Bizarre Earthquake Lights Tied to Rifts in Earth

earthquake lights
Earthquake lights observed along the western shore of Tagish Lake, southern Yukon. A total of seven yellow-colored orbs can be seen, the closest being at about 500 meters away from the two witnesses. The three farthest orbs are shown by the white arrows. The orbs have a diameter of approximately one meter.
Credit: Jim Conacher (used with permission)

Mysterious flashes of electricity known as earthquake lights are more likely to happen near rifts, where pieces of the Earth are pulling away from each other, new research suggests.

The quick buildup of stress at these nearly vertical faults may cause electrical current to flow to the surface and cause the eerie light shows, the researchers find.

The conclusions, published today (Jan. 2) in the current issue of the journal Seismological Research Letters, were drawn from analyzing 65 documented cases of earthquake lights over the last 400 years.[Full story]