Pre-earthquake signals – Part II: Flow of battery currents in the crust
- Ames Associate, NASA Ames Research Center, 242-4, Moffett Field, CA 94035, USA
- Principal Investigator, Carl Sagan Center, SETI Institute, 515 N. Whisman Road, Mountain View, CA 94043, USA
- Adjunct Professor, Department of Physics, San Jose State University, San Jose, CA 95192-0106, USA
Abstract. When rocks are subjected to stress, dormant electronic charge carriers are activated. They turn the stressed rock volume into a battery, from where currents can flow out. The charge carriers are electrons and defect electrons, also known as positive holes or pholes for short. The boundary between stressed and unstressed rock acts as a potential barrier that lets pholes pass but blocks electrons. One can distinguish two situations in the Earth's crust: (i) only pholes spread out of a stressed rock volume into the surrounding unstressed rocks. This is expected to lead to a positive surface charge over a wide area around the future epicenter, to perturbations in the ionosphere, to stimulated infrared emission from the ground, to ionization of the near-ground air, to cloud formation and to other phenomena that have been reported to precede major earthquakes. (ii) both pholes and electrons flow out of the stressed rock volume along different paths, sideward into the relatively cool upper layers of the crust and downward into the hot lower crust. This situation, which is likely to be realized late in the earthquake preparation process, is necessary for the battery circuit to close and for transient electric currents to flow. If burst-like, these currents should lead to the emission of low frequency electromagnetic radiation. Understanding how electronic charge carriers are stress-activated in rocks, how they spread or flow probably holds the key to deciphering a wide range of pre-earthquake signals. It opens the door to a global earthquake early warning system, provided resources are pooled through a concerted and constructive community effort, including seismologists, with international participation.