Good news from UVa, earthquake early warning may be possible

Study: Ozone From Rock Fracture Could Serve As Earthquake Early Warning

Ozone is a rare gas on Earth found mostly in t...

Ozone: Image via Wikipedia

— Researchers the world over are seeking reliable ways to predict earthquakes, focusing on identifying seismic precursors that, if detected early enough, could serve as early warnings.

New research, published this week in the journal Applied Physics Letters, suggests that ozone gas emitted from fracturing rocks could serve as an indicator of impending earthquakes. Ozone is a natural gas, a byproduct of electrical discharges into the air from several sources, such as from lightning, or, according to the new research, from rocks breaking under pressure.

Scientists in the lab of Raúl A. Baragiola, a professor of engineering physics in the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science, set up experiments to measure ozone produced by crushing or drilling into different igneous and metamorphic rocks, including granite, basalt, gneiss, rhyolite and quartz. Different rocks produced different amounts of ozone, with rhyolite producing the strongest ozone emission.

Some time prior to an earthquake, pressures begin to build in underground faults. These pressures fracture rocks, and presumably, would produce detectable ozone.

To distinguish whether the ozone was coming from the rocks or from reactions in the atmosphere, the researchers conducted experiments in pure oxygen, nitrogen, helium and carbon dioxide. They found that ozone was produced by fracturing rocks only in conditions containing oxygen atoms, such as air, carbon dioxide and pure oxygen molecules, indicating that it came from reactions in the gas. This suggests that rock fractures may be detectable by measuring ozone.

Baragiola began the study by wondering if animals, which seem – at least anecdotally – to be capable of anticipating earthquakes, may be sensitive to changing levels of ozone, and therefore able to react in advance to an earthquake. It occurred to him that if fracturing rocks create ozone, then ozone detectors might be used as warning devices in the same way that animal behavioral changes might be indicators of seismic activity.

He said the research has several implications.

“If future research shows a positive correlation between ground-level ozone near geological faults and earthquakes, an array of interconnected ozone detectors could monitor anomalous patterns when rock fracture induces the release of ozone from underground and surface cracks,” he said.

“Such an array, located away from areas with high levels of ground ozone, could be useful for giving early warning to earthquakes.”

He added that detection of an increase of ground ozone might also be useful in anticipating disasters in tunnel excavation, landslides and underground mines.

Baragiola’s co-authors are U.Va. research scientist Catherine Dukes and visiting student Dawn Hedges.

— By Fariss Samarrai

Abstract:

Ozone generation by rock fracture: Earthquake early warning?

Raúl A. Baragiola, Catherine A. Dukes, and Dawn Hedges

Engineering Physics, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia 22904, USA

(Received 10 August 2011; accepted 26 October 2011; published online 14 November 2011)

We report the production of up to 10 ppm ozone during crushing and grinding of typical terrestrial crust rocks in air, O2 and CO2 at atmospheric pressure, but not in helium or nitrogen. Ozone is formed by exoelectrons emitted by high electric fields, resulting from charge separation during fracture. The results suggest that ground level ozone produced by rock fracture, besides its potential health hazard, can be used for early warning in earthquakes and other catastrophes, such as landslides or land shifts in excavation tunnels and underground mines.

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

This isn’t a new idea though, a similar study was published in the Journal Remote Sensing (well before the editor resigned)

Variation in atmospheric ozone concentration following strong earthquakes

DOI:
10.1080/01431160802282862

N. D. Gangulya

Abstract

The changes in atmospheric ozone concentration for earthquakes (with a magnitude greater than 5.0 on the Richter scale and a depth of focus less than 35 km), which have occurred worldwide during the period from September to March for the years 1991–2006, have been studied with the help of satellite data obtained from Nimbus‐7 Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer (TOMS), Earth probe TOMS and the Ozone Monitoring Instrument. The trend of variation in total ozone concentration after all these earthquakes was found to be similar. The ozone concentration was low on the day of the earthquake, increased gradually after the earthquake and reached a maximum value and thereafter decreased to its normal value. The increase in ozone concentration was found to be dependent on the magnitude of the quake, depth of focus, wind direction and geographical location of the epicentre.

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51 thoughts on “Good news from UVa, earthquake early warning may be possible

  1. If you can find 2 rounded quartz rocks, (these are frequently used for landscaping near the Eastern Coastal Plain), rub them together in a dark room. A flash is visible inside the stones. (This is called triboluminescence.) Now smell the stones. They will smell like a burnt match. I always assumed that this was sulfur, but perhaps it is ozone.

  2. uh oh. Now we have to worry about ozone too. Maybe animals smell this and that is what causing them to act strange before a quake.Maybe something will come out of this but it seems I’ve read something similiar before this report.

  3. Junk science. The concentration of any gas released from the crust is affected by so many parameters that you cannot reliably deconvolute the quantitative deformation and crushing extent of rocks.

  4. I’m puzzled by the statement that the ozone levels required the presence of oxygen gas. So does the stress release the gas, then triboelectrially convert the oxygen to ozone? Seems to be a very “structured” experiment. I’m guessing there’s a large pool of untapped funds for early warning…

  5. I thought some Italian ‘experts’ had already discovered that toads were the alarm bells. Or was that the distribution of goat entrails?

  6. Predicting earthquakes is always 10 years out.

    People think I’m nuts when I say science should get out of the prediction business, but the reality is every corruption of the investigation process comes from people selling predictive capability of human knowledge to grant boards.

  7. So, essentially, this earthquake detection system is like looking to see if earth worms will crap themselves all suddenly like for no good go’damn reason?

  8. I really hate to be flippant, but I can’t resist. I hope Professor Baragiola is better at keeping records of his research than that other illustrious UVa researcher, Michael Mann.

  9. It’s obvious that the ozone is actually causing the earthquakes. Just because the ozone is at a higher concentration after the earthquake than before is no reason to doubt or be skeptical of this claim.

  10. Janice

    Similarly, there is no reason to doubt that collapsed buildings cause earthquakes. There’s just a little lag time due to Chinese aerosols.

  11. Musicians call the 5:2 resonance of Jupiter and Saturn a dezime.

    It is remarkable that on a geocentric view on the local meridian of a major quake (>7.0) to that time the moving solar objects have statistical significant often phase relations similar to music intervals from the Pythagorean scale.

    The phase relation is phi = abs (p2 – p1) , the ratio is R = t2/t1 = 1+ (phi/2Pi) .

    p2 p1 phi t1=c' R

    MO - NE = 179.08° g' 3/2
    SO - JU = 119.55° f' 4/3
    PL - SA = 119.0° f' 4/3
    MO - SU = 91.37° e' 5/4
    SU - NE = 87.71° e' 5/4
    UR - JU = 59.48° dis' 7/6
    SU - UR = 60.07° dis' 7/6
    MA - ME = 47.86° d' 9/8
    PL - ME = 47.86° d' 9/8
    ME - VE = 29.03° des' 13/12
    SA - MA = 30.45° des' 13/12
    NE - UR = 27.63° des' 13/12
    PL - MA = 149.45° ges' 17/12
    ME - SU = 21.53° ? 17/16
    MA - ME = 21.98° ? 17/16
    PL - JU = 21.61° ? 17/16
    VE - SU = 7.5° ? 49/48

    The 12 phase angles of 9 objects are 7.5°, 30°, 60°, 90°, 120°, 150° und 180° (error < ~2°).

    This pattern was the sky configuration in Sichuan, China, 12. Mai 2008 um 06:28:01 UTC (14:28:01 Local Time) 5.8 Million people were homeless.

    A summing up curve of these ‘harmonic’ special phase angles in 5 minutes steps for the month of Mai 2008 shows two strong peaks 12th Mai 2008.

    The Tsunami quake in Japan im March 2011 occurred on a geocentric sky pattern with multiple phase distances on the ecliptic of 10°.

    In the most cases this pattern has a match to the local meridian projected on the ecliptic. And this gives hope that a forecast may be possible to known locations of the borders of the plates.

    The positions at the quake in Kobe, Japan again were well known music intervals:

    Planet zu M.C. Länge Mode Winkel Fehler

    Mond -88.126° 116.424° 4 (90°) 1.87°
    Mars -53.17° 151.38° - - -
    M.C. 0° 204.55° - - -
    Pluto 35.44° 239.99° 10 (36°) 0.66°
    Jupiter 42.91° 247.46° 8 (45°) 2.09°
    Venus 44.88° 249.43° 8 (45°) 0.22°
    Neptun 88.61° 293.16° 4 (90°) 1.39°
    Sun 91.71° 296.26° 4 (90°) 1.71°
    Uranus 91.85° 296.4° 4 (90°) 1.85°
    Merkur 110.13° 314.68° 10 (36*3=108°) 2.13°
    Saturn 134.9° 339.45° 8 (45°*3=135°) 0.1°

    Although there is no mechanism in sight, it is remarkable that Earth quakes occur in harmony with solar objects. Moreover solar flares occur also at such harmonic heliocentric configurations:

    V.

  12. Very interesting, I was wondering if that was how animals can allegedly accomplish the same feat before I got down that far.

  13. Amsel says:
    November 17, 2011 at 1:40 pm
    Junk science. The concentration of any gas released from the crust is affected by so many parameters that you cannot reliably deconvolute the quantitative deformation and crushing extent of rocks.

    Which you have conclusively shown through extensive field measurements of the type suggested, right? You are probably one of those lights of science who, in the early 1800’s, suggested that passengers in a train would suffocate if the train exceeded 30 mph due to the vacuum created by the train’s passage through the air. Or ridiculed the idea of even attempting a solo airplane flight across the Atlantic. Or scoffed at the theory of continental drift. Or… Well, you get the gist.

  14. This one’s a little like those people who have predicted 27 of the last two recessions. It’s sooo much easier to pick up some sort of signal with hindsight than it is to correctly identify a signal with foresight.

  15. 1. Often the fractures occur many km underground where little oxygen is present.
    2. You would need to have detectors many km underground where the fractures are.
    3. The life time of ozone is really short and would never make it to ground level where the detectors would be placed. Therefore, the earthquake would be done and gone a whole lot of time before they would detect anything, if they ever do.
    4. Drilling is not exactly representative of a fracture.
    5. Anything to get grants.

  16. Translation: Maybe, could be, we hope, ought to and on and on. Give me money to study something interesting and maybe, if we are real lucky, we will come up with some magic formula, to accurately predict that which we have only a vague understanding of. More baffle gab.

    Something is desperately wrong with this and a host of other pictures. The science is interesting stuff and it will be cool to study it. That is the best and probably at this point the only reason to do so. That these researchers and so many others find it essential to make up crap to get funding is sad. I think ultimately counterproductive, it raises expectations that will probably never be met.

  17. How do animals distinguish between ozone from an earthquake fault and ozone from other sources — say an impending thunderstorm?
    Still though it is an interesting paper as long as you keep it in perspective and do not confuse it with divine revelation.

  18. If rocks are being crushed just before an earthquake, they should be making snapping sounds that could be received by underground acoustic monitors (geophones). With a triangular array of such devices, it should be possible to use correlation techniques to locate each fracture. Another possible indicator would be a change in the strain-response to lunar and solar tidal stresses in the ground.

    Perhaps the best way to predict the exact time of an known impending earthquake would be to detonate a huge explosive charge right at the center of maximum strain and trigger the event at a time of our choice.

  19. So, this research is telling us that if you are to drill rocks, have a good ventilation system so you don’t breath too much ozone… good to know!

  20. Well, there are many anecdotal reports of and measured responses of atmospheric and electrical disturbances in the days leading up to earthquakes. Perhaps some of these (and maybe ozone) will provide a process for prediction (that doesn’t just result in a lot of false signals).

  21. Good lord their own abstract debunks the possibility of ground based ozone detectors having any predictive value! It reads:

    “The ozone concentration was low on the day of the earthquake, increased gradually after the earthquake and…”

    They are proposing a network of gound based ozone detectors even though they cite data in their own abstract that says that the ozone levels don’t increase until AFTER the earthquake. They theorize that perhaps animals sense earthquakes before they happen by smelling the increase of ozone….that happens AFTER the earthquake.

    Does someone need to explain the words “before” and “after” to them? Never mind, clearly it got past the granting bodies and the peer review process too. Maybe they even get the grant money BEFORE they apply for it? And they do the lab work AFTER they publish the paper? Is that how this works? If not, does someone have a better explanation?

  22. Interestingly, Christian Friedrich Schönbein in who proposed ozone existed in 1840, named it after the Greek verb ozein (ὄζειν, “to smell”), from the peculiar odor in lightning storms.

  23. O/T but can’t even open TipsnNotes today anthony…

    17 Nov: BigGovernment: 80% of ‘green energy’ loans went to top Obama donors
    With Energy Secretary Steven Chu set to testify Thursday before the House Energy and Commerce Committee about the government’s $573 million loan to failed solar panel maker Solyndra, an explosive new list of energy loan amounts to President Obama’s top fundraisers, bundlers, and supporters has been released by Breitbart editor Peter Schweizer, author of Throw Them All Out.
    As the list reveals, 80 percent of all $20.5 billion in Department of Energy loans went to President Obama’s top donors. Furthermore, some of those dwarf in size those given to Obama bundler George Kaiser, owner of the now defunct Solyndra.
    The list—which features the likes of Google owners Larry Page and Sergey Brinn, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Ted Turner, John Doerr, and Al Gore—raises new questions about the procedures used to administer the now-controversial DOE loans…

    http://biggovernment.com/whall/2011/11/16/80-of-green-energy-loans-went-to-obamas-top-donors/

    ——————————————————————————–

  24. “Some time prior to an earthquake, pressures begin to build in underground faults.”
    =========
    Without trillions of motion detectors, this statement many never be expanded upon.
    But, it is fun to think so.

    Gaia, fully intends to kill those not prepared for the fury She can produce, only those that have heeded Her prior warnings and (gulp) adapted, have any chance for survival.
    (sorry, did I say that out loud?)

  25. Interesting. I’m inclined against it, though.

    For one thing, ozone would be a transient and occasional side-effect of rock stress, not nearly as reliable as (for example) directly sensing changes in the electrical field.

    For another, ozone definitely signals an impending thunderstorm, and the animal response to quakes is different from their response to approaching storms. For a storm they try to get as low as possible, and for a quake they get the hell out of here.

  26. I skipped the other responses because it is my bedtime, but this sounds to me like another money grab. “Hey, here is an interesting theory. Please give me a lot of money to research this for a few years.” Maybe we should send our kids to school so they can smell the difference between ozone and earthquake ozone. Better yet, we can install ozone sniffing stations around the world and panic people every time the planet shifts a little. Sigh!!!

  27. I hate to sound all tin hattish or Art Bell’sh, but I’ve read some story’s and/or reports of something called earthquake clouds. Wikipedia says: “In modern times, a few scientists claim to have observed clouds associated with a seismic event, sometimes more than 50 days in advance of the earthquake. Some have even claimed to accurately predict earthquake occurrences by observing clouds.”

    Could this discovery of leaking ozone and whatever interaction with the atmosphere create this? From the story above: “To distinguish whether the ozone was coming from the rocks or from reactions in the atmosphere, the researchers conducted experiments in pure oxygen, nitrogen, helium and carbon dioxide. They found that ozone was produced by fracturing rocks only in conditions containing oxygen atoms, such as air, carbon dioxide and pure oxygen molecules, indicating that it came from reactions in the gas. This suggests that rock fractures may be detectable by measuring ozone.”

    So, if I am sounding all Mad Hatterish, I apologize, but this story got my mind whirring…

  28. I feel that some people may be getting confused here.

    Two papers are referenced above, the subject of this thread: Prof. Baragiola who wrote about measuring ozone from rocks by using sensors located on the surface of the earth, and a paper by GANGUL who utilised a spaced based sensors to measure ozone in the troposphere.

    Baragiolas abstract does not refer to ozone levels increasing AFTER an earthquake, but GANGUL does.

    It seems to me that a spaced base system measuring ozone above the earths surface would expect to measure a delayed release of ozone from a quake, and that ground based sensors <1metre may be able to measure any incipient earthquake gas release.

    It must be worth a bit of research money.

  29. Volker Doorman, Harmonics are the foundation of the entire creation of the universe from the instantaneous creation of electrons in the vaccum, to their assembly into larger parts. The clouds of hydrogen produced make suns that produce the heavier elements, these elements are also harmonic in their creation. This leads to galaxies and solar systems, all harmonic, the music of the spheres are a fact, the harmonic scales are the universe. Thank you for your mathematics.

  30. Anthony, I think that you may have a bad physics intuition, after all. I don’t know what exactly leads you to hype similar papers. This one is based on a misunderstanding how earthquakes originate and grow. The evolution of a larger quake depends on a largely unpredictable combination of noises that sometimes lead to higher responses in the system etc. There’s no reason why some ozone should know about these random tragic outcomes in advance.

  31. “Anthony, I think that you may have a bad physics intuition, after all. I don’t know what exactly leads you to hype similar papers. This one is based on a misunderstanding how earthquakes originate and grow. The evolution of a larger quake depends on a largely unpredictable combination of noises that sometimes lead to higher responses in the system etc. There’s no reason why some ozone should know about these random tragic outcomes in advance.”

    That does not make sense!

    Ozone knowing?

    What about rocks moving, creating ozone which then gets sensed?

  32. I can see the calls now,………..”stop fracking drilling for shale gas! You are ruining our ozone detection system therefore it must be banned!” :-)

  33. Volker Doormann says:
    November 17, 2011 at 3:14 pm
    Although there is no mechanism in sight, it is remarkable that Earth quakes occur in harmony with solar objects.

    Did you forget the /sarc tag?

  34. The first time I heard that fish bite better as the barometer falls, I thought B.S.!! Water is nearly 1000 times as dense as air. There’s no way a fish under 5′ to 50′ of water can sense minute pressure changes in the air above it. It turns out they can and do (I’m still not sure how).

    I’m keeping an open mind on this for now. We understand very little about earthquake phenomena. There may be something to this.

  35. Atmospheric pressure has a large effect on tide heights, I suspect even fishes understand this :-)

  36. How much O2 is there in rocks that are thousands of feet beneath the surface?
    How long does it take ozone creatred thousands of feet down to reach the surface?
    Given the reactive nature of ozone, what are the odds that significant amounts of ozone would survive long enough to reach the surface?

  37. TomB says:
    November 18, 2011 at 7:29 am
    Volker Doormann says:
    November 17, 2011 at 3:14 pm
    Although there is no mechanism in sight, it is remarkable that Earth quakes occur in harmony with solar objects.

    Did you forget the /sarc tag?

    Try statistic.

    Research on this possible connection is complicated, but there are remarkable geometric structures to find. I start this research in the 90s after the quake on the 17th January 1994:

    followed by the quake on 16th January 1995.

    There were also a repetition of the geometry pattern of the xmas quake in 26th December 2004 on the 6th of January in 2006 on 06:45 UT. I was wrong with a prediction in June 2005 with 35 Minutes in time for that very date.

    The prediction of a time is not so difficult as the location, or the local meridian, because of some (2, 3, 4 or 6) symmetry axis are given.

    However, it cannot avoid the quakes, but maybe some death people.

    V.

  38. Amsel says:
    November 18, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    The approaches to earthquake prediction are mechanism-based and/or empirically-based.

    Yes, that’s all the way in science.

    The former will become problem of chaos, and the later will meet poor statistic results due to extremely low background probability (link).

    No. The problem of chaos is a problem of the scientist, because chaos does not exist as an observable in physics. It does suggest that there are structures in nature which are true and at the same time untrue. But this is impossible. There is only one nature.

    Empery must not mean statistic in general. To find out the ratio order of the Pythagorean harmonic tune scale it needs a living consciousness; it is not a food for the math tool statistic.

    Same with quakes on the sun and on the Earth.

    V.

  39. Spector says:

    Perhaps the best way to predict the exact time of an known impending earthquake would be to detonate a huge explosive charge right at the center of maximum strain and trigger the event at a time of our choice.

    Assuming you didn’t trigger an earthquake by drilling the shaft(s) to place the charge(s).
    You’d also want to ensure that the products of the explosion stayed underground. Unless someone can come up with a “clean” fusion bomb.

  40. polistra says:

    For another, ozone definitely signals an impending thunderstorm, and the animal response to quakes is different from their response to approaching storms. For a storm they try to get as low as possible, and for a quake they get the hell out of here.

    For animals which stand with their feet apart there can be a risk of electrocution from a nearby lightening strike to the ground.

  41. RE: Mark says: (November 19, 2011 at 7:32 am)
    Sub: Explosive Triggered Impending Earthquakes
    “Assuming you didn’t trigger an earthquake by drilling the shaft(s) to place the charge(s).You’d also want to ensure that the products of the explosion stayed underground. Unless someone can come up with a “clean” fusion bomb.”

    It might not require a nuclear explosion. Perhaps a long tube of high explosive such as C-4 or Torpex detonated from the bottom up and shooting a stream of gas right into the fault boundary would be sufficient. Right now, I would expect legal liability issues to be the primary reason that no one is in any great rush to try any such experiment.

    From the sequence of past Cascadia Subduction Earthquakes listed in the Wikipedia, I note the next one appears to be due within about 50 years of 2170.

  42. Raúl A. Baragiola says:

    “Such an array, located away from areas with high levels of ground ozone, could be useful for giving early warning to earthquakes.”

    Dr. Nandita D. Ganguly: “The observed increase in ozone concentration following earthquakes is due to dynamical disturbances and transport processes.”

    http://iccsir.org/images/Dr._Nandita_Presentation.pdf p. 39

    V.

  43. Volker Doormann says:
    November 19, 2011 at 1:44 am

    … Same with quakes on the sun and on the Earth.

    Maybe of interest for solar quakes here.

    The profile of solar protons on major events like on 23. February 1956, 03:33 UT is different to the galactic cosmic ray profile:

    Remarkable are the planetary alignments of simple integer ‘harmonic’ divisions of the 2Pi ecliptic circle:

    This was of interest in the 40s and 50s by J. H. Nelson from RCA:

    http://www.volker-doormann.org/nelson1.htm

    Thanks.

    V.

  44. RE: Volker Doormann: (November 19, 2011 at 9:35 am)
    “Dr. Nandita D. Ganguly: “The observed increase in ozone concentration following earthquakes is due to dynamical disturbances and transport processes.””

    If elevated ozone levels before a major earthquake were caused by an initial chain of foreshocks, I would think that acoustic and seismic indicators would be more sensitive. If previously absorbed ozone was being forced out due to high tensile stresses developing in the rocks just before an ultimate failure, then this might be a more predictive indication.

  45. RE Spector: (November 20, 2011 at 2:02 pm)
    “If previously absorbed ozone was being forced out due to high tensile stresses developing in the rocks just before an ultimate failure, then this might be a more predictive indication.”

    Of course, any previously absorbed ozone would tend to have a rather short lifetime, so we must presume a silent ozone generation or regeneration process in the rock due to the high stresses building up just before fracture for this to be a preferred detection method.

  46. Amsel says:
    November 18, 2011 at 2:03 pm
    @ D. J. Hawkins November 17, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    The approaches to earthquake prediction are mechanism-based and/or empirically-based.

    The former will become problem of chaos, and the later will meet poor statistic results due to extremely low background probability (http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg15320724.000-how-right-can-you-be.html). This is a common puzzle shared by earthquake prediction and global warming alarmism.

    The phenomenon you point to is very interesting. I wish you might have given a non-paywalled source, but I was able to hunt around on the web for alternate sources. The failure of weather prediction is well understood based on the examples extant. However, the analogy is reasonable only if we establish similarities in the rates of true-positives, false-positives, true-negatives, and false negatives. For the topic under discussion, I submit that your claim assumes facts not in evidence, precisely why more study is warranted. It may very well be that you are correct, but unless we look, we can’t know.

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