The rare lights that accompany earthquakes may one day help predict the approach of major quakes, scientists say.
Earthquake lights (EQL) are more likely to occur on or near rift environments, where sub-vertical faults allow stress-induced electrical currents to flow rapidly to the surface, researchers said.
From the early days of seismology, the luminous phenomena associated with some earthquakes have intrigued scholars. Earthquake lights appear before or during earthquakes, but rarely after, they said.
EQL take a variety of forms, including spheres of light floating through the air.
In a detailed study of 65 documented EQL cases since 1600 AD, 85 per cent appeared spatially on or near rifts, and 97 per cent appeared adjacent to sub-vertical faults.
Intraplate faults are associated with just 5 per cent of Earth's seismic activity, but 97 per cent of documented cases of earthquake lights.
"The numbers are striking and unexpected," said Robert Theriault, a geologist with Quebec's Ministry of Natural Resources. . . .
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