C. (2010b). ELF signals by Central Italy electromagnetic network in 2008–2010, paper presented at GNGTS-Gruppo Nazionale di Geofisica della Terra Solida. Italy: Trieste.Google Scholar
  13. Finkelstein, D., Hill, U. S., & Powell, J. R. (1973). The piezoelectric theory of earthquake lightning. Journal of Geophysical Research, 78, 992–993.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Finkelstein, D., & Powell, J. (1970). Earthquake lightning. Nature, 228, 759–760.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Freund, F., Batllo, F., & Freund M. M. (1990). Dissociation and recombination of positive holes in minerals. In L. M. Coyne, S. W. S. McKeever & D. F. Blake (Eds.), Spectroscopic characterization of minerals and their surfaces (pp. 310–329). American Chemical Society, 390  https://doi.org/10.1021/bk-1990-0415.ch016.
  16. Freund, F. T., & Freund, M. M. (2015). Paradox of Peroxy Defects and Positive Holes in Rocks, Part I: Effect of Temperature. Journal of Asian Earth Sciences, 2015, 373–383.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jseaes.2015.04.047.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Freund, M. M., Freund, F., Butow, S., Korvink, J. G., & Baltes, H. (1996). Hole injection into MgO from self-trapped positive hole pairs, paper presented at American Physical Society. APS, St. Louis, MO, USA: Annual March Meeting.Google Scholar
  18. Freund, F. T., Hoenig, S. A., Braun, A., Momayez, M., & Chu, J. J. (2010). Softening rocks with stress activated electric current, paper presented at 5th International Symposium on In-situ Rock Stress (ISRSV). China: Beijing.Google Scholar
  19. Freund, F., & Masuda, M. M. (1991). Highly mobile oxygen hole-type charge carriers in fused silica. Journal of Materials Research, 6(8), 1619–1622.  https://doi.org/10.1557/JMR.1991.1619.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Freund, F. T., Takeuchi, A., & Lau, B. W. (2006). Electric currents streaming out of stressed igneous rocks—A step towards understanding pre-earthquake low frequency EM emissions. Physics and Chemistry of the Earth, 31, 396–399.Google Scholar
  21. Freund, F., Whang, E.-J., Batllo, F., Desgranges, L., Desgranges, C., & Freund, M. M. (1994). Positive hole– type charge carriers in oxide materials. In L. M. Levinson & S.-I. Hirano (Eds.), Grain boundaries and interfacial phenomena in electronic ceramics (pp. 263–278). Amer. Ceram. Soc.: Cincinnati, OH.Google Scholar
  22. Galli, I. (1910). Raccolta e classificazione dei fenomeni luminosi osservati nei terremoti. Bolletino della Societa Sismological Italiana, 14, 221–448.Google Scholar
  23. Heraud, J. A., & Lira, J. A. (2011). Co-seismic luminescence in Lima, 150 km from the epicenter of the Pisco, Peru earthquake of 15 August 2007. Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences, 11, 1025–1036.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Johnston, A. C. (1991). Light from seismic waves. Nature, 354(6352), 361.  https://doi.org/10.1038/354361a0.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kathrein, H., & Freund, F. (1983). Electrical conductivity of magnesium oxide single crystal below 1200 K. Journal of Physics and Chemistry of Solids, 44, 177–186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lamica, C. (2014). Earthquake lights Santa Rosa/Napa earthquake, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RknvjVTCFhM.
  27. Li, K., Kang, C., & Xue, D. (2012). Relationship between band gap and bulk modulus of semiconductor materials. Materials Focus, 1(1), 88–92.  https://doi.org/10.1166/mat.2012.1014.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Liboff, R. L. (1984). Criteria for physical domains in laboratory and solid-state plasmas. Journal of Applied Physics, 56(9), 2530–2535.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lockner, D. A., Johnston, M. J. S., & Byerlee, J. D. (1983). A mechanism for the generation of earthquake lights. Nature, 302, 28–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Matsushiro-Earthquake-Center. (2000). Catalogue of literature and documents on the Matsushiro Earthquake Swarm. https://dil-opac.bosai.go.jp/publication/nied_tech_note/pdf/KJ-01_198.pdf.
  31. McMillan, W. G. (1985). Earthquake light. In Final Report, 1 Mar. 1983–15 Aug. 1986 McMillian Science Associates, Inc., Los Angeles, CA. Rep. AD-A61385 (p. 53). Geophysics/STI, Los Angeles.Google Scholar
  32. Milne, J. (1911). Earthquakes and Luminous Phenomena. Nature, 87(2175), 16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Ouellet, M. (1990). Earthquake light and seismicity. Nature, 348(6301), 492.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Papadopoulos, G. (1999). Luminous and fiery phenomena associated with earthquakes in the East Mediterranean. In M. Hayakawa (Ed.), Atmospheric and ionospheric electromagnetic phenomena associated with earthquakes (pp. 559–575). Tokyo: Terra Scientific Publishing.Google Scholar
  35. Ricci, D., Pacchioni, G., Szymanski, M. A., Shluger, A. L., & Stoneham, A. M. (2001). Modeling disorder in amorphous silica with embedded clusters: The peroxy bridge defect center. Physical Review B, 64(22), 224104–224108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Scoville, J., Sornette, J., & Freund, F. T. (2015). Paradox of peroxy defects and positive holes in rocks Part II: Outflow of electric currents from stressed rocks. Journal of Asian Earth Sciences, 114(Part 2), 338–351.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jseaes.2015.04.016.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. St-Laurent, F., Derr, J., & Freund, F. (2006). Earthquake lights and the stress-activation of positive hole charge carriers in rocks. Physics and Chemistry of the Earth, 31(4–9), 305–312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Thériault, R., St-Laurent, F., Freund, F., & Derr, J. (2014). Prevalence of earthquake lights associated with rift environments. Seismological Research Letters, 85(1), 159–178.  https://doi.org/10.1785/0220130059.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. USGS. (2018). Earthquake Booms, Seneca Guns, and Other Sounds. https://earthquake.usgs.gov/learn/topics/booms.php.
  40. Wengeler, H., & Freund, F. (1980). Atomic carbon in magnesium oxide, Part III: Anomalous thermal expansion behavior. Materials Research Bulletin, 15(9), 1241–1245.  https://doi.org/10.1016/0025-4395408(80)90026-4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. West, M. (2017). Explained: Mexico City Earthquake Lights [Power Line Arcing and Transformer Explosions], Metabunk.org; https://www.metabunk.org/explained-mexico-city-earthquake-lights-power-line-arcing-and-transformer-explosions.t9044/.
  42. Whitehead, N. E., & Ulusoy, U. (2015). Origin of earthquake light associated with earthquakes in Christchurch, New Zealand, 2010–2011. Earth Sciences Research Journal, 19(2), 113–120.  https://doi.org/10.15446/esrj.v19n2.47000.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Yasui, Y. (1973). A summary of studies on luminous phenomena accompanied with earthquakes. Memoirs Kakioka Magnetic Observatory, 15(2), 127–138.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Carl Sagan CenterSETI InstituteMountain ViewUSA
  2. 2.GeoCosmo Science and Research CenterLos AltosUSA
  3. 3.NASA Ames Research CenterMoffett FieldUSA
  4. 4.Department of PhysicsSan Jose State UniversitySan JoseUSA

Personalised recommendations