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Published: Jun.7.2014

Rocks that Crackle and Glow – 10 years later

Friedemann Freund

10 years ago I reported in the J. Sci. Exploration, 17, 37-71, 2003 about pre-earthquake signals, which the Earth produces prior to major seismic activity. Some of these signals have been reported for centuries, even millennia. The list is long and diverse: changing well water levels, changing water chemistry, ground-hugging fog, low frequency electromagnetic emission, earthquake lights from ridges and mountain tops, magnetic field anomalies, transient anomalous radiant temperature anomalies over wide areas as seen in satellite images, changes in the plasma density of the ionosphere, and strange animal behavior. There still is great confusion, how these pre-EQ phenomena are generated, how they are interconnected, and whether they are even real. Today, 10 years later, we know that these pre-EQ phenomena can be traced to a single process: the stress-activation of electronic charge carriers in rocks, positive holes, which consist of defect electrons associated with energy levels as the upper edge of the valence band, chemically O– in a matrix of O2–. Lying normally dormant, when the positive holes wake up, they have the amazing ability to spread out of the stressed rock volumes, traverse tens of kilometers of rocks from deep in the Earth crust all the way to the surface. When they arrive, the Earth surface begins to sparkle and glow. On the basis of insight into the fundamental solid state processes involved, we can now begin implementing a Global Earthquake Forecasting System – a momentous task that will need a broad collaboration across many scientific disciplines and a healthy dose of political will.