Infrared emissions above the epicenter increased dramatically in the days before the devastating earthquake in Japan, say scientists.
Published by MIT
Geologists have long puzzled over anecdotal reports of strange atmospheric phenomena in the days before big earthquakes. But good data to back up these stories has been hard to come by.
In recent years, however, various teams have set up atmospheric monitoring stations in earthquake zones and a number of satellites are capable of sending back data about the state of the upper atmosphere and the ionosphere during an earthquake.
Last year, we looked at some fascinating data from the DEMETER spacecraft showing a significant increase in ultra-low frequency radio signals before the magnitude 7 Haiti earthquake in January 2010.
Today, Dimitar Ouzounov at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre in Maryland and a few buddies present the data from the Great Tohoku earthquake which devastated Japan on 11 March. Their results, although preliminary, are eye-opening.
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.
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.