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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Captivating “earthquake lights” in Morocco

Earthquake lights make their appearance just before seismic upheavals, leaving both dedicated researchers and casual onlookers spellbound.

In the realm of the natural world’s mysteries, “earthquake lights” stand out as a captivating enigma. These ethereal, dancing lights, adorned in a palette of captivating colors, have perplexed scientists for centuries. Just before the recent earthquake in Morocco, these mysterious lights once again made an appearance, adding an eerie prelude to the seismic event. Despite extensive research, the origin of these lights remains a baffling puzzle, yet their undeniable existence continues to captivate both scientists and casual observers.

Earthquake Lights in History

The phenomenon of earthquake lights dates back to ancient Greece, where accounts of strange luminous occurrences before earthquakes have been documented. Throughout history, these baffling lights have been spotted across the globe, leaving witnesses awestruck and confounded. The recent emergence of videos capturing earthquake lights, such as the ones preceding Morocco’s 6.8-magnitude earthquake, has reignited interest in this natural phenomenon.

Read More: National football team of Morocco donates blood for earthquake victims

Kaleidoscope of Forms

Earthquake lights are a kaleidoscope of visual manifestations. They can take on various forms, each as mesmerizing as the last. Some resemble ordinary lightning, while others manifest as luminous bands in the atmosphere, akin to polar auroras. In certain instances, they materialize as glowing spheres suspended in midair, evoking an otherworldly presence. Alternatively, they may appear as small flames flickering or creeping along the ground or as larger flames emerging from the earth itself. A video captured in China prior to the 2008 Sichuan earthquake even depicts luminous clouds floating in the sky, adding another layer of complexity to this natural spectacle.

Quest for Understanding

In the pursuit of understanding earthquake lights, scientists have undertaken extensive research. Retired geophysicist John Derr, formerly of the US Geological Survey, stands at the forefront of this exploration. His coauthored scientific papers on earthquake lights, or EQL, have shed light on this mysterious phenomenon. Derr emphasizes that observing EQL depends on factors such as darkness and environmental conditions, making their documentation a challenging endeavor.

Comprehensive Study

To gain deeper insights into earthquake lights, Derr and his colleagues embarked on an ambitious mission. They gathered information on 65 American and European earthquakes associated with reliable reports of earthquake lights, spanning back to the 17th century. Their findings, detailed in a 2014 paper published in the journal Seismological Research Letters, revealed that approximately 80% of EQL occurrences occurred in earthquakes with magnitudes exceeding 5.0. Most notably, these luminous phenomena were observed shortly before or during the seismic event, often visible up to an astonishing 600 kilometers from the epicenter.

Unearthed Patterns

One intriguing revelation from their research was the unexpected locations of earthquake lights. While powerful earthquakes are typically associated with tectonic plate boundaries, the majority of earthquakes linked to luminous phenomena occurred within tectonic plates themselves. Moreover, these luminous displays were more likely to manifest near rift valleys, where the Earth’s crust had previously experienced stretching and separation, creating unique geological conditions.

Unlocking the Secrets

Numerous theories have been proposed to explain the origins of earthquake lights, but a consensus has remained elusive. One theory, put forth by Friedemann Freund, an adjunct professor at San Jose University and a former researcher at NASA Ames Research Center, suggests that defects or impurities in crystals within rocks generate electricity when subjected to mechanical stress, such as that experienced during tectonic buildup before an earthquake. Freund explains that rock, typically an insulator, becomes a semiconductor when stressed, creating an electrical charge that can flow through rocks at remarkable speeds.

Glimpse into the Future

One tantalizing prospect is the potential use of earthquake lights, or the electrical charges they generate, in combination with other factors, to predict impending earthquakes. While this remains a distant possibility, researchers like Freund are hopeful that one day, this captivating natural display may contribute to early warning systems, offering valuable insights into seismic activity.

Read More: Morocco struck by powerful 6.8-magnitude earthquake

Earthquake lights continue to mesmerize and mystify both scientists and the general public. With each new video capture and scientific discovery, people inch closer to unlocking the secrets of this captivating natural spectacle. While the causes of earthquake lights remain elusive, the tireless efforts of researchers like John Derr and Friedemann Freund offer hope that one day, these luminous enigmas may not only dazzle senses but also serve as guardians against the tremors of nature’s fury.