The recent Alum Rock earthquake near San Jose could end up being the beginning of a beautiful friendship -- between horrible earthquakes and scientists who may be able to predict them.
A full 19 hours before the late-October quake, scientists detected a series of odd electromagnetic pulses. At worst, it's just another case of a neighborhood being nuisanced. But, at best, this could be the first step toward a Distant Early Warning system for quakes.
From Wired magazine:
The new data, reported here at the American Geophysical Union annual meeting, was met with some skepticism. But the evidence could be a watershed moment in earthquake detection, a field that has a long and perpetually disappointing history. The discovery could strengthen the case of scientists who suggest that big quakes are preceded by strange signals, including one that may have come before the catastrophic 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake in the San Francisco Bay Area.
"There are at least a dozen theories that predict these (electromagnetic precursors) should occur," said Jacob Bortnik, a UCLA space physicist and a consultant for QuakeFinder.
To test the theory that quakes emit advance warning signals, a small team of California scientists funded by the satellite company QuakeFinder, has installed some 70 electromagnetic sensors across California, including some in high schools, in exchange for satellite internet access. The device is a white box, 4 feet tall, which contains an instrument called a search-coil magnetometer, designed to detect the type of signal that researchers theorize acts as a quake alarm.
At about 1:30 a.m. on the day before Halloween, one of the sensors -- located on the property of a plumber near Milpitas -- detected a puzzling series of electromagnetic pulses. Later that same day, a 5.6-magnitude quake occurred nearby, with its epicenter at Alum Rock, just south of the Calaveras earthquake fault
You can read the full article here.
-- Joe Eskenazi