Earthquake lights are often mistaken for UFOs or hallucinations. However, scientists have now linked the phenomena with deep geologic faults. A team of scientists with San Jose State University and NASA Ames Research Center have concluded that unexplained lights may indicate an imminent earthquake.
Scientists have documented the lights as far back as 1600. They can appear within seconds or days before an earthquake occurs. The mysterious lights often vary in appearance and have been documented as glowing columns, floating spheres of light, blue flames, or lightning that originates at ground level.
Professor Friedemann Freund said the lights only appear in specific and rare environments. As reported by USA Today, a majority of the sightings are reported near deep vertical faults. Deep faults often contain gabbro and basalt rocks, which are composed of solidified magma.
Freund explains that defects in the gabbro and basalt rocks can generate electrical charges:
“When a powerful seismic wave runs through the ground and hits a layer of such rocks… These charges can travel together, reaching what’s called a plasma state, which can burst out and shoot up into the air.”
According to the research, if the plasma comes into contact with air, it creates an unusual light. The light is uncommon and therefore mistaken for UFOs and hallucinations.
The researchers compared unexplained sightings with reports of seismic activity. They concluded that numerous cases of unexplained lights were followed by earthquakes.
NBC News reports that 65 cases were documented in the last 400 years.The phenomena appears to explain several notorious UFO sightings. Mysterious lights were observed before the 2009 earthquake in L’Aquila, Italy, the 2007 quake in Pisco, Peru, the 1988 earthquake in Quebec, and the 1906 quake in San Francisco.
In the 1970s, fisherman Jim Conacher witnessed and photographed numerous mysterious yellow lights on Canada’s Tagish Lake. The researchers concluded that the photos were taken within hours of a significant earthquake in Cross Sound.
Although they certainly do occur, it is impossible to use the lights as a reliable system of warning. Researchers said the conditions needed to create the lights are most likely found in China, France, Germany, Greece, and South America. The chances of the lights appearing before any earthquake are only 0.5 percent.