Study finds correlation between solar activity and large earthquakes worldwide

Study finds correlation between solar activity and large earthquakes worldwide

A new study published in the Nature Scientific Reports on July 13 suggests that powerful eruptions on the Sun can trigger large earthquakes on Earth. In the paper, the authors analyzed 20 years of proton density and velocity data, as recorded by the SOHO satellite, and the worldwide seismicity in the corresponding period, as reported by the ISC-GEM catalogue. They found a clear correlation between proton density and the occurrence of large earthquakes (M > 5.6), with a time shift of one day.

The Sun may seem relatively docile, but it is constantly bombarding the solar system with energy and particles in the form of the solar wind.

Sometimes, eruptions on the Sun's surface cause coronal mass ejections that hurtle through the solar system at extremely fast rates.

The new study suggests that particles from eruptions like this may be responsible for triggering groups of powerful earthquakes.

"Large earthquakes all around the world are not evenly distributed-- there is some correlation among them," said co-author Giuseppe De Natale, research director at the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology in Rome, Italy.

"We have tested the hypothesis that solar activity can influence the worldwide [occurrence of earthquakes]."

Scientists noted a pattern in some massive earthquakes around the planet-- they tend to occur in groups, not randomly. This indicates that there may be some global phenomenon triggering these worldwide tremors.

To address this, researchers searched through 20 years of data on both earthquakes and solar activity-- specifically from NASA-ESA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) satellite-- seeking any probable correlations. 


Image credit: NASA/SDO

SOHO, located about 1.45 million km (900 000 miles) from our planet, monitors the Sun, which helps scientists track how much solar material strikes the Earth.

By comparing the ISC-GEM Global Instrumental Earthquake Catalogue-- a historical record of powerful tremors-- to SOHO data, the researchers noticed more strong earthquakes happened when the number and velocities of incoming solar protons increased.

When protons from the Sun peaked, there was also a spike in earthquakes above M5.6 for the next 24 hours.

"This statistical test of the hypothesis is very significant," said De Natale. "The probability that it's just by chance that we observe this, is very, very low-- less than 1 in 100 000."

After noticing there was a correlation between solar proton flux and strong earthquakes, the researchers went on to propose a mechanism called the reverse piezoelectric effect.

Compressing quartz rock, something common in the Earth's crust, can produce electrical pulse through a process called the piezoelectric effect. The researchers think that such small pulses could destabilize faults that are nearing rupture, triggering earthquakes. Signals from electromagnetic evens, such as earthquake lightning and radio waves, have been recorded occurring alongside quakes in the past. 

Some scientists think these events are caused by the quakes themselves, but other studies have spotted strong electromagnetic anomalies before huge earthquakes and not after, so the exact nature of the correlation of earthquakes and electromagnetic fields is still debated.

Meanwhile, this new explanation suggests that electromagnetic anomalies are not the result of earthquakes, but cause them instead. As positively charged protons from the Sun hit the Earth's magnetic bubble, they generate electromagnetic currents that propagate across the world. Pulses created by these currents go on to deform quartz in the crust, ultimately triggering earthquakes.


"On the correlation between solar activity and large earthquakes worldwide" - Marchitelli, V. et al. - Scientific Reports - - OPEN ACCESS


Large earthquakes occurring worldwide have long been recognized to be non Poisson distributed, so involving some large scale correlation mechanism, which could be internal or external to the Earth. Till now, no statistically significant correlation of the global seismicity with one of the possible mechanisms has been demonstrated yet. In this paper, we analyze 20 years of proton density and velocity data, as recorded by the SOHO satellite, and the worldwide seismicity in the corresponding period, as reported by the ISC-GEM catalogue. We found clear correlation between proton density and the occurrence of large earthquakes (M > 5.6), with a time shift of one day. The significance of such correlation is very high, with probability to be wrong lower than 10–5. The correlation increases with the magnitude threshold of the seismic catalogue. A tentative model explaining such a correlation is also proposed, in terms of the reverse piezoelectric effect induced by the applied electric field related to the proton density. This result opens new perspectives in seismological interpretations, as well as in earthquake forecast.

Featured image credit: NASA/SDO


Bodie 5 days ago

And here I thought Liberals only argued gender pronouns and Russian collusion....

arlette miron 6 days ago

and during solar maximums I noticed that strong eruptions also affect people too. people's nerves are on edge, or they are very distracted,

Jim Buenrostro 11 days ago

It is possible that seismic activity (both solar and terrestrial) is caused by an outside force. This hypothesis has been presented at < >. Read the hypothesis for the basics then read the Q&A for the backup observations.

Greg Miller (@Jim Buenrostro) 9 days ago

I read a lot of fluff. Then I saw that you replaced C with a ratio of undefined variables. Then you didn't do the math to show that your theory matched anything better than existing theory. You propose "experiments" but again, don't do any any of the math to show what would constitute proof or failure, just words. People that only use words, and never do the math, aren't really doing physics or cosmology. They are just making stuff up as they go along.

Jim Buenrostro (@Greg Miller) 5 days ago

Greg, Thanks for the feedback. I must (alas) admit that you are not the first to point out my inadequacies. I have no initials behind my name (PHD, MS, or even BS). I am just a guy with an idea. That is why it is presented as a hypothesis, not a theory. I don't claim to be an astrophysicist, or a cosmologist, or even a mathematician. I don't have the skills to do the analysis to carry the hypothesis to the theory level. That must be left to someone much better trained (and smarter) than myself. I will remind you though that Michael Faraday was just a guy with an idea until James Clerk Maxwell used his skills to prove that Faraday was on the right track.

Greg Miller 16 days ago

Ya, in 2015 you wrote a review article about real research that was published. Then you said the are all wrong, because only Jamal Shrair knows the truth! Then you speculated that the energy to cause earthquakes comes from outside the planet, but failed to provide a single observation or fact to support your theory. The Donald Trump of Astrophysics. Ever do the math on any of your theories? Didn't think so, mystics usually suck at math, never gives them the preconceived answer they were looking for. Does it?

Greg Miller 16 days ago

So Derf, AZCactus and Jamal, where can I see your record of "FORECASTING earthquakes using this solar knowledge FOR YEARS NOW". I see lots of folks that have postulated links, but never really found solid correlations between observable phenomena like flares, sunspot cycles etc. Statistically weak associations, that like ya'll say correctly, have been published since before ya'll were born. Nothing new there. But measured proton flux seems to provide a decent correlation. Who was plagiarized where?

Jamal Shrair 18 days ago

Yes indeed, Derf, they will deny real science as long as they can in an attempt to claim these discoveries as their own. If you look to the history of science you will see unlimited number of cases. The scientists who contributed to most of the technologies that we have today, were not mainstream scientists, in fact, in the beginning those dissident scientists were considered as crazy people and crackpots. Moreover, when later their ideas and scientific opinions came out to be true, mainstream scientists-who are much better of being politicians rather than true scientists- did not provide any credit to those scientists who spent their entire live arguing and fighting with the idiots who are experts in cheating and stealing public money

Greg Miller (@Jamal Shrair) 16 days ago

"There are unlimited cases" = "I can't prove a single thing I am saying"

AZCactus 19 days ago

We have known about this correlation for years!

Greg Miller (@AZCactus) 16 days ago

Proton flux? Really? Where did you write that down?

Derf 19 days ago

Ketchup mustard. Something my science community has known for years now. And mainstream mocked us for it. I'll let you know. There are earthquake seasons. And we have been FORECASTING earthquakes using this solar knowledge FOR YEARS NOW..

Greg Miller (@Derf) 16 days ago

Years now eh? Should be easy to pop off that list of forcasted earthquakes. Ya'll get the medal of freedom for that Derf? The Nobel? Saved thousands of lives I am sure. Why has nobody ever heard of you? Have to keep your identity secured from the Rigellians? Must be a rough life.

Jamal Shrair 19 days ago

PARTIAL TRUTHS IN SCIENCE ARE FAR WORSE THAN SCIENCE MYTHS........................First of all, not only solar activity, triggers large earthquakes, but also cosmic activity. In fact, cosmic events that are Earth directed, such as Gamma Rays Burst trigger larger earthquakes than the most intense solar activity. Besides that, solar-cosmic events that hit the atmosphere of the earth do not only trigger earthquakes but also explosive volcanic eruption. Therefore, the correct correlation is between magnetic radiations and large earthquakes-volcanic eruptions. I have explained this issue five years ago, 2015 in an article, Cosmic-solar radiation as the cause of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions Also, read, the observed influence of gamma¬-ray bursts on Earth’s magnetic field

Greg Miller (@Jamal Shrair) 16 days ago

Lot of speculation there. Where is your article with, you know, quantitative proof that all the solar phenomenon you just listed are better at forcing earthquakes than protons? 5 years ago you explained nothing. You list other peoples work and say "I disagree with this because of woo woo stuff I just made up." Where is your numerical analysis, you know, proof? You have yet to present theory, data, and analysis supporting your wild postulations. You know, real science?

Derf (@Jamal Shrair) 19 days ago

They will deny real science as long as they can in an attempt to claim these discoveries as their own. PLAGARIZE

Greg Miller (@Derf) 16 days ago

What did you publish that was plagiarized in this paper? What did anybody publish that was plagiarized in this article? Wow, sounds like someone just discovered a link between proton flux and earthquakes, who did they plagiarize in publishing that? Real science? Define that.

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