Possible earthquake early warning signal discovered


From the AGU: An atmospheric precursor to the recent Japan megaquake

Most scientists believe that earthquakes are inherently unpredictable, and reports of various kinds of earthquake precursor signals have been difficult to verify. However, in a new study, Heki reports a possible ionospheric precursor to the devastating 11 March 2011 magnitude 9 Tohoku earthquake in Japan. Analyzing data from the Japanese GPS network, he detects an increase in the total electron content (TEC) in the ionosphere above the focal region of the earthquake beginning about 40 minutes before the quake.

The TEC enhancement reached about 8 percent above the background electron content. The increase in TEC was greatest above the earthquake epicenter and diminished with distance from the epicenter. The researcher also analyzes GPS records from previous earthquakes and finds that similar ionospheric anomalies occurred before the 2010 magnitude 8.8 Chile earthquake, possibly the 2004 Sumatra magnitude 9.2 earthquake, and possibly the 1994 magnitude 8.3 Hokkaido earthquake, but TEC enhancements were not seen before smaller earthquakes.

http://www.agu.org/journals/gl/gl1117/2011GL047908/2011gl047908-op04-tn-350x.jpg

Figure 4 Total Electron Current (TEC) with time of earthquake events

Although previous studies have shown that earthquakes could trigger atmospheric waves that travel upward and disturb the ionosphere, it is unclear how an ionospheric disturbance could occur before an earthquake begins. In addition, the ionosphere is highly variable, and solar storms can trigger large TEC changes, so nonearthquake causes of any TEC enhancement need to be ruled out. The researcher states that, unlike previously suggested earthquake precursors, the TEC enhancement before the Tohoku quake had obvious spatial and temporal correlation between the quake and precursor signal as well as clear magnitude dependence. Further research is needed to verify that TEC enhancements can indeed be a precursor to large earthquakes.

Source: Geophysical Research Letters, doi:10.1029/2011GL047908, 2011 http://dx.doi.org/10.1029/2011GL047908

Title: Ionospheric electron enhancement preceding the 2011 Tohoku-Oki earthquake

Key Points

  • Positive TEC anomaly appears before M9 class events
  • The anomaly occurs above the epicenter and lasts ~1 hour
  • M9 class earthquakes can be predicted

Kosuke Heki

Department of Natural History Sciences, Hokkaido University, Sapporo, Japan

Abstract

The 2011 March 11 Tohoku-Oki earthquake (Mw9.0) caused vast damages to the country. Large events beneath dense observation networks could bring breakthroughs to seismology and geodynamics, and here I report one such finding. The Japanese dense network of Global Positioning System (GPS) detected clear precursory positive anomaly of ionospheric total electron content (TEC) around the focal region. It started ∼40 minutes before the earthquake and reached nearly ten percent of the background TEC. It lasted until atmospheric waves arrived at the ionosphere. Similar preseismic TEC anomalies, with amplitudes dependent on magnitudes, were seen in the 2010 Chile earthquake (Mw8.8), and possibly in the 2004 Sumatra-Andaman (Mw9.2) and the 1994 Hokkaido-Toho-Oki (Mw8.3) earthquakes, but not in smaller earthquakes.

81 thoughts on “Possible earthquake early warning signal discovered

  1. This is quite interesting – and I will have to read it properly tomorrow. Initially, my thoughts are that stress induction (by tectonic movements) into the crust may create some electro/magneto type interference and this is somehow transmitted to the ionosphere……so ‘detection’ of induced stresses may indeed be possible?? Going off on a limb – I am thinking in terms of the piezoelectric effect???

  2. Not very useful if a big sunspot like last week’s is galumphing across the solar disc. At first I was steeling myself for some connection to the C-word, I admit, but it never came. I’d not jump to the third conclusion that M9’s can be predicted.

  3. Wonderful news, if correct.
    It is not clear from the charts that a positive anomaly is easily identified, except ex post.
    Moreover, the text suggests that TEC is a very variable parameter, so that the process of monitoring what the level should be to find anomalies will be laborious at best. We might wind up with an earthquake alarm that predicts 1001 of the next 1 magnitude 8+ earthquakes, at great expense.
    Is that progress?

  4. I’m surprised that the article did not mention the fact that all the earthquakes mentioned in the abstract are *undersea* earthquakes. Could it be that the water magnifies an electric field created prior to the earthquake?

  5. I was paying attention until Key Point #3 ■M9 class earthquakes can be predicted

    Maybe it was the translation to English did not do it justice.
    Maybe it is technically true because the word “successfully” was omitted.
    But Point #3 as implied is way over the top and reduces the credibility of the entire paper.

    Just by looking at the picture of ?cherry-picked? instances, you can make a very good case that something happens to the TEC 10 to 20 minutes AFTER a quake. That in itself is an interesting development and worth study. Of course, the blackout of the nearby electrical grid might be just as important in cause and effect. But the claim that you can Identify a quake merely from the signal in the T = -200 to -10 minute window is absurdly weak.

    Yes, M9 quakes can be predicted. They are predicted by someone every day. 99.7% of the predictions are wrong. Successful predictions would be news.

  6. I suspect there’s some electromagnetic phenomenon detectable by humans and animals that pops up about 18 hours before a quake, based on my own experience during a swarm of small quakes in 2000.

  7. What could usefully be done with 40 minutes warning of a large earthquake?

    Where would you go? How many other people would be going? Would there be traffic gridlock because of mass panic?

  8. Note that the Sun had a massive CME about ten days before the 9 Tohoku event. Might there have been a gravitic wave associated with the CME that would elevate stress along the plate lines? These stresses would radiate the same gravitic energy perpendicular to the specific fault lines almost as if it were a flux field of it’s own. Electrons would be trapped against the sudden field as if it were a sail. This is difficult to explain as I’m visualizing it, but it really is a unique thing to explain thoroughly.

  9. Hmmm …. false or spurious correlation I wonder? How many times has a high total electron content (TEC) occurred as measured by equipment in the ionosphere YET no quake occurs. Being active on HF ham radio where an active ionosphere means enhanced non-line-of sight radio propagation on 3 – 30 MHz, there are times when propagation conditions become good, yet, we aren’t getting any magnitude 7 quakes …

    .

  10. To Billy Liar:
    Lots of things could be done in 40 minutes. How about an orderly shut down of nuclear power plants, gas lines, and airports? How about getting people off of elevators, away from glass windows, and out from other dangerous situations, like car mechanics under cars, utility workers off of poles, window washers off of high rises, and just generally people pulled over on roadways? 40 minutes is enough to get hospital workers to local care facilities, cops called and firemen notified.

  11. TEC???

    Is this akin to accumulated charge due to stress? Like piezoelectricity?

    Just wondering about the underlying physics.

  12. > … piezoelectricity?

    “Even though simple laws of physics limit the usefulness of piezoelectricity
    and streaming potentials as a mechanism to generate large currents in the
    ground, both processes have been widely invoked to explain EM emissions and
    magnetic anomalies before earthquakes. Unfortunately, neither piezoelectricity
    nor streaming potentials stand up to scrutiny, unless boundary conditions are
    allowed to exist, which are generally thought to be quite unrealistic.”

    http://www.quakefinder.com/EarthquakeTracker/EQTdata/Sparkle%20and%20Crack%20paper_freund.pdf

  13. I wanna know about the infrared and the ionosphere and I wanna know about Melinda Romanoff’s idea. Any connection to the sun? Volcanos seem to come when sunspots go. Maybe not and maybe it’s something else. A piezoelectric effect could have any number of causes.
    ============

  14. polistra says on October 3, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    I suspect there’s some electromagnetic phenomenon detectable by humans and animals …

    If detectable by humans and animals, measurable today using any manor of sensitive, automated EM apparatus; since we’re not seeing/getting any studies, results of EM phenomenon, either a) they aren’t observing anything or b) no one is looking at the phenomenon.

    I think a) is operative here; nothing of note has been observed. Between low frequency/static measurement devices like magnetometers, up in frequency to 60 kHz WWVB receivers, and then HF comms circuit (hams, military and some SW broadcast listening) one would think SOMEONE has seen or heard something worthy of further investigation, but they haven’t; that’s my point.

    .

  15. Piezoelectrics would be the telltales of a compressed force. Field frictions suddenly, where none had before existed. What bunched the fields and made them “hard” to electrons? This is what the TEC data seem to indicate. The infrared is the same compression, expressed radially. This phenomena represents a whole new way to look at the relationship between what we now call tectonic plates and the solar gravitic well. I want to know more.

  16. kim says on October 3, 2011 at 6:50 pm

    … A piezoelectric effect

    Maybe you’re thinking triboelectric effect – piezoelectric effect’s little-known (but more predominant than realized) relative?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triboelectric_effect

    The triboelectric effect (also known as triboelectric charging) is a type of contact electrification in which certain materials become electrically charged after they come into contact with another different material and are then separated …

    Think: Cat fur and glass rod, or shuffling one’s shoes across the carpet on a dry winter day and reaching for a doorknob for instance …

    .

  17. It’s interesting, but forty years of research has yet to demonstrate anything but spurious and unreliable precursory signals. What would be the mechanism? Streaming potentials from a dilating ocean crust ought to be attenuated completely by the overlying water. How does piezoelectricity generate any signal when the time constant due to conduction in the crust and seawater is far shorter than time constant of the mechanical effects? My bet is that it will turn out to be a serendipitous signal…

    –jim has this right. There are lots of ionospheric disturbances that presage no earthquake…

  18. Sea water is just a gas at different density, but treats potentialities differently due to its density and soluble impurities. What ever effect that might appear in sea water would need a dense pair of rock salt goggles to even see it.

    A gravitic resonant frequency along the solar gravity well, which would be unique to the Earth but equally, characteristic and unique to the Sun, could easily explain a build of tectonic stresses. Piezoelectrics , or Triboelectrics, may well be present, but they would still require a “hard” element and friction to manifest either. There may well be an energy threshold that’s broached at 8 Richter. Sure would be interesting to stick a balloon matrix in the air to sniff it out. I bet the seabed sonosensors of the NSA got some interesting data along that stretch. Pity they wont share. Ah, well, back to work.

  19. So what other geophysical phenomena occurred prior to the quake, and in the vicinity of same.

    Just the top ten list would do; like cloud cover; humidity etc ?

  20. “”””” Melinda Romanoff says:

    October 3, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    Sea water is just a gas at different density, but treats potentialities differently due to its density and soluble impurities. What ever effect that might appear in sea water would need a dense pair of rock salt goggles to even see it n “””””

    Nice work Melinda, I think you’ve nailed it.

  21. Some people sound derisive and off hand about scientists reporting observations that are curious and of interest to them…..!? These same scientists wish to study the matter further and say that if there is some sort of linkage, it could give potential for predicting large earthquakes. Nothing outlandish in those statements.

    ….. and everyone spits the dummy at them!

    Crikey, where’s yer sense of inquiry and curiosity people?…. are you so crushed by the thoughts of negative opinion that you dare not show interest?…. are you so easily humiliated by the wilfully ignorant or the deliberately perverse?

    I think it’s good. Study onward Japanese scientists….. you have my blessing and my interest.

  22. What a shame earthquake experts are unable to integrate the well corroborated theory and findings of Getino, Ferrandiz and Barkin. This note is from my Blackberry while travelling in a bus in distant parts. A google search will direct you to it. A brief overview in my Journal of Coastal Research. Celestial Mechanics can predict very large earthquakes as thes scientists and mathematicians show in severtal peert reviewed papers.

  23. John Bonfield says on October 3, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    To Billy Liar:
    Lots of things could be done in 40 minutes. How about an orderly shut down of nuclear power plants,

    Won’t get you across the ‘finish line’ in time; you need weeks of operating pumps pumping cooling water through heat exchangers et al for lingering ‘effects’ that continue in that time to produce thermal energy, never mind the continuing cooling requirements for the fuel ‘ponds’ on property.

    And know now, too, it was the tsunami ‘wave’ that did-in Fukushima Daiichi, destroying intake seawater pumps and all manor of equipment and offices above (and below) ground at the site.

    .

  24. Seems to me this is a classic correlation but that doesn’t mean causation example, but one that bears further investigation regardless.

    1. 40 minutes warning is way better than no warning.
    2. If there is a link to causation, the technique could very possibly be refined to provide earlier warning and for smaller earthquakes.
    3. Refinement of the technique would most likely lead to reduction or elimination of false positives.

    Seems to me that continued investigation is warranted.

  25. J.H. says on October 3, 2011 at 8:14 pm

    Some people sound derisive and off hand about scientists reporting observations that are curious and of interest to them…..!?

    Yes, those of us that have some observed and perhaps gained a little insight into the same ‘mechanism’ these scientists propose to study … we’re here to look at the possible drawing of potentially ‘false’ linkages or correlations. As you aware, “even a stopped clock is right twice a day” and if you accept a +- 5 minute window (call these “error bars”) then that same clock is ‘right’ for 20 minutes each day even though it is stopped (non-functional).

    There ought to be some Ionosonde data plots before, during and after the events back in March for Japan, too, indicating the HF propagation conditions. Perhaps a confirmation of higher TEC levels using a different mechanism, and there are a number of Ionospheric Sounders in operation by military, university and civil governments too. Ionosondes can be used in conjunction with single-site DF (direction finders) in order to gauge HF propagation and assist in making estimates on how many ‘hops’ (ionosphere – ground – ionosphere … reflections) an HF signal has taken.

    .

  26. Usual case of looking for something and finding an anomaly. Pure coincidence and wishful thinking unfortunately.

  27. George E. Smith; says:
    October 3, 2011 at 8:02 pm

    So what other geophysical phenomena occurred prior to the quake, and in the vicinity of same.

    Just the top ten list would do; like cloud cover; humidity etc ?

    Greece is prone to earthquakes. There is a type of cloud cover and color of clouds and “feeling” of weather, like “it is getting ready to rain” that makes some people characterize the weather as “earthquake weather”, weather that bodes. My opinion from observation is that it might be one of the possible precursors, but certainly not usable for predictions.

    There are telurian currents ( currents within the crust) correlated with earthquakes and used as precursors by some researchers from weeks to days: the common assessment is that the method is not robust and more or less coincidences are made into a model.

    Sometimes animals run away from their lairs, and dogs howl. That can be attributed to sound, from small cracks that precede the main one. There is a large sound just preceding an earthquake.

    A friend of mine was over a fault line when the second big one hit (6.3 Richter), which happened to be under a sea lake. She said that the whole lake shone during the quake ( a moonless night), like a flash.

  28. George E. Smith; says:
    October 3, 2011 at 8:02 pm
    So what other geophysical phenomena occurred prior to the quake, and in the vicinity of same.

    ==================================

    You may want to get some peer-reviewed responses from the other species besides our own. They might be able to help.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/zoo-mystery-how-did-apes-and-birds-know-quake-was-coming/2011/08/24/gIQAZrXQcJ_story.html

    Chris
    Norfolk, VA, USA

  29. John Bonfield says:
    October 3, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    Lots of things could be done in 40 minutes. How about an orderly shut down of nuclear power plants, gas lines, and airports? How about getting people off of elevators, away from glass windows, and out from other dangerous situations, like car mechanics under cars, utility workers off of poles, window washers off of high rises, and just generally people pulled over on roadways? 40 minutes is enough to get hospital workers to local care facilities, cops called and firemen notified.
    =====================

    It takes more than 40 minutes to shutdown a nuclear (or coal fired) power plant or gas line in an orderly fashion. The airport is also the same.

    40 minutes is a very short time. 40 minutes is nothing, it will go by in a flash.

    When the 40 minutes expires, the cops, and doctors and nurses that responded to the call will be on their way in when minute 41 arrives.

    Believe it or not, most people don’t live within 3 minutes of their job.

    A 40 minute warning will still be a disaster.

  30. An international team working below an Italian mountain has detected subatomic particles hanging out beneath the Earth’s surface, where they may very well be affecting things like earthquakes and volcanoes.

    Geoneutrinos — which are anti-neutrinos — result from the radioactive decay of uranium, thorium and potassium in the Earth’s crust and mantle. Like their regular-matter counterparts, geoneutrinos are chargeless and tiny, passing through matter almost undisturbed. Regular neutrinos are emitted by the sun and cosmic rays.

    http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2010-06/scientists-spot-geoneutrinos-which-might-help-drive-earths-internal-heat

    Strange little critters, them neutrinos! GK

  31. Mark H. says:

    It takes more than 40 minutes to shutdown a nuclear (or coal fired) power plant or gas line in an orderly fashion. The airport is also the same.

    40 minutes is a very short time. 40 minutes is nothing, it will go by in a flash.

    When the 40 minutes expires, the cops, and doctors and nurses that responded to the call will be on their way in when minute 41 arrives.

    Believe it or not, most people don’t live within 3 minutes of their job.

    A 40 minute warning will still be a disaster.

    As someone who experienced the Magnitude 9 quake here in Koriyama, Fukushima prefecture, I have to say your pessimism is quite irritating and basically wrong.

    We had basically zero warning on March 11th. By the time the seismic waves reached Koriyama, the quake early warning system at my workplace only then started to announce the quake, and by the time the automated system said “Shindo 2″ as the predicted seismic intensity, the intensity at that moment had already reached 3 if not 4 and I was saying to my work colleagues “This is way more than shindo 2″.

    Shortly after that I was shouting to my workmates that we should get the hell out of the building. I was opening the emergency exit doors (lab was 1 floor up) and then I was carefully going down the external stairway as best I could in – laughably – a full-blown blizzard which was also happening at that time.

    By the time I got down the stairs and was running away from the building towards the not very tall trash storage areas (where I could also have some shelter from the wind and snow), the quake was at it’s fullest intensity (Shindo 6+ where I was) and all I could do was gape at how terrible planet Earth can make conditions for the beings who walk and crawl on its surface.

    The current early warning system did not give sufficient warning, basically because the seismic sensors which have been laid all around the waters surrounding Japan, were designed for a maximum of a magnitude 8 quake. The system became overloaded and confused by the magnitude 9 mega-quake, and a late and false report was the result.

    A 40 minute warning would be fantastic for such quakes. SCRAMing a nuclear reactor 40 minutes before a mega-quake, I guarantee you, is a HELL of a lot better than trying to SCRAM one during such a quake.

    A 40 minute warning means more people can evacuate a building to areas which would be safer from falling debris and the likes.

    A 40 minute warning would mean evacuations from seafront towns can be orderly and would save more people.

    Sure, injury and deaths would still occur – you can’t guarantee 100% of people would be saved, but take it from me, a 40 minute warning on March 11th 2011 seems like an eternity compared to practically zero warning, and might – just might – have averted the nuclear disaster which followed on from it.

  32. John Bonfield says

    “Lots of things could be done in 40 minutes. How about an orderly shut down of nuclear power plants”

    Unless the plant operators panic at the quick drop in vessel pressure and manually bypass the automatic shutdown system.

    Hello Fukishima.

  33. RoHa/10:00 AM – yes, don’t catfish sense electrical field strength with their whiskers? Seems likely that something is happening to EM field due to tectonic stress. The fact that we only feel the quake after it has begun to unload the stress, doesn’t mean that a whole lot of stuff hasn’t already happened through processes at a scale or in modes we can’t detect (yet). Which is not to minimize the problem of false positives even if an underlying physical mechanism can be identified. Fascinating and potentially very important. Me, I’d rather have the warning than not.

  34. I see potential for AGW movement here.

    Atmospheric disturbances occur prior to earthquake ==> quakes are caused by changes in atmosphere ==> AGW can cause earthquakes.

    The theory that those evil deniers have been laughing at for so many years finally received a shocking confirmation!

  35. Come on guys, knock off the speculation a bit. Geophysicists still do not know what causes all earthquakes (especially shallow ones). Fault slip is not the only possibility. Mineral phase change is another. Radon-222 escaping and charging the ionosphere? Nope, there’s too little of it and too much water to dissolve it. Pizeoelectric stress? Was being investigated along San Andreas in 1977 by Sheldon Breiner of GeoMetrics. Animal behavior? Anecdotal. High flux of ionospheric electrons beforehand? Correlation is not causation, especially when it does not correlate well.
    Earthquakes are horrible, too common and too unpredictable. Let the experts work on them – and their aftershocks.

  36. The answer is incredibly obvious…. just before the big “snap” happens, there will be massive compression/decompression forces on the rocks. That’s where Piezoelectrics generate massive electrical currents throught quartz and other similar Piezoelectric minerals. Turns out some of the whacky Electric Univerise theory turns out to be correct again….. (note, I`m not defending the EU rubbish, just saying what`s fact)

  37. _Jim says:
    October 3, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    polistra says on October 3, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    I suspect there’s some electromagnetic phenomenon detectable by humans and animals …

    If detectable by humans and animals, measurable today using any manor of sensitive, automated EM apparatus; since we’re not seeing/getting any studies, results of EM phenomenon, either a) they aren’t observing anything or b) no one is looking at the phenomenon.

    I think a) is operative here; nothing of note has been observed. Between low frequency/static measurement devices like magnetometers, up in frequency to 60 kHz WWVB receivers, and then HF comms circuit (hams, military and some SW broadcast listening) one would think SOMEONE has seen or heard something worthy of further investigation, but they haven’t; that’s my point.
    ============
    the NOT looking is rather likely too.
    the barometric drop before a storm is usually reliable, however I find I get ripper headaches before! the barometer rather often. as soon as the storm breaks I get instant relief.
    horse get goofy and dogs snappy and silly. in unsettled weather. bees sting more at those times too.
    you just need to either take note, or talk to folks who live IN the environment with animals.
    a clear sunny morning can’t fool flowers either:-) Gazanias are my favorite, if its likely to rain they stay shut, or shut even in mid day if rains imminent..
    I would bet any fish round that ocean area , that could, also did a runner/swimmer:-) beforehand.

  38. Kevin, when you plan for disasters, you do not plan for everything to go right, you plan for everything to go wrong. Pessimism rules

    A reactor scram shuts down the chain reaction, it doesn’t eliminate the need to remove the heat and the pressure that builds up. It just stops a nuclear reaction.
    By what definition is an emergency scram an orderly</b? shutdown of a reactor?

  39. So (pretending to be a climate “scientist”) we now have positive confirmation that total electron content causes earthquakes. As electronics is obviously man made, this is clearly yet more proof that mankind is causing earthquakes. Therefore to prevent the catastrophic doomsday earthquake that I am now predicting (just after I retire), the world must invest in total electron content modified circuitry, which drains the evil electronics out, thereby eliminating all the evil electrons that are causing earthquakes … and the fact that I have the patent for all these devices has not in the slightest affected my judgement.

  40. Kevin Cave says:
    Feeling somewhat aghast at the “40 minutes too short/useless” comments here.

    Ditto.

  41. ggm says:October 4, 2011 at 4:04 am

    The answer is incredibly obvious…. just before the big “snap” happens, there will be massive compression/decompression forces on the rocks. That’s where Piezoelectrics generate massive electrical currents throught quartz and other similar Piezoelectric minerals.

    I haven’t done the maths, but the thought occurs to me that we might be best to view the atmosphere as a massive capacitor with two plates: earth and ionosphere. The ionosphere is simply responding to the changes on the other plate, suggesting that the earth itself is being massively charged — something which may be difficult to measure “in the capacitor” but very much apparent on the other end?

  42. Wow guys. The post did not say they could give a 40 minute warning. It said they were able to determine that the “buildup” started 40 minutes beforehand. Best case then is that they might be able to “see” enough to give a 30 minute warning IF they caught it at the beginning of the buildup.

    Yeah, that might be better than nothing. But how long does it take to climb down the stairs of say a 30 story building, especially if everyone from all 29 upper floors is using the stairs? What about even taller buildings? And if all that accomplishes is to get everyone out in the street between the canyons of tall buildings…

    It would be helpful in areas where folks could get away from tall buildings in very short order. But most places where that would be true don’t have tall buildings. So it could still help in areas with few or no tall buildings.

    But that is still assuming they could determine in less than 10 minutes that an earthquake was about to happen.

  43. After the Loma Prieta quake in California in 1989, Stanford University hosted conference to bring together all the observations that might have represented early warnings. Many people were there with business plans and prediction companies in the making.

    Two of the most interesting electromagnetic correlations came from first, a Stanford researcher doing work for the Navy on ultra-low frequency (4Hz) communication. His antenna was set up in the hills overlooking the Pacific not far from the epicenter and showed clear disturbances preceding the event. The second was from an amateur scientist who had built a “free power” clock for the Exploratorium in San Francisco, a unique and delightful self-generated science “museum.” It used a simple wire antenna strung outdoors, a rectifier circuit and a quartz digital clock. Along the way he started tracking the antenna output with a strip chart recorder. Low and behold he began seeing “things” in the output. The tides going up and down in the nearby SF Bay. Sunrise and sunset. Then a “huge” anomaly, with many spikes, a day or so before Loma Prieta. His hypothesis was that since granite under high shear stress changes electrical resistance by a large factor, that this would create local “dips” in the overall electromagnetic field close to the surface. The plan was to deploy hundreds of sensors around the Bay Area funded by amateur enthusiasts, using Radio Shack TRS-80 computers that would “phone home” periodically to create a networked “weather map” of electromagnetic anomalies. My, weren’t we advanced for 1989? The trouble was that interest in earthquakes decays exponentially after the event, so the network never happened.

    He did initiate a project to instrument the Parkfield Fault, arguably the most instrumented fault in the world, but the “seismograph guys” of the day were about as receptive to electromagnetic theories as today’s AGW folks are of cosmic ray theories. Nothing was ever proven, but it is worth noting that there were also Japanese scientists at the time very much involved in electromagnetic phenomena for many years.

    The problem is that there are a number of tantalizing correlational observations, but without a workable theory of causation, nobody really knows where to look – high frequencies or low; near the ground or the ionosphere and as on.

    The most entertaining “prediction system” was a packaged investment-ready business plan that had cages of gerbils, I think, with video cameras in the ceiling and software to analyze their movement and see when there were “disturbed.” Talk about a signal to noise problem!

  44. Just a thought, Would an increase in resistance from stess/strain along the fault just before a total failure of drag holding the fault in place create an electro magnetic field like a resistor in an electrical circuit?

  45. Since the earth has a magnetic field, an increase in resistance at a point in the field might act as a generator of electrons. I need to think about this a bit magnetic field interrupted to generate electricity and all that.

  46. John Marshall says:
    October 4, 2011 at 2:00 am
    Interesting but 40 mins. is far too short a time period to do anything to really help.

    =========================

    What are some of you smoking??

    0 minutes? Or 40 minutes?

    If I was a civil defense planner I would take 15 minutes or even 10 minutes over 0. But 40? Are you f-ing kidding me.

    Will take 40 minutes all day long.

    That could have saved many thousands of lives.

    Chris
    Norfolk, VA, USA

  47. Studying the data here leads me to an estimate that these researchers did a very good job. There appears to be a clear signal underlying the major noise. If Ol’Sol were not such a major factor in spewing electrical noise into our atmosphere, this relationship would undoubtedly have been detected much earlier and given credence. Unfortunately, due to that noise, this knowledge of a TEC precursor (assuming this research passes scrutiny) may be just as hard to put into useful warning system as it is to harness controlled nuclear fusion.

  48. Mark H. says:
    October 4, 2011 at 4:32 am
    Kevin, when you plan for disasters, you do not plan for everything to go right, you plan for everything to go wrong. Pessimism rules

    A reactor scram shuts down the chain reaction, it doesn’t eliminate the need to remove the heat and the pressure that builds up. It just stops a nuclear reaction.
    By what definition is an emergency scram an orderly shutdown of a reactor?

    “Pessimism rules”?

    I’ll go for rational thought over your pessimism any time.

    {self-snip a rant – can’t be bothered with you any more and it’s 0042hrs and I’m going to bed anyway – laters}

  49. Nice to see some consideration of new data here. There seems to be something electromagnetic going on before earthquakes that is at times detectable. Sporadic reports of animal behavior changes before quakes are one possible data point. If true, they are reacting to something. Another is a thing called earthquake light(s), which shows up before / during a quake at times. URL on the phenomena here: http://geology.about.com/od/earthquakes/a/EQlights.htm This leads some to suggest a piezoelectric power source.

    Only personal experience with EM and a quake took place here in Anchorage in the mid-1990s. A 5.8 hit in the middle of the night. Epicenter was about 15 miles from the house. Something woke my lady and I up a second or two before the ground started shaking. It sounded liked a loud crack. There were other reports in town that were mostly ignored. We can normally feel the arrival of the various waves depending on where we sit relative to the plane of rupture.

    Something appears to be going on. Unfortunately it does not appear to happen all the time. And there is far too little data to predict anything or even posit a theory. More data. More data. Cheers -

  50. Jim Lindsay says on October 4, 2011 at 7:08 am

    Since the earth has a magnetic field, an increase in resistance at a point in the field might act as a generator of electrons. …

    Which law of Faraday is this?
    (IOW, this is not exactly ‘unexplored science’, we’ve had a lot of theoretical and experimental work in this area in the last 150 some odd years).

    PS. A change in magnetic field flux density due to a change in the ‘resistance’ of the medium would be a change in permittivity. (technically speaking) just sayin …

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  51. ozspeaksup says on October 4, 2011 at 4:20 am

    the NOT looking is rather likely too.

    Not operative.

    While working throughout the day I routinely have a LW (longwave) receiver on (besides perhaps a receiver on 80 thru 10 Meters, 2M and even UHF) and tuned to an empty portion of that band (as time goes on more and more LW maritime and Aviation beacons are decommissioned this is easier to do) receiving pops and crackles generated usually atmospheric processes e.g. the ubiquitous thunderstorm experienced here in the lower end of ‘Tornado Alley’ but also man-made noises (such as when Fluorescent lamps are turned on and the cathodes are still cool, tube pressures low and they create a few minutes noise) … were something of an ‘unknown’ nature to spring up, a video and sound ‘camera’ would be brought to bear on the subject .. next step would be to get a directional bearing established on the source (easy to do with a ferrite loopstick at LW frequencies) …

    Yes, there are ppl ‘listening’. Note also the number of SWL boards springing up as the internet has evolved, there isn’t the dearth of monitoring activity a layman might otherwise assume (‘absence or proof is not proof of absence’ works a number of ways) …

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  52. agimarc says on October 4, 2011 at 10:08 am

    Only personal experience with EM and a quake took place here in Anchorage in the mid-1990s. A 5.8 hit in the middle of the night. Epicenter was about 15 miles from the house. Something woke my lady and I up a second or two before the ground started shaking. It sounded liked a loud crack.

    Ever tried creeping up the stairs stealthily in an old wooden frame structure? Nigh unto impossible given the creaking noises that emanate from every dried old joint that sees the least little bit of flexure with body weight exerted through a foot … extending that a bit, it would not take a lot of movement, but a fair bit of ‘force’ on a structure to induce pent-up tension (or compression) in a structure to release, given the right combination of factors … perhaps a slow precursor ‘roll’ in the quake caused something in the house to go ‘snap’?

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  53. What I can’t even mention HXXXP? I didn’t say I believe it (I don’t); I was just mentioning how some people will interpret this news.

    [ Reply: It’s explained in the site Policy. ~dbs, mod.]

  54. AFPhys says October 4, 2011 at 8:37 am

    Studying the data here leads me to an estimate that these researchers did a very good job. There appears to be a clear signal underlying the major noise. If Ol’Sol were not such a major factor in spewing electrical noise into our atmosphere,

    Just curious what you have in mind as ‘noise’ produced by ol’ Sol?

    Granted, tropospheric events like T-storms contribute there part on frequencies at/below 4 to 8 MHz, but above that we can still experience situations where ‘device noise’ inherent in pre-amplifiers (ostensibly the ‘low noise’ ) override the so-called terrestrial noise …

    Heck, even ‘terrestrial noise’ from the planet Jupiter can be heard, so noise produced by old Sol isn’t so overriding that it is ‘obscuring':

    http://www.radiosky.com/rjcentral.html

    Also note my mention of “ionosonde” above, these might show more promise in deducing what is happening at the ionospheric level than simply relying on some nebulous low-level emanation from that same level … a paper awaits for anyone wishing to explore that aspect …

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  55. marcoinpanama says on October 4, 2011 at 6:47 am

    After the Loma Prieta quake in California in 1989, Stanford University hosted conference to bring together all the observations that might have represented early warnings. Many people were there with business plans and prediction companies in the making.

    Two of the most interesting electromagnetic correlations came from first, a Stanford researcher doing work for the Navy on ultra-low frequency (4Hz) communication. His antenna was set up in the hills overlooking the Pacific not far from the epicenter and showed clear disturbances preceding the event.

    The gentleman might have been receiving what are termed ‘whistlers’ in that frequency range:

    http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2001/ast19jan_1/

    Excerpt fropm that webpage above:

    If humans had radio antennas instead of ears, we would hear a remarkable symphony of strange noises coming from our own planet. Scientists call them “tweeks,” “whistlers” and “sferics.” They sound like background music from a flamboyant science fiction film, but this is not science fiction. Earth’s natural radio emissions are real and, although we’re mostly unaware of them, they are around us all the time.

    “Everyone’s terrestrial environment almost literally sings with radio waves at audio frequencies,” says Dennis Gallagher, a space physicist at the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC). “Our ears can’t detect radio waves directly, but we can convert them to sound waves with the aid of a very low frequency (VLF) radio receiver.”

    Lightning strokes like this one are the source of the eerie-sounding radio emissions that surround us.

    More info – web search on whistlers.

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  56. Buy a dog and teach it to talk. They could let you know in advance of many happenings. They know a great deal in advance of natural phenominae, they just can’t tell us any specifics with their limited communication abilities.

  57. Piers Corbyn from weatheraction claims to be able to predict grand euarthquaks to some extent.

    In his words it is the influx of particles from the sun that cause earthquake. The particles apparently come from can allen belt and then hit earth and cause earthquakes.

    NExt mys speculation: IT particles, let say electrons hit ionosphere, they would set it vibration, causing resonation and low frequency radio waves that are detected by animals.
    – Also, electron influx would be high resulting in increase in electron content of atmosphere.
    – but what could set off the earthquake? Low frequency radiowaves?, electrical currents running trhu ground surface to magma bubbles?, some kind of magnetic reliefes to ground that free the locks hindering the builf up on tension? any suggestions?

  58. For those who don’t think 40 minutes warning is meaningful, consider how many tens of thousands of people would not have died in the 2008 Sichuan and 2010 Haiti Earthquakes. The vast majority died in buildings of shoddy construction that collapsed on them. 40 minutes or 4 minutes would have made a huge difference to them.

  59. @Kevin Cave

    In sparsely populated areas, 40 minutes warning of a major earthquake would be a boon. In densely populated areas, 40 minutes warning of a major earthquake would likely be a disaster even if no earthquake happened.

    As soon as the warning went out all cell phone coverage would fail due to overuse. The movement of people to safe areas would be problematical due to sheer numbers involved and there would undoubtedly be some who would not simply go to a safe area but have some other object in mind which they think they would have time to do: eg meet up with a loved one or go home or to school where children are located. Even if vehicle use was banned there would undoubtedly be many who would ignore the ban clogging up streets. It would be very difficult indeed to control what happened during the 40 minute warning unless the populace was well trained and inclined to follow instructions.

  60. uan says on October 4, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    For those who don’t think 40 minutes warning is meaningful

    May I pause and cite minus 1 point for a generating a strawman argument?

    Notwithstanding the fact that the ‘research’ above says “detects an increase in the total electron content (TEC) in the ionosphere above the focal region of the earthquake beginning about 40 minutes before the quake” and you’re assuming that TEC_only_ increases due to an impending earthquake __whereas__ TEC may increase for a number of other known reasons as well … therefore, cite an additional minus 1 point again for overgeneralizing the usefulness or utility of noting a TEC increase without including sufficient differentiating factors to specifically indicate the imminent occurance of an earthquake.

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  61. cromagnum says on October 4, 2011 at 11:15 am

    Not a single snark comment on [snip] phenomena, with the bonus of Ionosphere heating?

    It’s ALWAYS in the back of our minds or on the tips of our tongues … it is the lash and whip of moderation that drives our ordinate fear and compliance to the rules, however.

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  62. Tōhoku earthquake with 40 minute warning added to 15 to 30 minute delay for arrival of possible tsunami?

    Better than nothing.

  63. Jim says: “Ever tried creeping up the stairs stealthily in an old wooden frame structure? Nigh unto impossible given the creaking noises that emanate from every dried old joint that sees the least little bit of flexure with body weight exerted through a foot … extending that a bit, it would not take a lot of movement, but a fair bit of ‘force’ on a structure to induce pent-up tension (or compression) in a structure to release, given the right combination of factors … perhaps a slow precursor ‘roll’ in the quake caused something in the house to go ‘snap’?”

    First wave the normally hits is the P (Primary) wave, which is a compression wave. It travels faster than the secondary or surface waves. Energy release seems to be directional, for if you sit along the extended plane of slippage, you can really get thumped pretty hard. If you In the larger quakes, you get the initial thump from the P-wave and see what you get to ride out next. That night we felt both P and S waves. But something happened before the house started shaking.

    Homes up here are mostly wood frame construction sitting on a cinder block / concrete foundation, as they need to flex on a regular basis. They get moved around all the time, even by the wind, and do not store up a lot of unreleased energy.

    Take a look at the url for earthquake lights. Interesting phenomena. Haven’t seen them yet. Hope not to, as they seem tied to larger quakes. Thanks for the conversation and observations. Cheers -

  64. @oMan

    “don’t catfish sense electrical field strength with their whiskers? ”

    I don’t know. I’m not a catfish. But who would you rather trust – a catfish or a climate scientist?

  65. agimarc says on October 4, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    Take a look at the url for earthquake lights. Interesting phenomena. Haven’t seen them yet. Hope not to, as they seem tied to larger quakes. Thanks for the conversation and observations. Cheers

    Phenomena like this, as with ocean wave riding (surfing), are very often known, noted and then ridden by a cadre of technical radio enthusiasts (ham radio operators; including in their ranks a great many engineers, scientists, astronomy etc specialists) who live for rare ‘contact’ through the most obscure of propagation modes such as the auroral contact discussed on a thread within the last week here on WUWT or the more exotic Lightning scattering mode which lasts for a fraction of a second.

    On that note, I would be very surprised to learn the ‘earthquake lights’ are in any way electrical. Of note also in this discussion would be the NLDS – the National Lightning Detection Network which should be able to detect any broad-band source of RF energy with spectral content within the frequency range of the NLDS network (somewhere in the LW range I think). Researchers have access to this kind of information from NLDS; it would be an easy ‘prove’ and the basis for a paper were something there (again, I do not think there is anything to it but that does not a paper make.) All this does not make me a cynic, it just that I have spent a LOT of hours listening to radios often tuned to ‘empty’ channels listening, for anything, often hearing lighting (on the lower freqs) or DX (distant) stations or ‘pirate’ stations (running anywhere from a few watts to 100’s W) to milliwatt HF beacons like this one shown in this vid:

    A couple years ago, a friend on a drive with his wife swung through then state where this beacon is located; within a few miles a beacon of this nature has more ‘skywave’ (more energy from high radiation angles, like in excess of 50 degrees from horizontal) even from 5 miles away and is a very difficult animal to pin down (DF) and drive up to it!

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