Posts Tagged ‘solar wind’

More Links Among the Sun, Earthquakes, and Mine Explosions

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

Today we are being bathed in a strong solar wind originating from a large coronal hole on the Sun.  Just before the solar wind hit Earth within the last couple of days, it struck the planet’s magnetosphere, which in turn may have sparked geomagnetic activity before the actual arrival of the solar wind stream on Earth.

The extraordinary series of seismic events that occurred between 3 and 4 AM GMT on 16 June 2010 may have been touched off by the solar wind impact on the outer reaches of the magnetosphere.  The seismically-active “Ring of Fire” bordering the Pacific Ocean was awakened with a start just after 3 AM GMT, striking Indonesia first with a magnitude 7 quake, accompanied by several more strong aftershocks and followed within 45 minutes by two quakes in Alaska of magnitudes 5 and 5.1.  Today, a magnitude 4.2 temblor struck not far from Mount Rainier in Washington state – a place that rarely sees earthquakes in the 4+ range.

Based on the timing, it appears that the Alaskan activity may have been triggered by seismic waves travelling along the Earth’s crust, but I’ve yet to determine the time it would take seismic waves to travel there from Indonesia just yet.  Of greater interest are the several strong quakes that occurred during that one hour, which may have been related to the approaching solar wind stream.

The correlation between solar activity and earthquakes is noteworthy, and has been reported here before.  For instance, a strong solar wind streaming from a coronal hole also impacted the planet’s magnetosphere on about the 12th of January – the same date a devastating quake hit Haiti, causing mass destruction and killing over 200,000 people.  And the monster Chilean quake was preceded by just a few days by the collapse of the largest magnetic filament ever observed on the Sun.

Surface damage isn’t the only side effect of tectonic shifting.  Unfortunately, the dangers of coal mining may be linked in many cases to gasses released in conjunction with earthquake activity.  For instance, the West Virginia mine tragedy in early April of this year was directly preceded by an earthquake centered just under the mine.  Earthquakes are a rare event in West Virginia; the correlation between the quake and the subsequent methane explosion cannot be ignored.

Most recently, the deadly Amaga, Colombia coal mine explosion occurred within 24 hours of the Indonesian and Alaska quakes.  Although no earthquake was registered in the immediate vicinity of the mine at the time, toxic gasses exploded in a giant fireball just before midnight local time on the 16th, trapping and killing an estimated 72 workers.  The accumulation of gas may have been related to slight shifting of the planet’s crust in the northwestern part of Colombia, a seismically-active region in the Ring of Fire.

According to solar physicist David Hathaway of the Marshall Space Flight Center: “When a gust of solar wind hits Earth’s magnetic field, the impact causes the magnetic field to shake (italics mine).  If it shakes hard enough, we call it a geomagnetic storm.”  Power outages and compass anomalies are associated with strong geomagnetic storms – and auroras, while beautiful to see, are indicators of potentially hazardous ionisation in the atmosphere related to solar wind.

So why isn’t every geomagnetic storm associated with a strong earthquake?  One reason may be the release of tectonic pressure associated with relatively-infrequent, large seismic events.  For instance, the earthquakes I’ve just been referencing may well have released pressure, essentially preventing large and devastating quakes immediately following the events.  That’s not to say that the plates haven’t shifted to the point that another significant seismic or volcanic event could surprise us any day now.

The Indonesian quake of a couple of days ago brings the total of magnitude 7+ earthquakes this year to TEN, and we are not yet even halfway through the year.  For reference, I have compiled a list of yearly 7+ quakes yearly going back to the last solar minimum, which was at its lowest in 1996:

1996    15
1997    16
1998    12
1999    18
2000    15
2001    16
2002    13
2003    15
2004    16
2005    11
2006    11
2007    18
2008    12
2009    17
2010    10  (through 16 June)

Clearly, if this rate continues, we’re on track to exceed 20 earthquakes of mag 7+ this year.  Worse, we don’t know where the next one will strike; all we have are clues, such as the swarm – the second largest on record – in Yellowstone earlier this year.  With seismic activity picking up around the Pacific northwest, home to several active volcanoes and a heavily-populated coastline that could face a deadly tsunami with little to no warning, we would be wise to watch the trends in solar activity and associated geomagnetic affects.




Also see this new article predicting extreme solar storms and power grid outages, etc., accompanying the upcoming peak of solar maximum in 2013:

Recent Earthquakes Linked to Solar Effects on Earth’s Magnetic Field

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

Beautiful graphic of solar wind impacting the planetary geomagnetic field.  Source: unknown.

Sunday, April 4th of this year, would’ve been like any other day – except that there was an unusual earthquake under West Virginia early that morning.  The next day an explosion rocked the coal mine in the near-quake zone, possibly caused by built-up toxic gasses enriched by the quake.  Twenty-nine miners lost their lives.

As far as blame goes, all eyes are on the mining company.  Yes, Massey Mining carried some violations, and those violations – specifically those related to gas venting – may have played a role in the mine tragedy.  But why no mention in the mainstream media of the earthquake near Gassaway and the Massey mine the day before the explosion?  Is the correspondence between seismic and solar activity being deliberately ignored or downplayed, despite spikes in seismic activity around 4 April 2010, the day of the West Virginia temblor and the Baja California quake?

These notable earthquakes were accompanied by an exceptionally strong solar wind which impacted Earth’s magnetosphere just before daylight hours on the 5th in North America, and “sparked the strongest geomagnetic storm of the year,” according to’s archives.  Might this strong solar wind have precipitated seismic activity by its impact on the planet’s geomagnetic field and kinetic molten magnetic core?

Spaceweather’s auroral oval graphic makes it easy to observe the gyrations of Earth’s fluxing magnetic fields and make connections between Sun and Earth activity.  The northern auroral oval was both inflamed and lopsided around the time of the West Virginia and the Mexicali quakes.  The bright orange stretching equatorward indicates that our planet’s magnetosphere is being pommelled with solar wind.  I suspect Earth’s iron core is spinning more freely due to its recent relative slumber, and reacting more vigourously to the Sun’s magnetic influences than a decade or two ago.

In other words, the planet’s poles have limbered up to the point that humans – among Earth’s most notorious freeloaders – may be thrown from the surface by a sudden worldwide jolt that one-ups recent seismic outbursts.   Readily available numbers give a general feel for what’s going on.   While I’m unsure of the implications of all the information I gather, I’m finding that increased solar wind combined with lower particle density seems to create marked instability in Earth’s crust and correspondingly-increased seismicity.

Now for some technical information, which needs to be understood in a certain context, which I’ll explain briefly: The US Geological Survey posts magnitude 1+ USA quakes for the past week here, and world quakes of 4.5+ (including US quakes 2.5+) on a separate map here.

A few weeks ago, on the morning of 25 March, 2010, there were 850 quakes on the US map, and 212 on the world map.  At the same time, I noticed Yellowstone was acting up again with a minor swarm.  By the 5th – the day after the West Virginia quake associated with the underground explosion at Massey Mine near Gassaway – the US registered a pretty strong 1313, and the world number jumped to 638.

During the last week, with Earth in the path of a strong solar windstream, the number of earthquakes grew remarkably:  2965 in the US and 1269 on the world map, as of 9 PM on Thursday, the 8th of April, 2010.  Friday the 9th I saw there are 3091 earthquakes on the USA map and 1307 on the world map.  While some of these represent aftershocks from the Mexicali 7.2, that’s still a pretty rapid jump.  Numbers continued to grow daily until the past 24 hours or so.

Observing a trend between the intensity and irregularity of the auroral oval, combined with solar activity and Earth’s seismic activity, may lead to better predictive capacities toward what seem to be Earth-based phenomena, but is really the result of a blending solar and planetary energies.  Of what value, however, is the prediction if most people can’t comprehend it, let alone feel compelled to take action? Even if forewarned of the possibility of massive, imminent Earth changes linked with flaring outbursts of 2012-era Sun rhythms, would most people have the capacity to process that information?  Might panic ensue?

A CME impacted Earth a couple of days ago, and the Sun is growing quiet once again.  This evening, Tuesday 13 April 2010, earthquake numbers are gradually receding like the tide from the shore.

As Spaceweather frequently advises, “Monitoring is encouraged.”


Here’s a link to an abstract investigating a possible connection between earthquakes and explosive gas emissions into coal mines.

Yellowstone Wake-Up Call Heard in Denver?

Monday, February 1st, 2010

The current Yellowstone earthquake swarm is now “the second-largest ever recorded in the park,” according to researchers quoted in the NY Times.

Shortly after 1 AM this morning, the 1st of February 2010, I awakened and was lying in bed listening to the quiet of the night.  No traffic disturbed the silence as the city slept in anticipation of Monday morning and the new work week.  Then around 1.15 AM I heard a sudden loud, sharp cracking sound coming from my house, similar to the settling of an old building.  The noise surprised me since my house is extraordinarily quiet other than seasonal creaking associated with a massive elm’s root growth cycle.

My first thought?  Yellowstone.  Yes, Yellowstone.

There will, of course, be naysayers out there who will write off what I’m about to report as a simple coincidence.  But statistically speaking, this event stands out.  After all, I’d never before thought that any noise in my house was possibly related to seismic activity occurring 600 miles away.

Yet somehow, quickly and intuitively, I made a connection between the sound I’d just heard and Yellowstone.  I noted the time on my fairly-accurate bedside clock and determined that first thing in the morning I’d check out the Yellowstone quake log posted by the USGS to see if I could link the unusual cracking sound I heard a little before 1.15 AM with a quake.

Sure enough, this morning I booted up the computer and here’s what I found:  a modest, magnitude 2.6 quake rumbled under Yellowstone at 1.11 this morning, Monday the 1st of February.  More precisely, the USGS site noted the time of the quake as 08:10:42 UT, which is 7 hours ahead of Mountain time, and just moments before I heard the noise – accounting for the time it takes for seismic waves to travel through the Earth’s crust.

So even though I didn’t feel the Earth move, my house may have registered the quake with a bit of shifting and creaking that could easily be dismissed if certain “earthquake risk factors” I’ve written about recently didn’t exist.

For instance, an almost-overlooked mild solar wind stream arrived on the 30th, stirring up Earth’s geomagnetic field and resulting in some nice Norwegian auroras.  And last night when I got up after hearing the sound, the extraordinary glow of 2010’s perigee moon bathed the house in a soft glow that enchanted me on the one hand, and on the other made me wonder if the moon’s gravity might result in increased gravitational pull on Earth’s stressed tectonic plates.  Finally, Yellowstone hadn’t had a magnitude 2 quake in a couple of days.

With all these factors in place, pressure would likely build.

Even though I can’t prove the noise was in any way related to the quake, when it happened there was absolutely no rationalising, no sign of Occam.  There was simply a knowing, and there still is, that Mother Earth is speaking – and if we listen hard enough, we just might get her message.


Addendum:  A small earthquake (mag 2.5) hit near Oklahoma City the same day I wrote this article.  A line between Yellowstone and the Oklahoma quake zone near Oklahoma City just skirts the northeastern part of the Denver metro area.  Coincidence, or part of a linked fault line?  I’m simply mentioning it as food for thought…

Link Between Solar Activity and Earthquakes

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

Current solar activity related to Haiti earthquake?

The Sun is erupting; Earth is reeling.  And we had better brace ourselves.  With the increase in sunspots since December, we’re seeing more earthquakes around the world…and it’s no mere coincidence.

The surge of sunspots over the past month has culminated in the relatively behemoth 1040, actually the remains of sunspot 35, which traversed the Sun’s face about a week ago and was expected to dissipate quickly.  Instead the churning magnetic field made it all the way across the Sun’s backside and, in rare fashion, turned back into a raging sunspot again, stronger and more defined than ever.

And so it appears that the long and rather strange hibernation of the Sun is coming to an end.

Our magnetosphere is being battered by particle-charged streams coming from the Sun as well as galactic cosmic rays being propelled into our solar system.  Earth is like the ball in a cosmic tennis game.  Her crust can bear so much buffeting.  Nebraska and Oklahoma recorded earthquakes in the past month, just two odd spots along shuddering fault lines all over the planet shifting as Earth entrains with the fiery rhythm of the Sun.

In the first two weeks of the year, an active sunspot region and an equatorial, Earth-facing coronal hole have developed and become prominent, if transient, features.  Geomagnetic effects are jarring Earth’s crust and weakening the supports we depend on.  As solar activity grows, as it will, the quantifiable link between solar activity and earthquakes predicts that we’ll see more extremes:  more earthquakes, more floods. Because of the tectonics involved, more active volcanism is likely too.

The devastation might take many by surprise, as it did a few days ago.

On the afternoon of 12 January 2010, Haiti fell, collapsing in an unanticipated snapshot of time.  Port-au-Prince shook and tumbled and cried out from its deepest heart, brought down in seconds by the strongest earthquake the country has borne for two centuries.  My tears are meager offerings at this time.

The Sun was also speaking loudly that day:  a 15% chance of an M-Class flare was predicted (but didn’t occur), and the solar wind’s density was a relatively high 7.2 protons/cm3.  We still haven’t seen an M-Class flare yet in Solar Cycle 24, but the chance is higher now than in recent memory:  at the time of this writing, we face a 1-in-5 chance of experiencing an M-Class flare, and windstream density is currently just 1.6 protons/cm3.

When will the next big flare up occur?  Haiti’s the latest victim, but what other regions on Earth are vulnerable to seismic and volcanic activity?  What can we do to prepare?

All of this activity is conceivably leading up to a truly epic solar maximum, which should peak in the next few years – just in time for 2012.  If so, my friend, we either make peace with leaving or we try to save ourselves.  Therein lies the great question of our time – one we’ll surely ponder as we approach the horizon of an era.


See Also:
article by Alex Ansary
and this isolated abstract.