Finally, a Way to Predict Earthquakes? Atmospheric Temp Spiked Before Japan Quake

By Veronique Greenwood | May 23, 2011 9:53 am

In this images of infrared radiation in the days before the March 11 earthquake, the red circle indicates the epicenter and the red lines are tectonic faults.

What’s the News: Scientists analyzing the March 11 earthquake in Japan will have the benefit of some of the most sensitive and comprehensive atmospheric data yet, thanks to satellites monitoring climate. And a team has now reported a strange effect—a sudden spike in the temperature in the atmosphere above the quake site—detected just before the event. If the spike was related to the quake, and other earthquakes do the same thing, it might help scientists predict such cataclysms in the future.

How the Heck:

  • The team’s analysis, which has not yet been published in a journal yet (only in the non-peer reviewed arXiv), finds that before the earthquake, the number of electrons in the ionosphere above the epicenter increased dramatically, peaking three days before, and the infrared radiation (that is, the heat) grew as well, peaking just hours before.
  • This finding is consistent with the idea that the planet’s atmosphere and geologic activity are linked through something known as the lithosphere-atmosphere-ionosphere coupling mechanism. As the arXiv Blog explains, this idea holds that when a tectonic plate is undergoing great stress before an earthquake, it releases radon gas. The gas ionizes the air, releasing lots of loose electrons, which then go on to cause the condensation of water, a process that releases heat.
  • So far, the connection doesn’t seem like an easily dismissible coincidence: After analyzing more than 100 other earthquakes, the researchers have found that large (>5.5 magnitude), shallow (<31 miles below the surface) quakes had similar correlations with atmospheric ionization and heat.

Not So Fast: Predicting earthquakes is fertile ground for cranks and plain-old bad hypotheses (Water running uphill! Animals acting weird!), and it’s easy to jump to conclusions with too little data. While the team hasn’t made any outlandish claims, a number of follow-up analyses are required to see whether this effect is reliably connected to quakes. This spike needs to be seen before more earthquakes, and it needs to be clear that it only happens when an event like this is imminent. If similar jumps in atmospheric ionization and heat can happen in the absence of a quake—that is, if there are lots of false positives—they’re no good as predictors.

The Future Holds: The paper still needs to be peer-reviewed and published, and that process will put the team’s analysis to the test. Once it’s over that hurdle, the scientists will continue looking for signs that this effect is linked to other large quakes, collaborating with others around the world to collect the necessary data. And scientists are hoping to meet this summer in a workshop to discuss this work, one researcher told LiveScience.

References: Dimitar Ouzounov, Sergey Pulinets, Alexey Romanov, Alexander Romanov, Konstantin Tsybulya, Dimitri Davidenko, Menas Kafatos, Patrick Taylor. Atmosphere-Ionosphere Response to the M9 Tohoku Earthquake Revealed by Joined Satellite and Ground Observations. Preliminary Results.

Image credit: Ouzounov, et al.

  • Adam Baum 2

    I’ve had it stuck in my mind for years that earths mantle and cosmic energy have a common
    thread. Linking satellite data already gatherd from both weather and deep space veiws ,
    may suggest more predictable conditions that lead to these type of disasters.

  • cominmars

    This is conclusive proof that HAARP was used to trigger the fault. “the number of electrons in the ionosphere above the epicenter increased dramatically, peaking three days before”. That kind of spooky action does not emanate from subduction zones a mile below the surface of the ocean. It can only be HAARP.

  • Matt B.

    Cosmic energy? I recommend that you unstick it, Adam.

    @2. Yeah, and your conspiracy theory about HAARP isn’t “spooky action”.

  • sharpiesrifle

    The Fukushima cooling systems were shut down with the STUXNET Virus just as the Tsunami came rolling in. All reactors, power generating stations, water pumping plants, all utilites worldwide are infiltrated with STUXNET. Our governments are doing this under the aegis of the UN Nations Agenda21 action plan.

    The full text of Agenda 21 was revealed at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (Earth Summit), held in Rio de Janeiro on June 13, 1992, where 178 governments voted to adopt the program.

    The Agenda for the 21st Century is to depopulate and rewild the planet.

    It’s a very noble plan, lets start with politicians, billionaires, royalty and the elites.

    Thank you Discover for letting me have my say.

  • Zachary

    I have a new conspiracy theory, it’s called, “I’m going on a murderous rampage against all those propagating conspiracy theories.” Sadly only those I target will actually prepare themselves but I’m in it for the long haul!

  • Lurker

    I’m joining Zachary! At least until the UFO videos come out proving this was caused by extraterrestrials. 😉

  • Ed Zachary

    The superheating would appear to be a natural phenomenon, perhaps also related to activity on the sun. A youtube amateur called ‘thebarcaroller’ predicted Japan’s earthquake based on readily available solar data.

    I have no idea if HAARP can influence earthquakes but it would seem unlikely that in 20 years of research, with ‘ionospheric superheating’ as a top priority, they haven’t figured out the correlation. And if so, why wasn’t an earthquake early warning system put in place a long time ago?

  • dave chamberlin

    new rule;
    Never blame on a conspiracy what could just as easily be blamed on human stupidity.
    Very very rarely are people smart and secretive in unison. Frequently they are stupid and it takes no concerted action at all for utter nonsense to become popular and thereby acceptable, or at least very marketable..

  • hey

    stop haarp from manipulating the weather!
    why WOULDNT it be top priority its population control! as the giant storms wipe out hundreds in the middle of the country!!

  • freedom

    sounds exactly like HAARP. we are running out of time to wake up people!!

  • ChuckB

    It just goes to show that we are all here at the sufferance of Mother Nature (or whatever), and if she decides she doesn’t like us very much — fugedabadit!

  • Gil

    The chaff to wheat ratio in the comments on this article skewed far from normal… do earthquakes release kooks?

  • Jessie

    I love how people just blow off viable, provable things as just conspiracy theories without even knowing what they are talking about. The REAL conspiracy theory is believing that HAARP and other secretive destructive things, especially population control, don’t exist. Wake the FU*K UP and stop being sheeple.

  • GuruOfChem

    @ Gil – yeah, the outpatients are out in force on this one.

    This is interesting evidence, but what was not mentioned in the article were the number of other earthquakes in the same area several days before the big slip. It seems entirely plausible that what they are tracking is not so much advance warning as it is the earthquakes that preceded the big tremor, and as such the predictive value of the data is pretty small. After all, if we could use the tremors that precede a big quake as predictors, we’d have been doing so for many years now, as there is LOTS of that data in the record. Unfortunately, there just isn’t any reliable way to predict large earthquakes on the basis of prior activity…

  • Josh

    Clearly, calling people names shows your prejudice, making all further comment biasedly mute. If you want to prove a point, slandering the opposition only shows you aren’t able to formulate you’re own thoughts rationally. While we lack definitive proof of what caused the temp spike, the Socratic method for conjecture is what drives science, and those ruling out anything plausible shows you aren’t able to think logically and without emotion. Clearly not a scientist.

    HAARP could easily cause this behavior, and should the earthquake be caused by HAARP, preliminary atmospheric temp spikes would have to occur. You are bombarding a location with concentrated electromagnetic waves. Sound far-fetched? It’s how you remove brain tumors noninvasively and without harm to the rest of your brain. Look it up.

    A geologist sent me this site who also follows HAARP. Can anyone calling others names boast similar credentials, or was the point of emotional comment to put others down to make up for your own self-esteem issues rather than speculate intelligently over cause and effect? If it isn’t HAARP, please provide another conjecture, preferably something cut more by Occam’s razor.

  • J


  • Karmen Chollett

    Youmadea couple

  • Matthew Blackett

    A claim of such heating associated with earthquakes has been ruled out in recent work (Blackett et al. [2011]. Exploring land surface temperature earthquake precursors: A focus on the Gujarat (India) earthquake of 2001. GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 38, L15303, 7 PP., 2011 doi:10.1029/2011GL048282). I wonder if detailed analysis of this Japanese event would show the same?


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