May 13, 2008
Bizarre glowing cloud phenomenon in the
sky was observed about 10 minutes before the May 12, 2008 Sichuan
earthquake took place. This was recorded in Meixian, Shaanxi
province ~550km northeast of epicenter. The phenomenon was said to
last for about 1 min.
A map showing two locations where such
clouds were sighted relative to Sichuan earthquake epicenters:
See similar clouds appeared ~200km west
of this location:
Photos (reported taken 1 hr before
These clouds seemed to be glowing or
somewhat luminous and seemed to resemble some characteristics of the
Auroras. I am not sure exactly what they were or whether they indeed
had anything to do with the quake. I am no expert anyways.
any scientists are willing to give a full explanation. If such
phenomenon can be proved for its connection with earthquake
occurrences, maybe they could be used as warning signs and would be
life saving. If not, just learn these clouds as yet another rare
atmospheric phenomenon and no need to panic when seeing them.
After all, this might well be just a
rare atmospheric phenomenon occurred by coincidence. Though, just
wondering if there's any possibility the formation of such rare
clouds be catalyzed by any event??
I guess some of you might find
the following articles interesting.
Curious Cloud Formations Linked to Quakes
by Lynn Dicks
From issue 2651 of New Scientist magazine
11 April 2008
CAN unusual clouds signal the possibility of an impending
That's the question being asked following the discovery
of distinctive cloud formations above an active fault in Iran before
each of two large earthquakes occurred.
Geophysicists Guangmeng Guo and Bin Wang of Nanyang Normal
University in Henan, China, noticed a gap in the clouds in satellite
images from December 2004 that precisely matched the location of the
main fault in southern Iran. It stretched for hundreds of kilometers,
was visible for several hours and remained in the same place,
although the clouds around it were moving. At the same time, thermal
images of the ground showed that the temperature was higher along
the fault. Sixty-nine days later, on 22 February 2005, an earthquake
of magnitude 6.4 hit the area, killing more than 600 people.
In December 2005, a similar formation again appeared in the clouds
for a few hours. Sixty-four days later, an earthquake of magnitude 6
shook the region (International
Journal of Remote Sensing, vol 29, p 1921).
Guo and Wang suggest that an eruption of hot gases from inside the
fault could have caused water in the clouds to evaporate. Another
idea is that ionization may be involved: Friedemann Freund at the
NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, recently
demonstrated that when rocks are squeezed, positively charged ions
form in the air above.
The trouble is that ions usually help to form
clouds, not dissipate them.
The authors say that if recognizable cloud formations precede large
quakes, they could be used for prediction, but other seismologists
"There is no physical model that explains why
something would suddenly occur two months before an earthquake, and
then shut off and not occur again," says Mike Blanpied of the
US Geological Survey's Earthquake Hazards
An earthquake light is an unusual
luminous aerial phenomenon, similar in appearance to the aurora
borealis, that allegedly appears in the sky at or near areas of
tectonic stress, seismic activity or volcanic eruptions. Scientific
evidence for the presence of lights is unreliable, given that there
are few references documenting the phenomenon.
The lights are most evident in the middle period of an earthquake,
although there are reports of lights that occurred after or quite
often before the earthquake, such as before the 1976 Tangshan
earthquake. They usually have shapes similar to those of the auroras
with white to bluish hue, but occasionally they have been reported
to have a wider color spectrum. The luminosity is typically visible
for several seconds, but there have been cases in which they lasted
tens of minutes. In the 1930 Idu earthquake, lights were reported up
to 70 miles from the epicenter ,
although most lights are not so far away.
There have also been cases in which electromagnetic waves caused by
the earthquake interfered with radio transmissions, such as during
the Great Chilean Earthquake of 1960.
Distinguishing earthquake lights from other transient optical
phenomena can be difficult during the chaos of a tremor. For
example, a bluish-white flashes that are accompanied by loud bangs
or hissing during an earthquake are more likely the result of
electrical arcing in power lines or transformers.
However, in some videos, the light can
be seen as a long flash in the night high in the sky.
Records of earthquakes that were accompanied by lights can be found
as far back as 373 BC in ancient Greek writings, that "immense
columns of flame" foretold the earthquake that destroyed the cities
of Helike and Boura. However, even in the early 20th century they
were still considered a myth, despite an investigation of lights
seen during the 1930 Idu earthquake by researchers from Tokyo
photographs of actual lights were taken in Japan in the 1960s.
The night before the 1976 Tangshan earthquake, many people in
Tangshan reported seeing strange lights.
In Peru's earthquake that occurred south of Lima on August 15, 2007,
earthquake lights could be seen across the Lima sky before and
during the earthquake. Several videos were taken.
On May 12, 2008, 30 minutes prior to the Sichuan Earthquake, a cell
phone captured footage of multi-colored clouds in the sky.
The footage was uploaded to Youtube.
There is also footage from Meixian, Shaanxi,
approximately 550km northeast of the epicenter, recorded 10 minutes
before the earthquake. However, the footage appears to show a
circumhorizontal arc, which is caused by refraction of the sun's
light through ice particles in a cirrus cloud, similar to a rainbow.
Earthquake lights were also spotted in
approximately 400 km north-northeast of the epicenter.
The precise mechanism, if such a phenomenon exists—as opposed to
being coincidence with aurora or mistaken recall after a traumatic
event such as an earthquake—is unknown. One theory suggests that
earthquake lights are a form of plasma discharge caused by the
release of gases from within the Earth and are electrically charged
in the air.
Another possible explanation is local disruption of the Earth's
magnetic field and/or ionosphere in the region of tectonic stress,
resulting in the observed glow effects either from ionospheric
radiative recombination at lower altitudes and greater atmospheric
pressure or as aurora. However, the effect is clearly not pronounced
or notably observed at all earthquake events and is yet to be
directly experimentally verified.
Another explanation involves intense electric fields created
piezoelectrically by tectonic movements of rocks containing quartz.
Some similar clouds have been reported during nuclear tests
 and Radon is likely to be an
earthquake precursor, so another theory is that glowing clouds
might be light emission produced by Nuclear reactions or ionization
and plasma-chemical reactions
F. W. The Elements Rage (David &
Charles 1966), pp175-6
on Peru’s Earthquake? Editor:
Kentaro Mori, August 17th, 2007,
F. W. The Elements Rage (David &
Charles 1966), pp175-6
clouds spotted in Tianshui, Gansu
province, 30 minutes before the 2008
clouds spotted in Meixian, Shaanxi
province, 10 mins before the 2008
Halo" appears at Nanguo Temple
Tianshui Online (2008-05-12). Retrieved
around an earthquake's epicentre.
Times Online. Retrieved on 2008-05-20.
Shunji and Ikeya, Motoji, A Dark
Discharge Model of Earthquake Lightning,
Japanese Journal of Applied Physics,
Volume 37, Issue 9A, pp. 5016 (1998)
P., Sabroux J.-C., Halbwachs M.,
Vandemeulebrouck J., Poussielgue N.,
Tabbagh J., Punongbayan R. (2003), Radon
anomaly in the soil of Taal volcano, the
Philippines: A likely precursor of the M
7.1 Mindoro earthquake (1994),
Geophysical Research Letters, Volume 30,
Issue 9, pp. 34-1
exhalation, an electrostatic
contribution for upper atmospheric
Earthquake clouds are clouds claimed to be signs of imminent
earthquakes. The analyses of earthquake clouds as a form of
earthquake prediction are generally not accepted by seismologists
and other scientists.
In chapter 32 of his work Brihat Samhita, Indian scholar
Varahamihira (505 – 587) discussed a number of signs warning of
earthquakes: Unusual animal behavior, astrological influences,
underground movements of water, and extraordinary clouds occurring a
week before the earthquake.
Since 1994, Zhonghao Shou, a retired Chinese chemist living
in New York, has made dozens of earthquake predictions based on
cloud patterns in satellite images, and claims to have a 70%
accuracy. Stress and friction in the ground can vaporize water long
before the earthquake happens, according to Shou, and clouds formed
through these mechanisms are distinctively shaped.
He has identified five different types
of earthquake cloud, including "line-shaped", "feather-shaped", and
"lantern shaped" clouds. He claims that an earthquake will take
place within 103 days of the appearance of one of these clouds, and
that the average time is 30 days. On December 25, 2003, one day
before the Bam earthquake, he predicted an earthquake of mag. 5.5+
within 60 days over a fault line in Iran.
Due to this correct prediction, in May
2004, he was invited to a workshop by the UN and the Iranian Space
Agency, with meteorologists, geologists, and seismologists present.
Some of the scientists present, including Ansari Amoli,
believe this is an area worthy of serious study. However, a large
majority of seismologists do not believe that there is a direct
correlation between the earthquakes and cloud forms.
Historical records have indicated a possible correlation between
clouds and earthquakes in the ancient civilizations of Rome, India,
Earthquake clouds were spotted before the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.