Explained: Mexico City Earthquake Lights [Power Line Arcing and Transformer Explosions]

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member

2017 Mexico city earthquake lights Metabunk.jpg
Yesterday's 8.1 Magnitude Earthquake off the coast of Mexico was massive, and has caused significant damage and loss of life.
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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:
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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

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Note that these are different colors

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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.
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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.
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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.
 

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:

Earthquake lights have been reported many times in the past with explanations related to tectonic stresses and seismic activity. However, there is also reason to believe that in some of these instances it is simply a power supply being destroyed. Often times it's difficult to determine the exact sources of these lights, as is the case recently in Mexico.
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There's also a wikipedia page on the subject: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earthquake_light
 

DJC

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

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.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff 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.

There's no good evidence that "Earthquake lights" are a real phenomenon.
 
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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:

http://srl.geoscienceworld.org/content/85/1/159

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.
 

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.
http://www.dtic.mil/get-tr-doc/pdf?AD=ADA161385
 

Attachments

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mcdouble

New Member
Did they though? What's the camera position and direction there?
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.
 

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:
When studied individually, some EQL reports may appear questionable. However, a large number of eyewitness reports from certain areas (e.g., Saguenay, Pisco, L’Aquila), coupled with similarities with respect to shapes and colors (e.g., globes, flame‐like luminosities) for incidences in very different regions of the world should be taken as evidence that EQL occurrences are real and a widespread phenomenon. A unifying theory explaining the origin of different types of nonseismic, pre‐earthquake signals (including EQL) has recently been proposed, which is based on the generation of stress‐activated electric currents in rocks (Freund, 2010). Mobile charge carriers, termed positive holes or pholes, flow along stress gradients and eventually accumulate at the surface, ionizing air molecules and leading to the generation of luminosities, among other phenomena.

Our study has shown that the vast majority of EQL (i.e., 97%) have been observed in the following three tectonic environments: (1) intraplate rifts or grabens; (2) back‐arc or pull‐apart rifts or grabens (or paleorifts) located inland from subduction zones (orogenic settings); and (3) strike‐slip or transform faults, irrespective of the tectonic setting. The common characteristic of these three geological settings appears to be the presence of deeply penetrating subvertical faults, which exact role, passive or active, in phole propagation and EQL formation has yet to be resolved.

http://srl.geoscienceworld.org/content/85/1/159
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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.
 
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Rory

Senior 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.
http://www.dtic.mil/get-tr-doc/pdf?AD=ADA161385
Some notes from that report:
Although the reality of various luminous phenomena attending (some) earthquakes appears to be generally accepted as an observational fact by seismologists and is attested by thousands of eyewitnesses and even numerous photographs, there is little consensus on the description of these phenomena, much less any comprehensive theory of their causes.
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...there is evidence that some of these luminous phenomena are associated only with the fairly infrequent large-magnitude (M > ~6) earthquakes, and possibly with only a fraction of these that meet several special conditions.
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...there exist numerous photographs, many in beautiful color, of earthquake lights. Not surprisingly, these photographs were taken in Japan, where the devastation and frequency of large earthquakes places a high premium on their explication and prediction, and where the opportunity for observation is relatively high.

Although most of the recent literature on earthquake light comes from the Orient, observations of luminous phenomena attending earthquakes are by no means limited to Asia, nor to recent times. The excellent annotated bibliography compiled by Corliss summarizes many historical observations, of which the following excerpts are quoted as illustrative of earthquake light phenomena:
  • Three major earthquakes of 16 December 1811 (ca. 0200 hours), 23 January 1812 and 7 February 1812, epicenters near New Madrid, Missouri - "the atmosphere was remarkably luminous, objects being luminous for considerable distances, although there was no moon. On this occasion the brightness was general, and did not proceed from any point or spot in the heavens. It was broad and expanded, reaching from the zenith toward the horizon. It exhibited no flashes nor coruscations, but, as long as it lasted, was a diffused illumination of the atmosphere on all sides."
  • 16 August 1906, Chile - The sky all over Chile flashed with a quivering light.
  • 31 December 1730, Tokaido, Japan - Luminous bodies in sky and luminous air.
  • 21 October 1731, England - Quake followed by vivid lightning display.
  • 2 April 1730, England - Multitude of blood-red rays converged from all parts of the sky.
  • 13 December 1823, Bellay, France - The sky seemed to be on fire.
  • 24 April 1836, Italy - Great beams of fire in the sky.
  • ca. 1867, Algeria - Atlas mountains enveloped in a luminous atmosphere.
  • 17 December 1896, England - Many reports of vivid light flashes from region of earthquakes.
  • June 1932, Mexico City - Dull red glow in the sky and lightning during shocks.
  • 5 January 1968, Chiba, Japan - Fan-shaped light seen in sky.
  • 5 September 1975, Eastern Turkey - Sky brightening in direction of epicenter.
  • 28 July 1976, Tangshan, China - A brilliant light seen for hundreds of miles around quake area.
  • 13 April 1950, England - Red rays seen converging at zenith.
Although earthquake luminous phenomena have thus been known for centuries, it is only recently that they have become an object of serious study.
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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:

https://oh.chemheritage.org/oral-histories/mcmillan-william-g

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:
large earthquake hit New Zealand tonight so I started recording and during the peak of the shaking the sky began to light up with colours. seen from Wellington out east over the ocean – I also have the full video taken on my iPhone 7+ which shows the shaking time location+ more important information
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Rory

Senior Member.
The same explanation:

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.
 
But it doesn't logically follow that all illuminations that happen during an earthquake are caused thus.
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" :)

 

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.

http://www.dtic.mil/get-tr-doc/pdf?AD=ADA161385

A large factor contributing to this confusion is the dearth of scientific observations
and measurements. Nearly all of the eyewitness accounts have come from
untrained observers, and suffer from the large dispersion of eyewitness testimony
familiar in other contexts (e.g., traffic accidents)--but here, exacerbated by many
different events occurring at different times and places, and viewed from different
perspectives. Moreover, since the luminous phenomena are visible only at night, many
witnesses will have been abruptly awakened by the earthquake, which may induce a
degree of primordial excitement and mental stress since survival is likely to be
uppermost in their minds. Combined with the propensity of the dark-adapted eye to
exaggerate light intensities, these are scarcely optimal conditions for objective
observation.
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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.
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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.
 

Rory

Senior Member.
I find it rather suspicious that of the list of 14 examples of "Earthquake Lights" above, that five are from England.
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.)
 
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Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
(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.)

If you do a Google Image Search for chinese earthquake lights, you get this:
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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:
https://skeptoid.com/episodes/4534

But have there actually been any confirmed observations? He provided numerous studies, and there are a lot of cases where measuring equipment has been set up along earthquake-prone fault zones; and, sure enough, voltages have been detected before, during, and after quakes. It's highly inconsistent, but it does happen. Links to a few such papers are in the references below. As far as reliably observed lights, though? Still zilch. The same number as the Chinese recorded in their 19th century database.

My take is that most of the EQL phenomenon is sufficiently anecdotal that it should be dismissed pending decent evidence. What remains is plausible, though still backed up by only incomplete theory and poor evidence, and that's conventional lightning striking near active faults during quakes. It's a plausible idea, in search of better observations with better theory to explain them. When you hear claims of anything more, like the sky lighting up for minutes, or glowing colorful clouds portending quakes, or ball lightning bouncing around, you have very good reason to be skeptical.
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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:
Some scientists think that Earth’s crust may give hints before it ruptures, in the form of electromagnetic anomalies in the ground and atmosphere that occur minutes to days before an earthquake.

Kosuke Heki, a geophysicist at Hokkaido University, first got interested in the subject when he spotted an increase in the total electron content of the ionosphere above Tohoku about 40 min
utes before the magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck in 2011.

In 2011, Heki was skeptical of electromagnetic precursors. But since then, he has used the world’s growing array of GPS stations to identify similar signals before nine other major earthquakes. In addition, Heki has found that earlier anomalies precede stronger earthquakes, potentially reflecting the longer time needed to initiate rupture along larger segments of a fault. Now, he says he’s convinced there’s really something going on.

Scientists have yet to agree on a mechanism by which the crust could create electromagnetic signals. One idea is that rocks can generate positive charges when heated or stressed in the build-up to an earthquake, says Friedemann Freund, an adjunct professor of physics at San Jose State University in California and a senior scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. “When you stress a rock, it turns into a battery,” Freund says. “Not an electrochemical battery that you find in your car, but a new type of semiconductor battery that produces electrons and holes.”

These “holes” are positive charges that come from molecular defects known as peroxy bonds, which occur in most crystalline rocks and involve two oxygen atoms bonded together instead of to silicon or another element. At high temperatures and pressures, peroxy bonds break, causing them to pull in an electron from a neighboring atom, and leave behind a positively charged “hole.” This creates a chain reaction of electrons flowing toward the peroxy defect, effectively creating a cloud of positive charge flowing away, potentially to the surface and beyond.

With rocks, Freund says, “the faster you stress them, the more electricity becomes available.” He says this mechanism could explain numerous observations of strange occurrences before earthquakes, like mysterious lights emanating from the ground and the reported tendency for compass needles to dance around. Such positive charges may also propagate into the atmosphere to cause the ionospheric disturbances seen by Heki and others, although exactly how remains unclear.


www.sciencemag.org/news/2015/12/can-electric-signals-earth-s-atmosphere-predict-earthquakes
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Another fascinating interview with Freund and "the future of forecasting earthquakes" here.
 
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NobleOne

Member
Dunning's podcast was interesting - transcript here - 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:
Some scientists think that Earth’s crust may give hints before it ruptures, in the form of electromagnetic anomalies in the ground and atmosphere that occur minutes to days before an earthquake.

Kosuke Heki, a geophysicist at Hokkaido University, first got interested in the subject when he spotted an increase in the total electron content of the ionosphere above Tohoku about 40
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minutes before the magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck in 2011.

In 2011, Heki was skeptical of electromagnetic precursors. But since then, he has used the world’s growing array of GPS stations to identify similar signals before nine other major earthquakes. In addition, Heki has found that earlier anomalies precede stronger earthquakes, potentially reflecting the longer time needed to initiate rupture along larger segments of a fault. Now, he says he’s convinced there’s really something going on.

Scientists have yet to agree on a mechanism by which the crust could create electromagnetic signals. One idea is that rocks can generate positive charges when heated or stressed in the build-up to an earthquake, says Friedemann Freund, an adjunct professor of physics at San Jose State University in California and a senior scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. “When you stress a rock, it turns into a battery,” Freund says. “Not an electrochemical battery that you find in your car, but a new type of semiconductor battery that produces electrons and holes.”

These “holes” are positive charges that come from molecular defects known as peroxy bonds, which occur in most crystalline rocks and involve two oxygen atoms bonded together instead of to silicon or another element. At high temperatures and pressures, peroxy bonds break, causing them to pull in an electron from a neighboring atom, and leave behind a positively charged “hole.” This creates a chain reaction of electrons flowing toward the peroxy defect, effectively creating a cloud of positive charge flowing away, potentially to the surface and beyond.

With rocks, Freund says, “the faster you stress them, the more electricity becomes available.” He says this mechanism could explain numerous observations of strange occurrences before earthquakes, like mysterious lights emanating from the ground and the reported tendency for compass needles to dance around. Such positive charges may also propagate into the atmosphere to cause the ionospheric disturbances seen by Heki and others, although exactly how remains unclear.


www.sciencemag.org/news/2015/12/can-electric-signals-earth-s-atmosphere-predict-earthquakes
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Beautiful post. It's up and down the line with my beliefs and current understanding of the phenomena.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
I'm also not sure what qualifies him on the subject
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.
 

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.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff 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.
I'm not quoting him as an authority. It was just another take on the subject from someone who has done some research.
 
An intetesting article by Robert Sheaffer:

http://badufos.blogspot.it/2014/01/skeptics-and-claims-of-earthquake-lights.html
I am not saying that it is impossible there could be such a thing as "earthquake lights." What I am saying is that I have not seen any convincing proof that such things exist. I am aware that there exist copious anecdotal accounts of earthquake lights. I am also aware that there exist copious anecdotal accounts of supposed extraterrestrial spacecraft, angels, Bigfoot, etc. Until solid evidence is presented, I will regard all of the above alleged phenomena as highly dubious.
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mcdouble

New Member
The same explanation:

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.
 

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:
We are currently staying at the Amora hotel on the seventh floor. I woke up at midnight local time last night as I felt a slight tremor. [Ben] went to the window to look outside and as soon as he crossed the room the full brunt of the earthquake hit and he was thrown across the room. The noise from the earthquake was indescribable, it was incredibly loud, at the same time we could also see bright white flashes outside from power lines being ripped apart. It lasted 30 seconds but it felt a lot longer.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2016/nov/15/new-zealand-earthquake-floods-wellington-kaikoura
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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.
 
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mcdouble

New 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.
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.
 
J

Joe

Guest
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 .
 

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.
 

Rory

Senior Member.
A 2010 paper on earthquake lights before, during, and after a 2009 quake in central Italy begins with the premise that:
A review of observations has highlighted the well established existence of luminous phenomena [related to seismic activity].

https://www.nat-hazards-earth-syst-sci.net/10/967/2010/nhess-10-967-2010.pdf
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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.
 

Neil Whitehead

New Member
Many examples of earthquake light are now available on video and can be found with a Youtube search. Some are definitely due to electrical grid failures. A detailed paper giving criteria for differentiation from other origins is Whitehead and Ulusoy, Turkish Journal of Earth Sciences 28: 171-186, 2019. In the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake (New Zealand) many earthquake light examples were caught on video in the middle of electrical blackouts, and demand another explanation for which the best are the half-dozen papers by Freund and collaborators, in which by laboratory studies it was shown that stressed quartz can create a wave of positive charge which can create white light when it reaches ground surface. This becomes bluish further away due to Raleigh Scattering, another explanation from conventional physics. Some of the videos also captured flashes in low clouds which were not just reflections of ground discharges, though coincident with them. This field is becoming a subject for reasonable physics explanation.
 

Rory

Senior Member.
In the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake (New Zealand) many earthquake light examples were caught on video in the middle of electrical blackouts

Could you link to these please? And also information about how it was determined that there couldn't have been a man-made source for the lights? Thanks. :)
 

Rory

Senior Member.
I found your paper and the section that answers that question:

2.2. Derivation of methods to differentiate earthquake light from electrical faults In discussion threads on social media about earthquake lights it is very common to find comments like “This is just transformers/power lines exploding – I’ve seen many examples”. Electric grid malfunction is indeed the most likely of a highly dubious and partly tongue-in-cheek explanation list, which inevitably includes CERN, manga, superheroes, aliens, HAARP, and UFOs; however, there are many historical records of occurrence predating electrification (Thériault et al., 2014). Today, differentiation between grid problems and earthquake light is possible as follows.

On the web were readily found videos of 40 transformer explosions and 40 power line short-circuits/explosions, and the first relevant ones encountered were noted (references in the Appendix). The largest are the ones most like earthquake lightning, i.e. explosions of substations (e.g., Neil Whitehead, 2017, taqman 15, www.youtube.com/watch?v=9i4U5sfwTk4). In these the white core has a halo of blue typical of earthquake light, though the white core is sometimes due to simple sensor saturation of the video camera. There is usually smoke from associated fires, quite unlike earthquake light. Most large instances of earthquake light, if caused by electrical failure, would have to be demolitions of many substations, which conflicts with the large numbers of flashes seen close together during the earthquake and must rarely be the explanation.

Faults in smaller power transformers have even more smoke, some white and blue light, but orange predominates and is the last color seen as light diminishes, often due to the burning of electrical grid material. There are frequent changes of color around the central core on a scale of fractions of a second, and the central core is often a distorted sphere above the ground. Frequently these occurred during storm events. Transformer events are in the following figures and by these criteria are unlike earthquake light. Although fires were quite frequently associated with transformer failure flashes they were not noted with earthquake lights (Thériault et al., 2014). Some flashes seem to be electrically overloaded street lights followed by showers of sparks (e.g., Neil Whitehead, 2017, PHP, www.youtube.com/watch?v=09GGawoTLqY), but the sparks cannot be seen at a distance and hence are not seen in most videos.

The very smallest transformer and power line explosions are dominated by lots of smoke and little light, quite different from earthquake light. See Neil Whitehead (2017, Pace, www.youtube.com/watch?v=5CAAUsQZcUM). An example of the contrast is also available (Neil Whitehead, 2017, Zliper, www.youtube.com/watch?v=MztXSFlIM5g), in which a distant flash in the sky during an earthquake is much greater than the subsequent explosion of electrical outlets nearby in the street. In some of these videos are variable reddish lights from short circuits in vegetation, not seen in earthquake light videos.

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/330393553_Blue_sky_at_midnight_-_Earthquake_lightning
 
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FatPhil

Senior Member.
Another earthquake in Mexico near Acapulco happened last night. Several videos were taken of multiple flashes in the sky. Here are a few:
...
Seems like a good one to study for the EQL vs exploding power transformer debate.

All three clearly look like flashes at ground level being projected up onto the cloud-cover, not flashes *in* the sky. The third one in particular with it's glare-dominated imaging. I like how after all the spooky non-explainable stuff that's clearly not transformers blowing up had finished in the first one the town seems mostly out of power. Double spooky, eh, I bet them damn graboids are planning an attack any time now, and want us at our weakest! The second's a great example for "UFO"s (Unwanted reFlections in Optics) though.

Apologies for excessive sarcasm. It's a defence mechanism when my whelm-guage is stuck in the red.
 
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