Data Show Possible Link Between Atmospheric Activity And Earthquakes

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The recent Great Tohoku earthquake that destroyed so much in Japan on March 11 is providing large amounts of data to scientists, and not just geologists.

Thursday’s Physics blog for MIT’s TechnologyReview.com, discusses how scientists at NASA are releasing findings on atmospheric data from Japan’s earthquake and others, with startling results.

“They say that before the M9 earthquake, the total electron content of the ionosphere increased dramatically over the epicenter, reaching a maximum three days before the quake struck,” the blog said. “At the same time, satellite observations showed a big increase in infrared emissions from above the epicenter, which peaked in the hours before the quake. In other words, the atmosphere was heating up.”

There is an idea that is consistent with these findings, called the Lithosphere-Atmosphere-Ionosphere Coupling mechanism, which suggests that “in the days before an earthquake, the great stresses in a fault as it is about to give… releases (sic) large amounts of radon.”

Ultimately, if scientists could gather enough atmospheric data from past earthquakes, they may be able to more quickly warn citizens of an impending earthquake.

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