; Date: Wed Sep 08 2021
On September 7, 2021, a magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck Acapulco Mexico. The earthquake lasted for a minute, caused buildings to sway, roads to undulate, and sent people running to the streets for safety. There they saw strange blue lights flashing in the sky, and of course many recorded the lights with their smart phones with multiple postings on Twitter and elsewhere. Some of the videos looked straight out of a bad science fiction horror movie, but they were real life.
Bad science fiction movies are full of flashing lights supposedly representing spiritual forces. Watching the many videos coming from yesterdays earthquake in Acapulco Mexico makes me think of those movies.
Here's a few examples:
- A local news channel ( Foro TV) posted a video panning over the Acapulco skyline, with blue flashes randomly erupting in the sky. This video shows flashes emanating from the ground. The phrase, observaron las luces en el cielo esta noche, is used, which appears to mean "observation of lights in the sky at night".
- A twitter account, curiously named Experienca Paranormal, which seems to specialize in analyzing paranormal-related videos, posted a video with people riding the undulations of the street, and screaming about the strange flashing lights in the sky.
- In this, families with their dogs are running down the street, and stopping to watch strange lights flashing in the sky
- Another, panning over the skyline recording blue flashes
- In this, the lights appear to be emanating from the ground flashing into the sky like reverse lightning
- This shows a chaotic street scene, and the same blue flashes in the sky
- In another we learn the word Triboluminescence, which is about light generated when "matter" is crushed or rubbed together.
It sure is a strange phenomena, but is it Paranormal? Is it a sign of the end of the world? Or, is it a normal thing even if it is rare?
The word Triboluminescence is interesting, but not the best choice for the phenomena. Wikipedia defines it as "light is generated when a material is mechanically pulled apart, ripped, scratched, crushed, or rubbed". There's a number of forms for this, for example the Uncompahgre Ute indigenous people from Central Colorado are said to have made ceremonial rattles filled with crystals which emitted flashes of light when shaking the rattle.
One section of that page talks about electromagnetic radiation associated with the flashes.
But, the only reference to earthquakes is a reference to Earthquake Light, which is described as "a luminous aerial phenomenon that reportedly appears in the sky at or near areas of tectonic stress, seismic activity, or volcanic eruptions." Bingo.
This page describes says there are two known forms of earthquake lights. In some cases the lights appear before the earthquake, very near the epicenter, as much as two weeks ahead of time. In other cases, like the Acapulco earthquake, they appear concurrent with the earthquake, and can even appear long distances away. Some of the videos found on Twitter are said to have been recorded in Mexico City.
Possible causes are explained as:
- The "ionization of oxygen to oxygen anions by breaking of peroxy bonds in some types of rocks (dolomite, rhyolite, etc.) by the high stress before and during an earthquake."
- "Intense electric fields created piezoelectrically by tectonic movements of quartz-containing rocks such as granite."
- "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."
- The word Triboluminescence returns due to a presentation at the American Physical Society's 2014 March meeting, where it was suggested that rubbing two layers of the same material -- e.g. rock strata -- together generates a voltage. That causes a discharge which electrifies the air.
The latter seems to fit the videos referenced above. In many cases it looks like lightning emanating from the ground into the sky.
A problem is the difficulty with predicting earthquake occurrence, and predicting which earthquakes will have earthquake lights. Therefore it is nigh on impossible to position equipment to properly record the phenomena for study. Instead, scientists are limited by studying shaky cell phone footage from those who were able to record what was going on.
About all we can conclude from these videos is that these blue flashes look very strange. I don't know how I'd react to watching that happen in real time. But, it's a normal phenomena, and it's not the end of the world. Apparently the first recorded earthquake lights were 1200 years ago.