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No. 74: Mar-Apr 1991

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Earthquake Lights Observed In Canada

Numerous earthquake lights (EQLs) were reported between November 1, 1988, and January 2l, 1989, in the Saguenay region of Quebec. These luminosities were associated with 54 seismic shocks recorded in this area. Most were small, but a strong foreshock (magnitude 4.8) occurred on November 23; the main quake (magnitude 6.5) hit 60 hours later. Through appeals by radio and newspapers, 52 observers of EQLs were located. They reported a wide spectrum of luminosities, some of which were very strange. In the sky, some observed silent sparkings, diffuse glows, and aurora-like stripes. For an account of the more enigmatic EQLs, we quote M. Ouellet:

"Fireballs a few metres in diameter often popped out of the ground in a repetitive manner at distances of up to only a few metres away from the observers. Others were seen several hundred metres up in the sky, stationary or moving. Some observers described dripping luminescent droplets, rapidly disappearing a few metres under the stationary fireballs. Only two fire-tongues on the ground were reported, one on snow and the other on a paved parking space without any apparent surface fissure. The colours most often identified were orange, yellow, white and green. Some luminosities lasted up to 12 min."

(Ouellet, Marcel; "Earthquake Lights and Seismicity," Nature, 348:492, 1990.)

Reference. Many observations of earthquake lights are cataloged in GLD8 in the catalog: Lightning, Auroras. For ordering information, see: here.

From Science Frontiers #74, MAR-APR 1991. 1991-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987