Earthquakes may be caused by currents of positively charged ions emitted by explosions on the sun’s surface, according to a new study
- Researchers in Rome studied the link between solar eruptions and earthquakes
- They discovered that new earthquakes occurred within 24 hours of coronal mass emissions
- This can be caused by electromagnetic disturbances in the Earth’s surface caused by large currents of positively charged ions that have erupted from the sun
Earthquakes are notoriously difficult to predict, but a new study suggests they may be related to explosions on the sun’s surface.
A team of researchers from the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology in Rome investigated the relationship between coronal mass ejections – large release of plasma and other particles that often follow solar flares – and the frequency of earthquakes.
They found that within 24 hours of major explosions on the sun’s surface, there was a significant increase in the number of earthquakes around the world that measured at least 5.6 on the Richter scale.
Researchers in Rome found a strong correlation between solar eruptions and new earthquake waves of at least 5.6 on Earth
“This statistical test of the hypothesis is very significant,” said researcher Giuseppe De Natale Astronomy.
“The chance that we happen to notice this is very, very low – less than 1 in 100,000.”
For the study, the team analyzed data from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) satellite, a collaborative project of NASA and the European Space Agency, which orbits and records data on coronal mass ejections, including the time and magnitude of each.
The team compared the SOHO data with 20 years of earthquake data from Earth and found that when positively charged ion currents from the sun were at peak strength, the number of earthquakes would increase significantly about 24 hours later.
To explain the connection, the team pointed to the piezoelectric effect, the well-documented phenomenon of quartz that delivers electrical pulses when an external force causes it to compress.
The team suggested that electromagnetic disturbances caused by positively charged ion currents from coronal mass ejections could cause electrical pulses on the Earth’s crust, which could cause tectonic plates and faults to move and create new earthquakes
Quartz makes up about 20% of the Earth’s crust, and the team suggested that the Sun’s large currents of positively charged ions cause electromagnetic disturbances when they enter Earth’s atmosphere, which in turn causes a quarter gallon to compress in the Earth’s crust.
The quarter gallon then begins to release electrical pulses that can cause certain tectonic plates and faults, causing new earthquakes.
This could also explain the well-documented phenomenon of radio wave disturbances and earthquake lighting – strange flashes of light in the sky that coincide with earthquakes, even without other storm activity.
Past research suggested that these electromagnetic events may be caused by the earthquakes themselves, but the latest findings suggest they may be part of the same broader phenomenon that first triggered the earthquake.
The team admits that their findings so far have only established a correlation between solar eruptions and earthquakes, and further research is required to firmly establish causality.
WHAT CAUSES EARTHQUAKES?
Catastrophic earthquakes are caused when two tectonic plates that slide in the opposite direction get stuck and suddenly slip.
Tectonic plates are composed of the Earth’s crust and the upper part of the mantle.
Below is the asthenosphere: the warm, viscous rock conveyor belt on which tectonic plates ride.
Not all of them move in the same direction and often collide. This creates tremendous pressure between the two plates.
Ultimately, this pressure causes one plate to shake under or over the other.
This releases a tremendous amount of energy, causing vibration and destruction to any property or infrastructure in the area.
Severe earthquakes normally occur over fault lines where tectonic plates converge, but minor vibrations – which still occur on Richter’s sales – can occur in the center of these plates.
Earth has fifteen tectonic plates (pictured) that together form the shape of the landscape we see around us today
These are called intra-plate earthquakes.
These remain largely misunderstood, but are believed to occur along minor faults on the plate itself or when old faults or fractures are reactivated far below the surface.
These areas are relatively weak compared to the surrounding plate and can easily slip and cause an earthquake.
Earthquakes are detected by tracking the size or magnitude and intensity of the shock waves they produce, also known as seismic waves.
The magnitude of an earthquake differs from its intensity.
The magnitude of an earthquake refers to the measurement of the energy released where the earthquake originated.
Earthquakes originate below the earth’s surface in an area called the hypocenter.
During an earthquake, part of a seismograph remains stationary and part moves with the earth’s surface.
The earthquake is then measured by the difference in the positions of the stationary and moving parts of the seismograph.