On 7th September, a massive 8.1 magnitude earthquake struck off the southern coast of Mexico. Strangely, however, after this, videos of fuzzy green smears in the night sky started to appear online. But what was going on, and why was it happening?
Well, they’re a phenomenon called ‘Earthquake Lights’, and are so rare that many believed they were only the stuff of legends. Sporadic mentions of similar curious lights are mentioned throughout history, but even today, science is still not 100% sure how they work!
Earthquake Lights are electrical discharges that are found up to 200m into the air. It is believed these originate from disturbances at or below ground level. The lights appear at differing periods in an earthquake, with reports confirming sightings multiple days prior to actual earth movement.
Importantly, there is also actually no consensus on how they look or the form they take. Glowing globes, flickering flames and branching lightning have all been used to describe this hazardous light show. Scientists can’t discount any descriptions at present, as they don’t know enough to say they are wrong!
Prior to Mexico, the last sightings of these mysterious lights were during earthquakes in Italy (2009) and New Zealand (2016). Hopefully, the large amounts of photos and videos we now take on a daily basis will help capture this event again. One thing’s for sure, the more data scientists have to review, the more likely it will be that they can uncover the secrets behind these mysterious earthquake lights.