Earthquake lights (2)

The phenomena of earthquake lights, mysterious lights in the sky during seismic activity, is still not clearly understood (check out the previous post about Earthquake Lights). Now, new research reveals interesting discoveries that might give a better scientific explanation about the phenomena. A presented research at the Bulletin of the American Physical Society, APS March Meeting in Denver, Colorado demonstrates that high voltage signals can be generated by shifting soil layers. This process could result in a substantial electrical  discharge. The authors explain that the phenomena can be simply reproduced by filling a plastic container with flour and tipping it back and forth until cracks appear. 

Electrical spikes of 100 volts or more can result when a crack opens and closes in bed of powder

On a larger geophysical scale, during large catastrophic slip events (such as landslides and earthquakes) such a process can potentially be responsible for the observed earthquake lights.


Read the abstract here.

Read the interview with Professor Troy Shinbrot:

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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>