1. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    2017 Mexico city earthquake lights Metabunk.
    Yesterday's 8.1 Magnitude Earthquake off the coast of Mexico was massive, and has caused significant damage and loss of life.
    The quake was over 400 miles away from Mexico city, which escaped the worst of the damage, but still experienced deep swaying that caused lights and signs to swing around. One of the more dramatic results (in Mexico city) was numerous sparks, flashes, and bright explosions from power lines being damaged by the swaying, like in this video.

    via GIPHY

    Source: https://giphy.com/gifs/UkAXJx5b9KS6Q/html5

    The sky above was covered with a low layer of cloud, so the various flashed and explosions reflected off this, like in this video:

    When you can't see the transformer explosion or arcing, the flashes looked like strange lights in the clouds, almost like lightning.

    In this footage you can see a combination of the cloud lights with a matching flash on the ground, and more distant lights where the explosion is not visible.

    Source: https://youtu.be/9TZQ5YFk948?t=37s



    Note that these are different colors



    The light color varies because electrical explosions are colored by the environment of where the flash is. Both in terms of the chemistry affecting the plasma of the flash, and reflections from the immediate environment.

    The position in the sky also varies. The cloud layer is pretty flat, like a ceiling, so the more distance flashes look lower (where the illuminate the clouds), the closer flashers look higher. The very close flashes/explosions illuminate an area of cloud off the top of the image.


    The transformer explosion I used for the top illustration is from this video:

    Source: https://youtu.be/rHVh0KwG_0k?t=48s

    You might not think it's bright enough to illuminate the clouds, but that's because the frame I used is not of the actual explosion, which just looks like a white screen because it's so bright. Here's ten sequential frames from before, during, and after the explosion.
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2017
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  2. Leifer

    Leifer Senior Member

    During the 1994 Northridge quake, I witnessed power-line arcing.

    In those days I slept right next to my front door, and a 4:31am the QUAKE!! woke me, and I quickly ran outside.
    (20mi from epicenter, 6.7 mag)

    I saw many arc flashes in the hazy night sky.
    In fact....the flashes occurred in a direction emanating from the Northridge area (from my right), and traveled a path across the sky (to my left).....following the path of ground movement.
    It was quite spectacular and frightening at the same time.
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  3. Marin B

    Marin B Active Member

    According to this article by a geologist, 8.1 Earthquake Strikes Mexico: Produces Mysterious Bright Flashes Of Light, earthquakes themselves can release energy that produce light, though it also acknowledged that the source of the Mexico lights could also be from blown transformers:

    There's also a wikipedia page on the subject: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earthquake_light
  4. DJC

    DJC Member

    I just watched a video about how the lights had something to do with harp .....im glad you cleared that up ...
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  5. NobleOne

    NobleOne Member

    Is this happening on the specific places on Earth or everywhere? I do not believe that earthquakes are brought to reality by the movement of tectonic plates as current theory suggest. This lights only suggests to my simple mind that earthquakes have more connections to electromagnetic energy than tectonic plates. I also reject that this energy is created by the movement of tectonic plates somehow because it is more like a pressure releasing mechanism which possibly is released from the Earth because of the accumulation of this specific electromagnetic energy.
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  6. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    There's no good evidence that "Earthquake lights" are a real phenomenon.
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2017
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  7. mcdouble

    mcdouble New Member

    While many instances of earthquake lights are explained by power lines/transformers, I believe scientists have recently been more inclined to accept they may also be a separate, natural phenomenon as well. Here's a paper investigating instances of it:


    I remember during the New Zealand 7.8 magnitude quake last year, I saw flashes of light in the sky myself and there were a couple of videos like this one:

    Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vE_0_faP-M

    which are a bit harder to explain as the flashes seem to come from over the ocean. Certainly not enough to establish anything, but it seems possible that there is something to it, and maybe we'll learn more about it in time.
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  8. DasKleineTeilchen

    DasKleineTeilchen Active Member

    maybe offshore-oil-rigs? just a guess.
  9. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    Did they though? What's the camera position and direction there?
  10. Marin B

    Marin B Active Member

    Here's a 1985 document, attached and linked below, that appears to be a research paper on "Earthquake Light" contracted by the Department of Defense. I've read only the abstract, but it suggests that it's a real phenomenon.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Sep 10, 2017
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  11. mcdouble

    mcdouble New Member

    The person who uploaded the video said the flashes happened out to sea, but I suppose there's no real way to determine if that's true or not. I live in the same city and it's hard to tell where exactly the video is being taken, but it looks to me like it could be looking southeast over Island Bay, although I could be totally wrong about that. (also, there certainly aren't any oil rigs out there)

    Like I said, there's not enough evidence to conclude anything, but I don't think the idea that there could be some kind of natural phenomenon here totally far-fetched. I'm also probably biased since I actually saw it myself, but obviously a personal anecdote isn't worth anything.
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  12. Rory

    Rory Senior Member

    There does appear to be quite a lot of serious, genuine study into 'earthquake lights', and also plenty of video examples. One of the problems with the videos, though, is that they're generally over urban areas - understandable; that's where the people and the cameras are - so it's difficult to rule out the exploding transformer hypothesis in all cases.

    I did find this interesting, as published in the Seismological Society of America's Seismological Research Letters (Jan 2014), which concludes:
    The authors of the report - who include a Senior Researcher at the NASA Earth Science Division and a geologist at the Department of Natural Resources, Quebec - therefore conclude not only that EQLs are a "real and widespread phenomenon", but also that their occurrence is likely dependent on certain environmental conditions.
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2017
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  13. Rory

    Rory Senior Member

    Some notes from that report:
    Notably, most of those occurred long before the advent of power line transformers.

    The report was authored by W.G. McMillan of McMillan Science Associates, and sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) of the US Department of Defense. McMillan was also a professor of chemistry at UCLA for 30+ years, among other things:


    Also, regarding the New Zealand earthquake video above, this is what Zachary Bell, the guy who captured it, wrote when he posted it to youtube:
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2017
  14. ufoofinterest

    ufoofinterest Member

    The same explanation:

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  15. Rory

    Rory Senior Member

    That's a video of a power line transformer exploding during an earthquake and (presumably) illuminating the night sky. But it doesn't logically follow that all illuminations that happen during an earthquake are caused thus.
  16. ufoofinterest

    ufoofinterest Member

    Of course, but we know that those lights caused by transformers explosion are often mistaken for 1) earthquake lights 2) alien portal 3) ufo.

    I will never forget the "Fort Worth transformers explosion" (May 2011) mistaken for an "alien invasion" :)

  17. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    The point of this thread is that the Mexico City lights during the Earthquake were mostly, if not entirely, explosions and electrical arcs from man-made sources.

    I think many historical examples can also be explained by something else many here are familiar with - the fact that most people are much less familiar with what goes on in the sky than they think they are. Before or after an Earthquake they will look at the sky (or perhaps just remark on what they saw earlier). At night, people run out into the unlit darkness, a very unfamiliar situation for many of them.

    I find it rather suspicious that of the list of 14 examples of "Earthquake Lights" above, that five are from England - a place that get about as many Earthquakes per year as California gets per day - and then usually of the 4.0 variety or lower. Two of these are "red rays converging", which sounds exactly like anticrepuscular rays.
    Similarly other examples sound like other well known sky phenomena that are perhaps not well known to the individual - things like iridescent clouds, circumhorizon arcs (fire rainbows), sun dogs, sun columns, moonlit clouds, the glow of distant city lights, lightning. So while I would not rule it out, I'm highly skeptical of any individual report of light during an Earthquake having some kind of direct seismic origin.
  18. Rory

    Rory Senior Member

    It's actually four from England: including two from the 1730s, and one from the late nineteenth century. I initially thought his point was to show that these things had been recorded going back hundreds of years - England therefore more likely to have records than the US - though what he actually says is that the list of fourteen are "illustrative of earthquake light phenomena", meaning that they're representative of type rather than where earthquakes take place.

    It would be interesting to see the aforementioned "annotated bibliography" in its entirety. I believe it's taken from William R. Corliss's Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena: A Catalog of Geophysical Anomalies (1983, with an updated and expanded version published in 2001).

    (The last five pages of that report, by the way, are detailed accounts of the lights which occurred before and during three different Chinese earthquakes in the mid-70s.)
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2017
  19. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    If you do a Google Image Search for chinese earthquake lights, you get this:
    Of the actual images of the sky, most are of ordinary halo (refraction) or diffraction phenomena, and one that looks like the lights of a city behind a hill.

    Brian Dunning has a nice podcast on them:
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2017
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  20. Rory

    Rory Senior Member

    Dunning's podcast was interesting - though contained a bias I found impossible to ignore.

    Interesting that he posited the theory that EQLs may be "more of a cultural phenomenon than a physical one", citing an old study that found no mention of them in China - presumably he was unaware of the examples mentioned by McMillan.

    I'm also not sure what qualifies him on the subject, whereas the Freund (et al) paper has been referenced by National Geographic and Science, among many others:
    Another fascinating interview with Freund and "the future of forecasting earthquakes" here.
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2017
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  21. NobleOne

    NobleOne Member

    Beautiful post. It's up and down the line with my beliefs and current understanding of the phenomena.
  22. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    Nothing qualifies him, any more than anything qualifies me or you to comment on Flat Earth theories.

    The bottom line here is that the evidence for these lights is almost entirely anecdotal. One does not need to be an expert on piezoelectricity to see that.
  23. Rory

    Rory Senior Member

    I guess what I mean is, why quote him on this? I'm pretty sure no one's quoting me as an authority on flat earth. ;)

    Especially when there are scientists such as Freund stating that EQLs are a "real and widespread phenomenon" - therefore not asking so much the question "are they real?" as "what causes them, and how can learning about them be useful?"

    And not that any of this is evidence that the lights in Mexico City weren't due to exploding power line transformers - nor does it explicitly disprove the statement "there is no good evidence for earthquake lights" - but I think it does suggest that they're not quite so easily dismissed.

    That Science, National Geographic, the USGS, the SSA, et al are reporting on it and looking for causes rather than evidence would suggest to me that EQLs are more widely accepted than Dunning might have us believe.
  24. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    I'm not quoting him as an authority. It was just another take on the subject from someone who has done some research.
  25. ufoofinterest

    ufoofinterest Member

    An intetesting article by Robert Sheaffer:

    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 11, 2017
  26. mcdouble

    mcdouble New Member

    That's actually the same town I was in during the earthquake, although what I saw was in the opposite direction, well behind distant hills, and was lighting up the entire horizon. I suppose the same thing could have caused it, but it seems unusual to me. At the risk of adding another anecdote to the pile, there was also a blog post by a leading geologist who says he saw the phenomenon: http://blog.tepapa.govt.nz/2016/11/16/seeing-earthquakes/

    I agree that there isn't enough evidence to say EQL are real, but I suppose it is just a difficult subject to study as you never know where or when a sufficiently strong earthquake is going to occur.
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  27. Rory

    Rory Senior Member

    I contacted the guy who posted the New Zealand 2016 supposed EQL video and he told me that he was on McLintock Street in Johnsonville north of Wellington. He did send me a general idea of the direction too, and said he would get back to me with an exact bearing.

    Going by the information I have so far, it seems that he was most likely looking in a south of easterly direction across residential streets and then the bay, rather than the ocean.

    I had a quick look around and it seems that power outages were reported in Lower Hutt, which is in that general direction, so the most likely explanation appears to be that the lights he saw were from exploding transformers there.

    Exploding transformers were also reported further south, as seen from central Wellington:
    And for the Mexico City earthquake, given how far away the epicentre was, exploding transformers are the obvious explanation, as demonstrated in the OP.

    As for the question as to whether there's "no good evidence for earthquake lights" at all - I feel like I want to say "the jury's out." On the one hand there are skeptics like Dunning and Shaeffer saying in personal blog posts - not "articles" ;) - that, on the balance of things, they are unproven and unlikely to constitute a real phenomenon; and on the other hand, there are scientists and experts in the field, cited in some of the most respected publications, who call them "real and widespread". But perhaps that's an appeal to authority, and perhaps those scientists and experts are wrong. Certainly, I'd like to know more about Corliss's publications, which does seem to have attracted a little skepticism, and is perhaps the source of a lot of these claims.

    I did find the work of Kosuke Heki interesting, however, as he appears to have discovered "anomalies of ionospheric total electron content" preceding earthquakes; and the sheer number of reports of EQLs - many going back to way before electrical powerlines came into being - I find somewhat hard to ignore - but I guess there's no solid evidence, as yet. There may be something there, and science may discover it and prove it one day - but that hasn't happened yet.
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2017
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  28. mcdouble

    mcdouble New Member

    Very interesting, given that information it does seem the most likely direction the video is being taken is to the east or northeast, which would put Petone and Lower Hutt behind the hills that can be seen and the most likely source of the flashes. Also given how similar the effect appears to the flashes of light from the Mexico quake, I agree that power lines/transformers seem the most likely explanation.
  29. Joe

    Joe Senior Member

    Was out during the hurricane Irma on Florida's east coast and kept seeing this bright light in the sky , Thought it was the Nuke plant in St Lucie blowing up . Thats how bright it was . It continued as I traveled home heading south 2 miles was a arcing wire about 12 feet long off a power pole .
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  30. NobleOne

    NobleOne Member

    Hm, this thread presented some eyewitnesses and some folks here are still not convinced. Well, in court, this would be case closed, but in science it won't happen until it is described & explained in current understandable and determined framework.

    Anybody saw this phenomena directly above his/her head or is it visible only when looking at the horizon? Also some recorded atmospheric conditions in numbers would be nice.
  31. Rory

    Rory Senior Member

    A 2010 paper on earthquake lights before, during, and after a 2009 quake in central Italy begins with the premise that:
    The paper goes on to detail 241 reports of earthquake lights in the region, beginning about nine months before the strongest shock, and ending five months after. Lights from natural phenomena and those suspected to have been caused by the breakdown of electrical equipment were excluded.

    The interesting things for me:
    • Reports of lights seemed to have a start and end date. One imagines if these lights were occurring all the time, they would be reported at non-earthquake times also
    • Related to that, I have lived in a place - Crestone, Colorado - where strange lights are often seen over the mountains. Were there to be an earthquake there, would people remember that there were always lights? (I suspect they would: it's a popular topic of discussion.)
    • The author, Cristiano Fidani, was at the time of the report in a post-doc position within the National Institute of Nuclear Physics (INFN) at the University of Perugia
    • He has published many other papers relating to seismic phenomena, including researching the links earthquakes and: solar activity; particle precipitation; Extremely low frequency (ELF) signals; electromagnetic anomalies; and, in particular, animal behaviour
    • He has also co-authored a paper hypothesising that the image on the Turin Shroud could have been created by earthquake-caused changes in atmospheric conditions.