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Is static electricity a harbinger of earthquakes?

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 8th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Scientists say that the onset of static electricity is at times an indicator of a forthcoming earthquake. They are now about to launch an experiment in order to predict deadly earthquakes before they happen, potentially saving millions of lives.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Typical indicators of a pending earthquake, such as agitated behavior on the part of pets and dreary, overcast skies have long been cited. Scientists now say that they believe a rise in static electricity below the ground could be a reliable indicator that a quake is imminent.

Satellite engineer with QuakeFinder Tom Bleier has spent millions of dollars putting specialist measuring equipment, called magnetometers along fault lines in California, Peru, Taiwan, and Greece.

Magnetometers are sensitive enough to detect magnetic pulses from electrical discharges up to 10 miles away, which could give people enough time to get to safety before a quake strikes.

Scientists at first turned to seismology as a predictive tool, hoping to find patterns of foreshocks that might indicate that a fault is about to slip. Sadly, nothing has been able to reliably distinguish between the waves of energy that herald a great earthquake and harmless rumblings.

When an earthquake looms, scientists theorize, activity below ground goes through a "strange change," producing intense electrical currents.
"These currents are huge," Bleier said at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

"They're on the order of 100,000 amperes for a magnitude 6 earthquake and a million amperes for a magnitude 7. It's almost like lightning, underground.

"In a typical day along the San Andreas fault, you might see ten pulses per day. The fault is always moving, grinding, snapping, and crackling.'

Bleier adds that before a large earthquake, that the background level of static-electricity discharges should rises sharply. This is what he claims he's seen prior to the half dozen magnitude 5 and 6 earthquakes whose precursors he's been able to monitor.

"It goes up to maybe 150 or 200 pulses a day," he said.

The number of pulses seems to surge about two weeks before the earthquake, then drops back to background level until shortly before the fault slips.

There are a few catches to the research. Magnetic pulses could be caused by a lot of other things, ranging from random events within the Earth to lightning, solar flares, and electrical interference from highway equipment.

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