Earthquake lights

A very interesting article about earthquake lights has been published in this month Seismological Research Letters. Earthquake lights are an aerial phenomenon when unusual light is seen just above the ground or high up in the sky before and/or during an earthquak. Mysterious lights in the sky have been a sensation ever since but their appearance has long had baseless explanations suggesting either mythical beliefs and  fictional theories such as visiting aliens. This new publication catalogues a list of reported earthquake lights and finds that glows happen most often in geological rift environments, where the ground is pulling apart. As expected  this article has attracted strong interest of various media worldwide including: NatureNational GeographicSci-NewsiScienceTimes, and many others.

Here are some interesting footage of earthquake lights on YouTube:

Japan 7.4 M Earthquake:


30 mins before the 2008 Sichuan earthquake in China


Peru earthquake


Matthew Agius is a recent PhD graduate from the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies in Ireland and is now doing research at the University of Southampton (National Oceanography Centre). His research focuses on the dynamics of the lithosphere beneath Tibet, the Central Mediterranean, and the Pacific Ocean. Matthew’s role as a young scientist representative is to promote the efforts done by young researchers and to engage in discussions that concern seismology students. You can reach Matthew via e-mail at


  1. Looks like an interesting phenomenon. What causes it? It would be interesting to know what the findings in Seismological Research Letters state – especially for those who can’t access the paper – perhaps this could be a topic for a follow up post?

  2. Hi Sara,

    There a number of hypotheses describing what causes the earthquake lights. For example one model suggests that earthquake lights are generated from naturally occurring electrical processes in certain types of rock that burst out at the surface to make electric discharges in the air. Another explanation is local disruption of the Earth’s magnetic field and ionosphere in the region of tectonic stress, resulting in the observed glow effects.

    The authors from the Seismological Research Letters concluded that the generation of earthquake light is related to the angle of the fault, with subvertical (nearly vertical) faults in rifting environments having the most incidences of earthquake lights.

    These lights remain somewhat mysterious due to their rare occurrence. Hopefully, with more people having digital cameras and phones, and with so many CCTV in operation, this phenomena can be captured more and investigated further.

  3. Hi Sara,
    New research possibly explaining earthquake lights have been made.
    Read about it in this post:

  4. Great, thanks!

  5. i have my appeal. eartquake lights on how far from earthquake point is reveled? wellllll sichuan earthquake lights or clouds what far from sichuan 200km? 300? 400? so it can be associated with the video. ? who will decide what is relevant? some one randomly uploaded it to the internet. so how do you decide that you? need to appeal to this. at it can not provide scientific data

    if you act like urban legends increases. than it would be hard to fix them. such as scientists try. these phenomamena have to stay. inaccurate imformations the reason for the phenomenon. overview.

    birisi bir video yüklüyor ve şansa sichuanda deprem oluyor. hemde 400 km uzağında ve basit düşünenler hiç bir bilgiye dayanmadan halk arasında söylem ve benzetme yoluyla hemen sichuan işareti kabul edilmesi kabul edilemez bir hatadır. ben buna itiraz ediyorum.

    siz kabul ederseniz sizin için bu fenomen olmaya devam edecektir. çünkü doğru olmayan bir şey hakkında doğru gibi kabul ettiğinizde sonuca gidemezsiniz.

  6. hergün youtubeye kontrolsüz onlarca bilim dışı videolar yüklenmekde doğrulugu denenmemiş bu videolar sonrasında yanlış bilgiler ve kararlar verilmekde halk ve cahil kesim aldatılmakdadır.

    iyiki buraya birde haarp videosu koymamışınız. çünkü o tür videodada kuzey ışıklarını şili 8,0 magnutude deprem ışıgı olarak gösterdiklerini gördünüzmü. kuzey enlem nere şili nere. yoksa koydunuzmu o videoyu?

    izleyip bilimsel tarafını kabul edilemeyecek saçma videoları yayınlamayınız.

  7. Nice information, thank you for sharing it.


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