The intuitives provided novel, significant and strikingly correct information on earthquake triggering and related precursors.

Journal Article



William H. Kautz, Sc.D.

AbstractUp until 1980 seismology was focused entirely upon data collection, the long-term study of tectonic processes and limited surface-level measurements. Formal research on earthquakes was almost at a standstill despite the urgent need to discover reliable and measurable precursors in support of a system for short-term prediction. In 1975-78 the author chose to interview eight intuitive experts who had proven their abilities in domains other than seismology. He asked them identical questions about the physical process involved in earthquake triggering and associated precursors, and then compiled their consistent responses into a consensus. The accounts agreed well with one another and offered a number of insightful and new directions for seismological research. Re-examination of these intuitive findings thirty years later, in the light of the many subsequent discoveries reported in mainstream geophysics journals, revealed that the expert intuitives had provided novel, significant and strikingly correct information on earthquake triggering and related precursors. This exemplary result suggests that skillfully applied intuitive inquiry could play a significant role in future geophysical studies, as well as in scientific research generally.

1. Intuition—Another Way of Knowing[2]

The discovery portion of science typically includes insight into the nature or concept of a problem being investigated, followed by methodical, rational exploration, formulation of hypotheses and then verification of the hypotheses. Anyone mentioning science almost always refers only to the latter steps of the process: validating the hypothetical information according to consensus-based, rationally derived contemporary methodology. Alluding to the first step —the more intuitive part—in straight science means touching on a “taboo,” yet the history of science indicates that many major advances have been achieved from intuitive breakthroughs (Poincare 1952, Koestler 1967, Harman 1984, Palmer 1998).

Many crucial ideas that led to the expansion of scientific knowledge relied upon intuitive insights. They arose out of sudden perceptions, subtle hunches, serendipitous associations and even dreams, as the record of major discoveries convincingly reveals. These are all non-rational mental events, not explainable by contemporary models of the brain and mind and—except for transpersonal efforts—not even an acknowledged part of present-day psychology. They fall collectively into the category of intuition, or the direct reception of knowledge into the mind without the aid of reason, memory or the senses (Vaughan 1979, Pierce 1997, Palmer 1998).

Intuition has been observed to be a powerful source of new ideas, hypotheses and understanding in many fields of knowledge as well as in various aspects of daily life. It exists in the human mind as an innate ability, and can be trained and developed into a refined skill through deliberate desire, intention and effort, as demonstrated by many “expert intuitives” (Kautz 2005, Klimo 1987, Radin 1997, Shealy 2010, Schwartz & DeMattei 1988). These individuals have been able to access many kinds of new knowledge, including even highly specialized information not already known by anyone.

Since intuition is rarely mentioned in connection with the scientific discovery process, it is important in this present context to elaborate upon how it has been experienced historically and deliberately applied to generate new, accurate and useful information.

The Nature of Intuition

Intuition is popularly (and ambiguously) regarded as a flash of insight, a gut feeling, a “psychic hit” and even an unconscious reasoning process. A much older tradition bespeaks of it as an innate human capacity (Kautz 2005, Palmer 1998). This kind of “direct knowing” was inherent in Greek philosophy (nous), Gnosticism, Eastern religions and other early cultures as both a root belief and a common practice. It persisted over most of the world during the centuries to follow up until the scientific revolution in the 17th century in the Western world. It then took second place to the empirical, sensually-based, materialistic and rational methodology of science, which became the favored means for gaining new knowledge about the natural world. Modern science has now become the accepted arbiter of validity for new knowledge from any source.

Intuition is not a favored topic for study within science, which regards it as too subjective for rational consideration and therefore allied with the superstitions of past generations. Today it is barely mentioned in psychology and psychiatry textbooks and has never been the subject of systematic study. This exclusion is historically understandable, and partially valid, because the metaphysical assumptions on which modern science is based insist on objectivity, measurability, repeatability and certain presumptions about causality. These assumptions are not fully satisfied by “phenomena” such as intuition (Barrow 1988, Harman 1994, Popper 1959, Sperry 1987). Thus, all that science can do with intuition is to verify empirically whether an alleged intuitive insight is or is not valid, according to its own accepted criteria, and whether the insight might be explained through current physical understanding. Until the latter half of the twentieth century science was reluctant to do even this much.

The Evidence for Intuition

Several decades of careful parapsychological research have now verified firmly that (1) intuition actually exists as a mental capacity (Palmer 1998, Radin 1997, Vaughan 1979, Targ 1974) and (2) it contradicts one or more of the underlying assumptions (just listed) of current physical science. Deeper scientific exploration into the nature of intuition is difficult, therefore, and is not fully possible in view of these assumptions and other derived limitations of modern science’s means and models of investigation.

A few recent studies seek to explain intuition within the latest models of human consciousness, as exemplified by several recent multidisciplinary international conferences on the subject.[3] Similar efforts seek a place for intuition within the various “theories of everything” which have emerged out of the paradoxes of quantum physics; for example, Bohm’s Implicate Order (Bohm 1980), Laszlo’s A-Field (Laszlo 2003), Pribram’s holographic model (Pribram 1987) and Hawking’s and Mlodinow’s M-theory (Hawking 2010). These theories derive largely from the observation that both intuition and modern physics require the transcendence of ordinary conceptions of time and space and the fluid, unilateral flow of events and information. While such speculative attempts are inspiring and suggestive metaphors, none has yet found proof or won broad acceptance, even apart from their putative intuitive association. A satisfying scientific explanation of intuition is still lacking.

The classic Western philosophers—Descartes, Locke, Kant and others—had their own notions of intuition, although most combined it with perception and intellect (Kinny 1997, Tarnas 1991). Freud had no use for intuition but his follower Carl Gustav Jung considered it to be one of his four fundamental “psychological types,” along with sensing, thinking and feeling (Jung 1990); the well-known Myers-Briggs personality indicator utilizes these types (Myers 1998). Philosopher Henri Bergson saw intuition as the essential ingredient of metaphysics and an evolved form of instinct which reveals the essence of things, apart from the symbols adopted for them (Bergson 2002). Michael Polanyi’s tacit knowing referred to unaware, contextual personal knowledge that a person carries hidden in his mind (Polyani 1966). Eminent neurobiologist Roger Sperry (Sperry 1987) acknowledged intuition fully and assigned it to the right brain. In general, these philosophers and scientists sought to clarify the innate, direct-knowing quality of mind, apart from ordinary perception, intellect, senses and brain. All were led to essentially the same definition of intuition as that given above, though still without an explanation in scientific or familiar terms.

The “direct knowing” capacity of intuition has always been an integral part of Eastern philosophy, which regards it as a valid and significant means for gaining deep knowledge, thus an alternative to classical science (e.g., Aurobindo 1993). Today limited systematic explorations of intuition are taking place within the humanistic and transpersonal subfields of psychology (Palmer 1998, Vaughan 1979, Walsh 1993).

Intuition at Work

The importance of intuition is most apparent today through the role it continues to play in creativity, the arts, humanities and human interactions generally. Many psychotherapists and physicians are well aware of the important place of intuition in their practice. The most firmly established attributes of the human intuitive faculty are provided by the carefully conducted scientific experiments in parapsychology over the last century, as mentioned above. This work has shown conclusively that various kinds of specific information not accessible by ordinary means, not predictable in any real sense and in some cases not known by any living human being can be accessed through intuition’s direct-knowing process (Mishlove 1975, Radin 1997, Targ 1977). Moreover, the individuals who have manifested this capacity—called here expert intuitives—are not obviously exceptional in any other way. Basic intuitive capacity appears to be natural, not supernatural, and virtually universal. In order to function it need only to be enabled, like learning to walk and talk.

A ten-year research study at the author’s Center for Applied Intuition in the 1980s again showed that intuition as defined above is a genuine mental faculty. This work relied upon the services of several expert intuitives, and was applied practically in a dozen knowledge dependent fields: recovery of ancient history and language, geophysics, nutritional science, archeology, nuclear technology, medical problems, personal counseling, business consulting and others (Kautz 2005, Grof 2010). Intuition showed itself to be not only a significant facet of the human mind but a practical tool for human endeavors that depend for their success on new information and knowledge—most especially in science.

There is no shortage today of expert intuitives. Most of them prefer to remain inconspicuous, however, and can be difficult to locate. Then they must be carefully tested for expertness before being relied upon. The personal option remains open: anyone may choose to develop his own intuitive capacities rather than relying upon experts.

While the existence issue for intuition has been settled, there remain many questions on the conditions under which accurate intuitive perception may take place deliberately and under control. For example: What are the limits on the types and depth of information that may be obtained intuitively? What factors govern its accuracy and clarity? How does intuition relate to familiar mental activities such as imagination, memory, dreams, learning and cognitive function? Where does the new information come from? And what are the psychological/neurological mechanisms behind the intuitive process?

While answers to these questions are not presently available, the same questions arise with other human capabilities such as reasoning, language and creativity. We humans have learned to utilize these capacities effectively even though we cannot fully explain the physiological and brain processes involved and all their limitations. Similarly, as we wait for an acceptable explanation of intuition, we are free to develop and use it.

2. Seismology: An Important but Sluggish Science

Seismology, the subfield of geophysics concerned with earthquakes, began with the development of the seismometer. This simple device enabled the detection, recording and eventual analysis of the heavy vibrations that propagate outward through the earth from the hypocenters of earthquakes.[4] A global network of thousands of seismometers gradually evolved and generated sufficient data to permit detailed global maps of both the locations of earthquakes and (roughly) the composition of the earth’s interior. The first early earthquake theories soon evolved.

It became known by 1970 that major earthquakes are produced mainly at the boundaries of the dozen or so rigid tectonic plates comprising the thin crust of the earth (Lay 1995, Gubbins 1990, Lee 2004). They float on the more plastic mantle of rock underneath, move slowly and unevenly from 1 to 6 centimeters per year, presumably in response to dynamic, circulatory forces within the earth. The quakes occur erratically along the boundaries where new plates emerge from the mantle (upwelling), existing plates are absorbed back into the mantle (subduction), and internal cracks, or faults, where the edges of plates grind against one other and occasionally slip. Whenever the accumulated stress in these rock interfaces is suddenly released, a cascade of ruptures takes place along the fault, producing an earthquake. This sudden release of energy, sometimes very great, propagates outward, shaking the ground over a wide radius. Herein lies the long-term cause of earthquakes.

The motivation for seismological studies arises mainly out of the societal need to reduce the great cost in human life and property resulting from medium to large quakes. This need translates into two applications, namely, earthquake engineering, the technology for designing earthquake resistant structures (quite successful), and earthquake prediction, the capacity to anticipate the shocks far enough in advance and with sufficient accuracy to allow a constructive and protective human response (not so successful). Earthquake prediction research involves experimental and theoretical studies of both long-range causal mechanisms and the short-range earthquake triggering process. The latter includes the search for specific precursory phenomena which might be continuously monitored through observation or instrumentation (Anon5 1980, Anon7 1996, Geller 1997, Vogel 1979, Andriese 1980, Simpson 1981, Sykes 1999, Kanamori 2003, Hough 2009).

It is not possible to make direct, accurate measurements of the built-up stress along faults, which are often quite deep. There is therefore no way to know exactly where and when any particular point of high stress will rupture, and how much energy will be released when it does. These quantities can be estimated very roughly by analyzing the patterns of earlier quakes in one broad area, by measuring the strain along accessible faults and by measuring variations in the propagation velocity of waves through deeper stressed areas. The results permit some long-range prediction of the time, location and magnitude of future earthquakes. They show where building construction should be improved but are much too crude and unreliable to allow short-range prediction.

At the other extreme, very-short-term prediction (up to about a minute) is possible by transmitting the first indication of a large shock to communities within the radius of possible damage. High-speed trains may be slowed down,[5] nuclear reactors shut down, utilities turned off and individuals in hazardous positions alerted. Similar warning systems are now in place around oceans to take advantage of the delay, up to several hours, before a tsunami wave arrives after an undersea earthquake.

While the local physical mechanism that triggers the release of stress is not understood, it is only reasonable to suspect from physical science that one or more precursors ought to exist and be measurable in earthquake-prone areas, in order to enable short-term prediction—from a day to a few weeks, say—thereby allowing effective hazard reduction measures to be taken (Rikitake 1975, Cicerone 2009). Despite various theoretical possibilities, laboratory experiments and field studies, no precise, reliable and broadly applicable precursors have so far (by 2011) been identified and reached a level of application that is useful for prediction purposes.


The Earthquake Prediction Game

The inability of seismologists to provide useful short-term earthquake prediction opens up the field to anyone who thinks he might do better. Since scientific knowledge is not necessarily required for discovery—only for validation of a claim or hypothesis—a useful earthquake precursor could be discovered accidentally by an amateur (even a psychic!) without a background in seismology. Every damaging shock brings into the media a flurry of announcements from persons who want to play the earthquake prediction game. The public fascination with prediction of all sorts feeds this movement. Amateurs typically claim to have discovered a solution to the earthquake prediction problem in the patterns of eclipses, the number of notices for lost cats, occurrences of geomagnetic storms, unusual cloud formations and the like.

Such claims never work out, of course, and even if a prediction is accurate it is worthless by itself. To be useful for practical public prediction it must first be demonstrated to be consistently valid for a variety of types of earthquakes (shallow and deep, different fault types, a range of magnitudes, under land and water, etc.); it must lead to predictions reasonably precise in location and time; it must be readily observable or measurable with available instruments; and most important, it must be verified by scientists and supported by public officials who will stand behind it. Such validation requires a coordinated effort by specialists, can take years or decades to develop and verify, and is very expensive—well beyond bright idea of a naïve amateur. Publicly useful short-term predictions must carry sufficient certainty to authorize the inconvenience and cost of major evacuation, shut-down of business districts, putting hospitals on alert, stopping trains, closing off large bridges, draining dams, and other hazard reduction precautions. Moreover, they must initiate these various actions without inducing irrational public behavior (e.g., fear, disorientation, panic).

Most public predictions by amateurs are announced only after the shock, or are so loosely stated to be unverifiable, or are incorrect even when timely and precise. Follow-up is rare: failures don’t make interesting news. We can only wonder why these persons are so zealous in announcing their shaky predictions to the media in the first place. The enthusiastic amateur who speaks out about his grand new solution to earthquake prediction is not only misleading his audience but is behaving irresponsibly. After all, it is very easy to make a prediction—anyone can do it. It is not so easy to predict correctly, significantly and convincingly. (The very term “prediction” is ambiguous on this score.).

Predictions offered by scientists are more credible but are infrequent, conservative, qualified and apply only to small earthquakes and long-term possibilities. They are derived from extensive data, collected and analyzed for particular areas which have been studied for a long time. Stated as probabilities rather than certainties, they are not useful as warnings for immediate action.

China, the scene of many tragic and damaging earthquakes, has a wide monitoring system in place and a few impressive predictions to its credit. One in 1975 resulted in the evacuation of Haicheng, a town of a million people, two days before a large shock destroyed the town (Wang 2006). Only two thousand lives were lost. Still, the Chinese have had many more failures, both predictions without quakes and quakes without predictions. The search for a basis of practical prediction continues.

The State of the Art in 1980

Up until 1980 theoretical work on earthquake triggering was focused entirely on the behavior of stressed rock under the high temperatures and pressures known to be prevalent at the depth of typical hypocenters (mostly 30 to 50 km, but some up to 700 km), including especially the role of water in this hostile environment. Findings were derived from wave propagation records of seismometer data, extrapolation from laboratory and surface level measurements on stressed rock and a few relatively shallow bore-hole experiments. Several ground-level precursors which might be useful for prediction purposes were identified in particular areas: tilt, slip, elevation and subsidence of the ground; micro-earthquake swarms; patterns of foreshocks; changes in well-water levels; seismic “gaps” without recent activity; and the release of radon and other ground gases. The significance of other candidate precursors, reported for particular quakes, remained conjectural and still untested: unusual animal behavior, filling of dams, chemical changes in ground water, earth-tidal maxima, cloud formations, telluric electric currents, ground resistivity changes, air-pressure variations and glows in the lower atmosphere.

By 1980 there was no precedent in seismology to suspect that above-ground factors could be causative to, or even indicative of, earthquake triggering and changes in preliminary precursors (Vogel 1979, Anon5 1980, Adamo 1980, Andriese 1980, Simpson 1981, Rikitake 1981). Even later no specific hypotheses of above-ground effects or indicators were being investigated and no scientific effort was directed into such possibilities (Anon7 1996). Data that night have been relevant were poor and unconvincing. For example, abnormal animal behavior (see EQA section below) and atmospheric glows (EQE and EQL) had been reported near earthquakes for decades, and could have been taken as a clue to novel atmospheric precursors, but they were generally assumed to be anecdotal superstitions, insignificant and not related to earthquakes.

On the political front the U.S. national budget for earthquake research remained at a low level during the 1960s and 70s, despite the occurrence of large, damaging and costly earthquakes in the U.S. and abroad. Not until 1977 was the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program established in the United States. Similar programs began in Japan (1964), China (1956) and the Soviet Union (partially in the 1960s, mainly in 2004). While foreign observations and research increased during the 1970s, the reports were not taken very seriously in the U.S. until much later. Seismological research seemed to be moving as slowly as the tectonic plates themselves.

3. Purpose and Approach

In order to spur progress on earthquake research this author chose in 1975 to apply a method of multi-intuitive inquiry called intuitive consensus to generate new information on the triggering process and associated precursory phenomena. Similar intuitive efforts in other fields had achieved some impressive successes. (Kautz, 2005).

The inquiries were carried out in 1975-78 with members of a team of eight “expert intuitives,” drawn from a pool at the Center for Applied Intuition, a San Francisco organization which was at the time investigating intuition and its applications.

The broad purpose of this early study was to attempt to demonstrate by example the validity and usefulness of properly conducted intuitive inquiry as a means for generating new knowledge, outside of the domain of scientific approach. Specifically, it sought to identify new aspects of the earthquake triggering process which would merit future research, and to provide relevant technical details in support of this research. It was believed that the intuitive findings, called here insights, if sufficiently credible as ideas and hypotheses, could open the door to their verification by accepted scientific methods of experimentation, validation and proof, and eventually find subsequent application in research studies on earthquake triggering and even an actual prediction system.

This effort did not attempt to provide a full explanation of earthquake triggering, to predict particular earthquakes or to predict what kind of earthquake research efforts would actually take place in the future.It sought only to generate findings that could be verified if future research were actually carried out. Nor did this study attempt to prove the existence of intuition, which was already well established, or to show that intuitive information is always accurate and factual, which is neither true nor possible.

5. Method of Inquiry

The original study comprised (a) definition of the main topic and subtopics chosen for inquiry; (b) formulation of questions, based upon our understanding of the earthquake triggering process available at the time (1975); (c) selection of expert intuitives, (d) execution of the inquiry sessions with them, including recording and transcription, (e) identification of agreeing responses (consensus) and (f) comparison of the consensus with already existing knowledge, leading to a few brief reports. The verification reported here occurred much later..

Prior experience with intuitive inquiries had shown that the formulation of the questions to be posed to the intuitives is critical to success. Namely, they should be specific, focused, clear, well-motivated (that is, not arising from curiosity alone) and without expectations, biases or implicit assumptions. Special care was exercised to avoid unnecessary explanation to the intuitives beyond that needed to make the questions clear and to prevent accidental leakage of the interviewer’s personal beliefs and expectations derived from his previous work in seismology.

These guidelines were followed closely, conditioned only by the fact that the geophysical understanding of earthquake triggering at the time was very incomplete, and sometimes incorrect (as revealed later). In the absence of an overall physical model of the triggering process, and without knowing even the particular physical quantities (precursors) indicative of forthcoming quakes, the questions were necessarily more broad than deep and more exploratory than strictly focused. In retrospect, some seem today to be rather naïve. (It was like asking for the cause of cancer, which can be recognized today as a meaningless question.)

Of the eight “intuitive experts” selected for participation, five were interviewed initially (1975) and three more two years later. None had prior experience with seismology or geophysics or more than a typical public exposure to the subject. All were qualified because (a) they were experienced in intuitive work, having demonstrated their skills in prior inquiries on other topics, ranging from personal to historical to highly technical, and (b) these prior tasks revealed their individual answers to be responsive and self-consistent whenever the questions posed to them were clear and founded upon well established knowledge. Their responses were also found to be accurate whenever independent validation was possible and was actually carried out.

The inquiry sessions with the intuitives were conducted independently with the same set of questions, a procedure which made it possible to compile and compare their responses. Previous investigations (Kautz, 2005) had demonstrated that such consensual findings, created from a substantial majority of agreeing responses, reduces the probability of incorrect answers. Responses which were not in good agreement were excluded from the reported consensus, except as specifically noted here, but were retained for their suggestive value for any future inquiries.[6]

All interviews were conducted by the author.

6. Verification

Insights generated through intuitive inquiry are initially unproven and must be regarded as hypothetical, just as new information from any source. Within our present societal paradigm they must be validated by independent means, usually scientific, before they can be regarded as substantiated and factual. To this end, the second phase of this study (2011) consisted of two steps, applied to the insights obtained in 1975-77.

First, in order to validate that the insights had a genuinely intuitive source it had to be shown that they were novel, meaning that they were not already known to the intuitives at the time of the inquiry. To establish prior ignorance of information is normally very difficult, but in a well documented field such as seismology the flow of published technical information provides a timely, reliable and thorough measure of the state of expanding knowledge over time, with only a year or two delay at the greatest. By comparing the new information against the scientific record before 1980, say, we can be certain that the intuitives had no separate access to it through either scientific or media channels.

Second, in order to demonstrate validity the intuitive insights must be shown to be accurate in content, by comparing them with findings reported in scientific articles and books published after the inquiry. They should also not follow obviously and logically from what was known earlier. This published evidence was taken from scientific journals, and occasionally from less authoritative but substantially valid sources—for instance, when the latter contained acceptable observational or experimental data even though the interpretations or explanations were questionable, or when an explanation was credible though the data themselves were doubtful.

The degree of consensus among intuitives was high. Two early, inconspicuous publications (Kautz 1982, Kautz 2005) reported these early insights and compared them favorably with a few discoveries in geophysical research. It is quite certain now that these early publications did not stimulate ongoing seismological research, as originally hoped, even though (in retrospect) they could have done so if the seismological community had been open to such new ideas.

This present report arose out of a thorough verification and substantiation, based upon published geophysical research between 1980 to 2011. The accuracy assessment was carried out in observable or potentially measurable terms, namely, through the candidate precursors described by the intuitives. These are discussed separately in the following sections, and are abbreviated here for convenient cross-referral:

EQE—Atmospheric electric fields

EQM—Electromagnetic signals in the earth and lower atmosphere

EQI—Upper atmospheric and ionospheric field variations

EqTh—Thermal anomalies on the earth’s surface

EQL—Earthquake lights, atmospheric luminescence

EQS—Solar activity, solar wind and geomagnetic field changes

EQP—Planetary effects

EQT—Earth tidal effects (solid and ocean, moon and sun)

EQG—Ground gas emission

EQF—Centrifugal forces inside the earth

EQW—Weather changes

EQA—Abnormal animal behavior

EQN—Nuclear and other radiation

EQH—Human activities

These fourteen candidate precursors are not of one type but very varied. They seemed originally to be fairly distinct but turned out instead to be highly interdependent. It is still not fully known for certain which are genuine rather than merely suggested; which are giving rise to which others; which are valid only in combination with others; and which are indicative rather than causative of triggering. Some seem to be active only for particular kinds of earthquakes—locations, types, depths, magnitudes—or in the presence of new factors not yet discovered. Several cited by the intuitives were completely new. Other candidates had already been explored in seismology but were not mentioned by the intuitives, and are not discussed further here. Finally, one precursor was found to require very costly instrumentation; it may contribute later to an understanding of triggering though it is of no practical use for prediction purposes.

Earthquake research, including triggering and prediction, has for many decades been carried out in the US almost entirely by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). More recent participation has been by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and supplemented by policy and overseeing bodies: the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Research Council (NRC), and professional organizations such as the American Geophysical Union (AGU).[7]

7. Description of Intuitive Findings

Overall, it is impressive that several of the intuitives’ insights, which at the time of the inquiry were totally unknown, unsuspected, seemingly improbable and contrary to existing theories have since been confirmed by mainstream geophysical research. While a number of the insights stated ambiguously could not be fully assessed, none of the consensual results have since been proven to be downright wrong.

We review first the broad intuitive findings that emerged from the inquiries. The full record of the consensus would occupy a book and would be very repetitive. A small number of typical and more eloquent of the intuitive excerpts are included in this article to illustrate the flavor of the intuitives’ responses to the questions asked of them, though they reflect only weakly the full breadth of content.

The intuitives explained that there is no single cause of earthquake triggering; rather, multiple, interdependent factors come together to create the trigger:

There is no one particular final [triggering] force except that which would be considered as the content [combination] of electromagnetic and vibrational energies upon the molecular level within the earth crust itself. … It is the combined forces of gaseous pressure, electromagnetic activity—which must be elaborated upon[8]—the pressures of centrifugal forces combined with the normal expansionary pressures of any heated matter. When all of these reach a critical point the final triggering of the quake [takes place through] the electromagnetic charge that has been built up. [KR][9]

The trigger is not one thing but a combination—one factor in one case, another factor in another. Mainly, though, external energy is coming in from two sources, one external to the earth and the other inside of the earth, and there is an interaction between these two. [BR]

(What kind of forces are acting upon the rock at the point of fracture or sliding?) These are static pressures that come about from electrostatic, electromagnetic and nuclear pressures. The electrostatic and electromagnetic forces act not directly on the epicenter [hypocenter?[10]] but in the surrounding area, while the nuclear force acts directly on the epicenter [hypocenter] [AA]

There is a combination of the forces within the earth itself … together with the electrical forces from the outside which are coming together and joining, even as you would see a discharge of energy between clouds. Here you have solid clouds. There will be an eruption when these two meet, an explosion. That is the mechanism of it, for the earth is charged and so are these forces. They are charges, particles of charged energy. [AA]

There are two forces which would account for triggering the final activities of quakes. In the centermost [part] of tectonic plates the centrifugal force of the planet in its axis of rotation combines with the thermal expansionary forces of the molten masses beneath the surface to [cause] movement along the inner structures, toward the outer surfaces of the tectonic plates, wherein there is the gaining of the highly charged magnetic and electromagnetic forces and the accumulation of both gaseous and aqueous forces. [KR]

Most surprising in these responses were the variety, types and locales of phenomena which were said to be involved in triggering but which had never been considered or even suspected in seismological research. This prior research had focused entirely upon mechanical processes and measurements in the crust of the solid earth and below it. It did not extend to physical energies above the earth’s surface and certainly not to the farther reaches of the atmosphere and outer space. The intuitive version of the triggering process sounded as if it is as much electromagnetic and plasmic as it is mechanical and thermal. The most significant precursors, it said, were more likely to be found in the atmosphere, ionosphere and space than in the ground.

We consider now in detail the intuitive responses, first those clearly verified by subsequent geophysical research (Sec. 8), then those only partially verified and leading candidates for future research and verification (Sec. 9) and finally one which is too vague to be verifiable at all (Sec. 10). They are classified according to the precursors.

8. Precursors Well Verified by Intuitive insights

EQE—Atmospheric Electricity

Prior to 1980 the static atmospheric electric field (about 100 v/m at the surface) and its daily variations were recognized but only partially understood (Anon5, Chalmers 1967, Anderson 1969). Sporadic luminescences such as ball lightning, “earthquake lights,” and St Elmo’s fire (see subsection on EQL below) were known to be of electrical origin but the high voltages necessary for ionization of the air had not yet been well explored and explained. The role of electricity in weather phenomena such as tornadoes, storms and clouds and lightning was recognized, though not well understood, and except for lightning there was no recognition of strong electromagnetic activity in the atmosphere (see EQW). Lightning was properly seen as a very powerful electric discharge between clouds and earth, and among clouds, though the physical mechanisms behind its occurrence were regarded as complex and mysterious (as are some aspects even today). Effects farther out in near-earth space, the ionosphere and the earth’s geomagnetic field, while obviously electrical in nature, were seen as too far out to be related to lower atmospheric processes and certainly not to earthquakes.

In this context, the intuitives’ statements about significant above-ground electrical activity before earthquakes were surprising, and not at all credible at first:

Researchers have come to understand that the triggering of electromagnetic forces that account for atmospheric conditions of storms, even the triggering of lightning, are grounding principles involving the electromagnetic fields of the earth, and not simply the aqueous and gaseous dynamics of the atmosphere itself. [KR]

High degrees of positive ions in the atmosphere … a release of negative ions close to the ground. … When all of these reach a critical point, the final triggering of the quake [occurs from] the electromagnetic charge that has been built up. [KR]

There is a general atmospheric disturbance involving highly charged air. [AAA]

There is a combination of the forces within the earth itself… together with the electrical forces from the outside which are coming together and joining, even as you would see a discharge of energy between clouds. Here you have solid clouds. There will be an eruption when these two meet, an explosion. That is the mechanism of it, for the earth is charged and so are these forces. They are charges, particles of charged energy. [AA]

After 1980 rapid advances in atmospheric physics led to a somewhat improved understanding of atmospheric electricity and lightning generally, and various data began to suggest a connection with earthquakes in particular (Orville 2009). After a brief and early speculation (Pierce 1976), it gradually became known that electric charge was accumulating in the lower atmosphere prior to many earthquakes. This charge was found to arise from one or more of the following processes: (1) emission of radon from the surface of the ground (EQG); (2) piezoelectric, triboelectric or fluid flow in compressed or impacted rock; and (3) coalescence of lightly charged aerosols in the air into larger droplets, which increases the normal field strength (e.g., Varotsos 1984, Freund 2002, 2007, Sorokin 2006).[11] All three of these pre-earthquake production mechanisms have now been verified from more than a dozen experiments in the laboratory, and in the field before earthquakes in several sites in the world (Ifantis 1993, Varotsos 2001, Takeuchi 2005, Freund 2007, 2009, Pulinets 2009).

Thunderstorms and other weather conditions were also shown to play a part by moving charged water particles to the upper atmospheric where conductance and temperature are higher, so that very high potentials (up to a gigavolt for a lightning stroke) can build up. Even at lower levels air ionization can occur locally to produce the luminous phenomena (EQL) (Anon8 2011).

It is still not known which of these three production processes are primary, and (at the moment) whether the charge accumulation is contributing to the triggering or is only indicative of another cause. Still, there is now no doubt that electrical field changes in the lower atmosphere accompany earthquakes and constitute a valid earthquake precursor. This evidence validates the intuitive information on pre-earthquake electric fields. It also provides a mechanism to explain the other atmospheric electrical phenomena mentioned above and discussed below—”earthquake lights” (EQL), various weather effects (EQW) and St. Elmo’s fire—though these may turn out to be incidental to earthquakes.

EQM—Electromagnetic Energies

Before 1980 the notion that electromagnetic energies in the atmosphere are significant before earthquakes was even weaker than for electric fields, which at least had the clue of lightning and luminescences. While the electric fields are essentially static and move fairly slowly, electromagnetism occurs at various frequencies and propagates as waves at the speed of light. The intuitives contradicted this earlier assumption about electromagnetic energies in the atmosphere before earthquakes:

… the content [combination] of electromagnetic and vibrational energies upon the molecular level within the earth crust itself. … It is the combined forces of gaseous pressure, electromagnetic activity … movement … toward the outer surfaces of the tectonic plates, wherein there is the gaining of the highly charged magnetic and electromagnetic forces … directly related to the earth’s electromagnetic energies … also the electromagnetic charges building up beneath the earth’s surface. [KR]

The earth energy is less than 50 kilohertz … Ninety to ninety-five percent is electromagnetic, and yet there are other variations which also play a part in this. [LH]

The main energy for earthquakes comes from the central core of the earth … is very powerful and can take any form … it has a very high vibration. … The electrostatic and electromagnetic forces act not directly on the epicenter, but in the surrounding area. [AA]

After 1980 the recognition that electromagnetic fields in the atmosphere were associated with earthquakes came from three sources: (1) ground-based and satellite measurements of electromagnetic energies of various frequencies (e.g., Gokhberg 1982, Larkina 1983, Parrot 1985, 1990a,b); (2) an accidental discovery of strong ULF signals in the area of the M7.1 Loma Prieta (California) earthquake of October 17, 1989 (the region was being monitored for another purpose)[12] (Fraser-Smith 1990, Campbell 2009); and (3) the recognition that stressed rocks can generate not only electrostatic but also electromagnetic radiation—essentially wideband noise over the range 10 Hz to 10 MHz (e.g., Warwich 1960, Nitsan 1977, Martelli 1985, Ogawa 1985, Cress 1987, Pulinets 1997).

The first of these discoveries led to more than one hundred research reports on electromagnetic anomalies before earthquakes. They described magnetic and electromagnetic field measurements (nominally ELF,[13] usually taken as 0 to 300 Hz, through ULF from 300 Hz to 3kHz, and a few reports for VLF at 3-30 kHz) near earthquakes in several parts of the world; laboratory tests on electromagnetic radiation from compressed rock, as just noted; postulated mechanisms as to where these signals are coming from, how they are being produced and under what external conditions; and the detailed analysis and interpretation of observed data to ascertain which frequencies, how long before the shock, signal duration, signal quality, types of earthquakes, etc. (e.g, Parrot 1990b, Yoshino 1991, Park 1993, Stolorz 1996, Singh 2006, Siing 2005, 2009, Hayakawa 2007, Chauhan 2009).

These various findings were not fully consistent, perhaps not so surprising given the apparent complexity of the process. While the signals observed were often very strong, they were sometimes present without earthquakes and missing even for large quakes. Nor is it certain even today (2011) whether they are causative to the triggering or are only indicators. They did show that electromagnetic energy is coming from both the ground and the ionosphere (or higher), and the signals are strongest and clearest near the epicenters and close in time to the largest earthquakes. The effect appeared to depend upon weather conditions (storms, dryness, winds, etc.) and the depth of the fault, as already suspected for the electrostatic field alone. In short, the electromagnetic phenomenon emerged as atmospherically complex and subject to influential factors still not identified.

The second discovery inspired the creation of a private “QuakeFinder” network[14] of 60+ detectors of ULF signals and other candidate precursors, along with telemetering and analysis equipment (Bleier 2010, Anon4). Some possibly useful data are emerging.

The third discovery lends support to a more refined and multifunctional hypothesis, still unproven, in which the electrostatic charge emission from the ground into the lower atmosphere contributes to the ground-ionosphere electric circuit across the large annular waveguide around the earth. (e.g., Pulinets 1997, 2004, Kazimirovsky 2002, Freund 2010, Sorokin 2011). This hypothesis is developed further in the next section.

While there is now no doubt that electromagnetic energies are playing an important role in earthquake triggering, it is not yet known for certain whether they constitute by themselves a distinct causative precursor (Parrot 1993, Johnston 2002). The many observations and measurements verify the intuitives’ broad statements, though a full understanding of the association is far from complete. Further intuitive inquiry would surely help answer these remaining questions.

EQI—Ionospheric Changes

Even more surprising were the intuitives’ claims that the ionophere, the multilayered curtain of charged particles (mainly electrons) located from 50 to 500 km above the earth’s surface, undergoes measurable changes just before earthquakes and above their locations. It was almost inconceivable in 1980 how such a connection could exist, but the intuitives’ descriptions were clear and specific:

(Describe these ionospheric changes that you mentioned.) In this case, there will be changes both in the pressure and in the particles themselves, such as there will be gases being changed from one state to another, or there will be a changing in the gases or pressures themselves. But as a whole, the ionosphere acts as a storage device, as a condenser, for the earthquake before it strikes. Lowered, it begins to release the energy, and then it rises again … within a few miles of the epicenter. It ascends as a balloon that has lost its baggage. There are changes taking place over a long period of time, but when the energy is released the changes take place very rapidly. [AA]

(What parameters of the ionosphere are relevant here?) It has something to do with the lower layer. The height and density … vary, anyway. And it will be changes that you detect in this lower layer that will help to indicate it. (What kind of changes?) I see almost silver, like aluminum foil or that type of thing, as though the way it reflects seems to be the changing factor that indicates what the change is going to be. [LH]

[The critical] focal point can be detected by an ionospheric disturbance, which will vary in size like a hole and travel over the atmospheric sheath like the shadow of the moon. You can detect it coming, and if it falls on a vulnerable spot, the earthquake occurs. [MA]

(Does the ionospheric activity you mentioned affect the earth directly or only through the weather, when triggering an earthquake?) Only by the weather. It creates the atmospheric and electrical discharge that completes or causes other changes. … The heat and dryness of the earth’s crust is … the final catalyst after the pressure buildup has reached a certain point … even though the particular time of the occurrence is not dry per se. … The dryness seems to cause an electrical spark. [LH]

Unusual ionospheric activity before earthquakes was first detected by a radio-sounding station just before the M6.3 Hawaii earthquake of 26 April 1973,[15] then another before the M9.2 Alaska earthquake of March 27, 1984 (Davies 1985, Leonard 1985).[16] The spate of scientific satellites launched in the 1980s opened up a new era of space observation of the earth environment, including the ionosphere at various sites, latitudes and times of day. Several satellites now have the capacity to monitor ionospheric changes, and DEMETER, launched in 2004, was used exclusively for detecting pre-earthquake ionospheric variations (e.g., Lagoutte 2006, Sarkar 2007). In 2004 NASA inaugurated the Global Earth Satellite System (GESS), a “twenty-year program to enable earthquake prediction,” using ionosphere measurements (EQI) as well as temperature (EQTh) and geodetic measurements, the geomagnetic field (EQS) and other related earth monitoring tasks from space (Anon2 2003).

These measurements, supplemented by others from ground-based VLF/LF radio transmissions, ionosphere sounding stations and geostationary GPS satellites have shown conclusively that the Total Electron Content (TEC) of the ionosphere and the height of its lower E layer are frequently disturbed a few days before major earthquakes, and not excessively so at other times (e.g., Liperovskaya 2000, Chuo 2002. Harrison 2010, Hayakawa 2010, Ouzounov 2011).

The mechanism of this phenomenon is just beginning to be understood. It begins with the accumulation of atmospheric electric charge near the ground (EQE). This charge cloud rises up to the lowest level of the ionosphere, where it is amplified by the favorable conditions there and induces changes in the ionosphere’s composition, pressure (density) and height. When strong enough it can create a gap or hole, thereby reducing radio reflectivity (Sorokin 2006). By participating in the global electric current back to the ground it reacts downward as a kind of quiet lightning, possibly affecting the earth itself and helping to trigger an earthquake. A book (Pulinets 2004) and recent article (Pulinets 2009) provide additional details on this overall hypothesis and speculate further on how the process might be taking place.

Unfortunately, ionospheric behavior is complex and appears erratic even under normal conditions. Careful analysis will be required to relate the specific pre-earthquake variations to the location, type, timing and size of the earthquakes (Siing 2005, Karatay 2010, Astafyeva 2009, Liperovsky 2005); also to distinguish these signals from the ever-present noise and other effects, both known and unknown: daily (day and night) changes, solar-induced geomagnetic storms (see EQS below), lightning, man-made radio transmissions, nuclear explosions and disturbances from space shuttles (Hayakawa 2010). As of 2011 these intricate analyses are still in progress.

In any case the accumulated evidence for an ionospheric precursor is sound, and it provides positive hope for its eventual use as a short-term earthquake predictor. The intuitive information on the ionospheric precursor is therefore verified. The “storage” phenomenon mentioned therein has not been specifically reported in connection with earthquakes, though it could reasonably be expected from present-day geophysical understanding of atmospheric and ionospheric dynamics. Again, whether the ionospheric effect is causal rather than merely indicative remains to be verified. New research and further intuitive inquiries are called for.

EQTh—Thermal Effects

Before 1980 it was well known that the earth generates heat from its interior, more or less uniformly over its surface but a little warmer below the oceans and above plumes and volcanoes, and a little cooler above plate boundaries. It is surprising that possible variations in this normal heat flow were never seriously investigated as a precursor. The intuitives were not hesitant to remind us of it, with comments such as:

The centrifugal force of the earth’s rotation causes movement of the magmas along the cooling crust, [producing] rarefied or heated forces from the expansion of these molten materials seeking release into the atmosphere. … [They] combine with the thermal expansionary forces of the molten masses beneath the surface to [cause] movement along the inner structures, toward the outer surfaces of the tectonic plates. [KR]

The heat and dryness of the earth’s crust is … the final catalyst after the pressure build-up has reached a certain point. [LH]

It is nowadays well established that fissures, faults, mid-ocean ridges and volcanoes provide upward channels for the convection of hot magma and the seepage of heated ground water. Recent infrared measurements from satellites have confirmed increases in surface temperature up to 4° C one to two weeks before several major earthquakes, and a return to normal a few days afterward (e.g., Gorny 1988, Saraf 2004, 2009, Ouzounov 2006). The thermal precursor hypothesis is therefore confirmed. There remains the task of determining if it is consistently present before earthquakes, explaining its specific source and local expression and verifying the precursory timing.

Where does this heat emanating from the earth come from? Fifty to 90% of it is known to arise from the natural decay of the radioactive elements 235U, 238U, 232Th and 40K, which exist in the crust and upper mantle but not at the high temperatures and pressures which prevail at greater depths (40K may lie somewhat deeper). The balance of radiated heat is leftover from the early formation of the earth, from the gradual sinking of the heaviest matter toward the core, the convection of soft magma upward and the flexing of the earth due to lunar and solar tidal forces. All of these generate heat from gravitic compression or frictional movement (Tronin 2002, Guangmeng 2008).

While variations occur near plate boundaries, hot spots and mid-ocean ridges, as just noted, none of these sources is able to account for the relatively rapid temperature rise observed before shocks, since the thermal inertia of the mass of conducting rock is too large for it to increase so quickly from deeper sources and cool down so quickly afterward. Theories of an alternative source of heat are based upon laboratory tests of the compressed rock itself, which may produce heat directly, or else upon electron deficiency (positive holes), gas emission, air ionization by Rn, or possibly electromagnetic emission (Anon6 2003, Saraf 2009). Which (if any) of these mechanisms of local heat production before earthquakes may be responsible is unresolved.

While the intuitives did not comment upon this particular mystery, their recognition of the existence of a thermal precursor is verified. Because of the relative ease by which ground temperature may be measured from space, this precursor shows promise as a contributor to future earthquake prediction.

9. Precursors Partially Verified by Intuitive Insights

EQL—Earthquake Lights

The intuitives cited near-earth atmospheric luminescence as a valid though inconsistent precursor. Since ancient times such glows in the sky have been reported anecdotally near the locations and times of earthquakes, but scientifically acceptable data were lacking. (e.g., Terada 1931, Ulomov 1971, Derr 1973, Hedervari 1981).

Post-1980 reports of such pre-earthquakes luminescences are more widespread and better documented (Corliss 2001, Derr 2003, Freund 2003, St. Laurent 2006, Lockner 1983, Derr 2005). They confirm that the phenomenon is a genuine precursor but the data are still not consistent and reliable enough to indicate the size and type of earthquakes they accompany. Indeed, the “lights” occur without earthquakes and large earthquakes occur without the lights.

The extensive pre-earthquake electrical activity in the atmosphere, already validated above (EQE), offers a ready explanation for such earthquake lights, which could only have an electrical and possibly an electrochemical origin. It is unlikely that earth gases (EQG) are participating in these luminous effects, though this possibility cannot be ruled out at present.

Pre-earthquake atmospheric luminscence is therefore a valid precursor, just as the intuitives indicated, but it is too irregular to be useful by itself for prediction purposes. Nor is it likely to be very helpful for studying the triggering process itself.

EQS—Solar Activity and the Earth’s Geomagnetic Field.

Might earthquakes be induced by solar activity? The intuitives say that solar effects on the earth’s geomagnetic field are indeed a causal part of the earthquake triggering process, but the overall phenomenon involves other factors as well and is irregular and only contributory:

Gravitational forces from both the planets and heavier activities [affect] the release of many radiations from the surface of the sun. All these activities indeed are integrated with the [triggering] phenomena. [KR]

Leaving aside a planetary influence for the moment (see EQP below), sunspots and other purely visible solar features have long been recognized and recorded, but the internal plasmic activity in the sun did not become known until after satellite measurements began about 1980. Solar activity is now understood to be generating the sunspots as well as solar flares, solar wind and other strong radiations that propagate outward into the solar system, somewhat irregularly and at various speeds. These emanations modulate the geomagnetic field that surrounds the earth and disturb its electromagnetic environment with ionospheric changes, aurora and disrupted radio transmissions, to name a few effects (Merrill 1996). These are responsible for climatic variations, and may also influence the weather and the atmospheric electrical phenomena already discussed (EQE, EQM). Under favorable conditions they could conceivably trigger off earthquakes. So a possible chain of cause and effect exists for allowing solar activity to be an earthquake precursor. Its credibility rests most strongly on the unknown effect of atmospheric electromagnetic fields on the fault itself.

Some evidence for this putative sequence comes from a direct association of measured geomagnetic activity (such as storms) with the record of prior earthquakes (and perhaps volcanoes). The results of this comparison are unfortunately unclear: attractive evidence has been found both for and against such a correlation (Johnston 1997, Pitchugina 2002, Yesugey 2009) but neither argument is fully convincing.

One may also try to correlate solar activity directly with the historical record of earthquakes. The former is measured by the Sunspot (Wolf) Number (roughly, the total number of sunspots visible at a given day). The 300 years of records show a clear 11.1-year cycle, and an early comparison revealed a small increase in earthquakes during the minima of this cycle (Simpson 1967). Two recent studies agreed (Stothers 1989 [volcanoes], and Zhang 1998 [earthquakes]). The case is still being argued (Khein 2008, Casey 2010). Again, the alleged correlation remains less than certain.

These tentative findings suggest that earthquakes are indeed related to sunspots and solar activity, through the geomagnetic field around the earth, but other still unknown factors also appear to be involved. The findings to date are weakly supportive of the intuitive statements but still not decisive. The issue remains open.

EQP—Planetary Effects

The intuitives cite the planets of the solar system as having an influence on earthquake triggering through their gravitational effect on solar activity and the resultant radiations which affect the earth. Again:

Gravitational forces from both the planets and heavier activities [affect] the release of many radiations from the surface of the sun. All these activities indeed are integrated with the [triggering] phenomena. [KR]

Seismologists have left the possibility of planetary influences on earthquakes to astrologers, if they ever took the matter at all seriously, and astrologers have responded with at least a dozen speculations on critical planetary configurations and even specific predictions of their own. None of the articles published in the astrological literature have been able to meet scientific criteria for validity. Either the statistics were misapplied, the theory or prediction was not sufficiently specific to be tested, verification by the astrologers or others was never actually attempted, or the expected quake never occurred (Tomaschek 1959, Dean 1977, Phillipson 2000). A few scientists and technical writers have done their part, too, with no better success (Johnston 2001, Harnichmacher 1981, Gribbin 1975).

Planetary science provides no plausible mechanism for a direct causal effect from the planets upon earthquakes, since the gravitational force of all planets combined is much too weak to be directly effective on the earth—less than a ten billionth that of the sun. An indirect influence may be possible, however. The combined force of the heavier planets moves the center of mass of the solar system around inside the sun and even outside of it as these bodies move in their orbits. Discoveries by Jose (1947) and Wood & Wood (1965) showed that sunspot occurrence is directly correlated with the rate of change of angular momentum of the sun about the center of mass of the solar system, which follows the 11.1 year cycle. This activity might then affect the convection of plasma inside the sun, influence the formation of sunspots and modify the resultant radiations emitted by the sun, as described above (EQS). Since these radiated energies are known to distort the earth’s geomagnetic field, the resultant near-earth storms may be involved in earthquake triggering, as suggested in the previous section and as the intuitives say they do.

This long scenario would obviously be causal, not indicative. If it can be shown to be a valid precursor it would allow at least some degree of earthquake prediction, simply because the motions of the planets are governed by fixed laws and their positions are perfectly predictable. Further research will be needed to complete the argument, however, for these effects must occur at just the right times, frequencies, intensities and locales on the earth for the combined activity to be sufficient to trigger a local shock. Other less apparent factors may need to cooperate as well.

While this sequence from initial cause to final effect is partially speculative, and therefore not acceptable as a full explanation, the overall scenario is credible and partially supports the intuitives’ claim. Their statements therefore stand as partially verified, the more so if the geomagnetic influences (EQS) turn out to be valid and the electromagnetic fields can be shown to actually trigger the fault. This possibility merits further exploration, and a study could benefit especially from additional intuitive inquiries.

EQT—Solid-earth and Ocean Tides

Earth tides aid the triggering process. [AAA]

(Did you say tides in the crust of the earth?) They are responsible to a minor degree. [AA]

The forces of gravity would be minor upon the earth’s crust. The alignment of both the moon and the sun [may] … cause an upset in the earth’s own ability to balance these forces electromagnetically. [KR]

It has been long known that the gravitational pulls of sun and moon cause a twice-daily heaving of the earth’s crust by up to half a meter, and of the oceans up to two meters, as the regions of highest gravitational stress sweep over the earth’ surface antipodally while the earth rotates beneath them. They peak at syzygy—the line-up of sun, earth and moon—and when the moon is closest to the earth (perigee).[17] It is only natural to wonder if these forces, or possibly their spatial derivatives across the fault, might trigger already stressed portions on the verge of release. Amateur predictors are in their element with this one, since the forces are extraterrestrial and are at a maximum during the magic moment of eclipses.

One may readily check this candidate precursor by comparing the voluminous records of past earthquakes with the gravity forces from sun and moon (readily calculated) at the times and locations of each quake (Darwin 1962). Dozens such studies have been carried out. Early findings were ambiguous and some were in error from neglecting the moon’s eccentricity (Cotton 1922, Simpson 1938, Tamrazyan 1967, Knopoff 1969, Schlein 1972, Mauk 1973). Studies after 1980 revealed a definite but small and irregular triggering effect, just as the intuitives indicated (e.g., Anon3, Heaton 1982, Sue 2009, Zhao 2000). The most recent of these revealed particular fault modes and areas under which the effects are most likely to occur, namely, when the earthquake is shallow, the tidal force lifts up the fault or differential loading occurs across the fault from nearby ocean tides (Kilsten 1983, Cochran 2004, Kansowa 2010). The effect is not consistent, however, so it probably depends upon the particular state of the fault.

The intuitives’ statements on the tidal precursor are validated as stated, except for the comment about “electromagnetic balancing,” which is unclear. The overall effect is probably too unreliable to make it useful by itself for prediction purposes.

EQG—Ground Gas Emission

Toward the outer surfaces of the tectonic plates, wherein there is … the accumulation of both gaseous and aqueous forces, … the building of gaseous forces, observable within at least a 50 to 100 mile radius of the quake…. There will be radon, xenon, some … argon and also increases of hydrogen and oxygen … in proportion as normally found in the aqueous state of water. [KR]

Many gases which are emitted from the earth’s soil, some continuously, have been tested for their sensitivity to earthquakes. Rn and CH4 have shown the strongest co-seismic variations (King 1978, 1986, Pulinets 1997, Zhou 2010). 222Rn is produced naturally in the earth’s crust from the radioactive decay of radium (226Ra), which derives in turn from the decay of U and Th (EQTh). It seeps to the surface along water channels and through microfractures, faults and volcanic structures. With a half-life of only 3.8 days it soon dissipates, but not before inducing some air ionization (EQE)—and incidentally creating a health hazard to humans who are exposed to too much of it.

Rn has been observed in surface water and in deep wells since 1966 at several locations in the world and has been explored for its possible association with earthquakes (Ulomov 1971, Teng 1980, King 1996, Igarashi 1995, Singh 2010a). Basic detection is not difficult and measurements taken along known faults have shown large increases just before many major shocks. Reliable on-going monitoring has proven difficult, however, because rainy weather, natural soil moisture, varying soil chemistry and changing hydrologic conditions interfere with accurate measurement. The most recent attempts are encouraging but still not sufficiently uniform and consistent to provide reliable precursory information that might be useful for predictive purposes, even in well monitored seismic areas. Moreover, it is still not clear if the increases in Rn concentration before earthquakes occur consistently for all major events or if they also occur under non-seismic circumstances. And again, are they merely indicative of impending earthquakes or a prime contributing cause? The results from EQE suggest the latter.

Inflammable earth gases (CH4, CO and H2) have also been proposed as an earthquake precursor (Wakita 1980, Singh 2010b, Jones 2002). The intuitives agree. For example:

Metal deposits within the earth are concentrated in certain peculiar shapes and forms. When gases of a certain nature reach these they create an explosive effect that causes changes to come about. Now this … is a definite factor in some areas. [LH]

These gases are already known to accumulate in coal mines, where they have led to damaging explosions. They can also arise from ruptured gas lines, underground gas storage cavities and seepage from natural gas wells. If ignited in seismic areas such explosions could certainly trigger slippage along faults. It may be difficult to detect them, even simultaneous with the quake, unless they are large and close to the surface. There are no observational data that identify such natural gas explosions as the cause of earthquakes, though underground nuclear explosions are known to be capable of doing so.[18] The intuitive statement is therefore plausible, though it may not be relevant to a gas-related precursor.

While the intuitives’ information on ground gases is broadly confirmed, more research will be necessary before the detection of Rn or other soil gases can be confirmed as a useful indicator or cause of triggering action, and especially as a useful precursor. Further intuitive inquiry could help to answer these questions.

EQF—Centrifugal Forces Inside the Earth

It has long been known that centrifugal forces, arising from the earth’s steady rotation upon its axis, induce complex circulations in the plastic magma layer in the mantle. These motions are suspected of being responsible for driving the tectonic plates in their slow movement on the upper mantle and contributing thereby to earthquakes at a basic, global level (Lay 1995).

The intuitives confirm this suspicion and go on to explain further. One of them puts it this way:

There are two forces which would account for triggering the final activities of quakes. The centrifugal force of the earth’s rotation causes movement of the magmas. … In the centermost [portion] of tectonic plates the centrifugal force of the planet in its axis of rotation combines with the thermal expansionary forces of the molten masses beneath the surface to [cause] movement along the inner structures, toward the outer surfaces of the tectonic plates. … The pressures of centrifugal forces combine with the normal expansionary pressures of any heated matter. When all of these reach a critical point, the final triggering of the quake [takes place]. …

When there is a concentration of the plasmic field, when it becomes exposed to the earth’s magnetic field plus the earth’s centrifugal force, [then there] is this critical force that causes a transference of energy from the kinetic level to the molecular level of the earth’s stable crust. This is the setting-off factor that, in its own right, actually triggers the quake. [KR]

The claim for a role by the earth’s static magnetic field (0.3-0.6 gauss at the surface, ~0.25 gauss at depth) is not presently seen as a contributing force in plate tectonics or lithosphere movement but only as an incidental consequence of the circular dynamo-like electric currents produced by convection in the earth’s outer core, which consists mostly of molten iron.[19] These currents have a small retarding effect on the convection, thus upon the currents themselves, so the intuitive’s statement is technically correct. But this is probably not what was meant.

Rather, the statement seems to be referring to magnetic forces large enough to assist the movement of magma upward to become a “molecular” (solid) triggering force in the crust, perhaps similar to the plume under a volcano. Accepted plate tectonics offers no support for such movement beneath earthquakes, except along plate boundaries. An alternative theory independent of plate tectonics proposes that other plumes, more widely spread, extend from the core to the crust and are influential not just for volcanoes but for earthquakes outside of plate boundaries (Morgan 1972, Foulger 2010). These plumes would be very hot, thus detectable by satellite (EQTh). This hypothesis remains to be confirmed for both volcanoes and earthquakes.

The intuitive description is therefore verified except for this last point, and again for the specific role of the earth’s magnetic field as a regional triggering force. More data are required on the physical role of the earth’s magnetism at the level of the magma, and especially how the centrifugal motion in the liquid core and mantle could induce regional seismicity.

EQW—Earthquake Weather

Weather changes are popularly believed to be indicators of forthcoming earthquakes (and numerous other unexplained events)—a muggy feeling in the air, strange winds, heavy storms, unusual cloud formations, etc.—but this widespread and enduring legend lacks adequate data to qualify it as a credible precursor. Even if the data were valid such changes are not sufficiently unique and consistent to signal a shock reliably.

There is limited basis for accepting such influences as causal but indirect. Numerous reports after 1980 speak of heavy rainfall saturating the ground (Costain 2010, Schultz 2009); typhoons, which have initiated small earthquakes in Taiwan, presumably from the sudden drop in air pressure (Liu 2009); and hurricanes and flooding that can trigger landslides and avalanches under certain conditions and may participate in triggering earthquakes as well (Larsen 1990, Schultz 2009, Wdowinski 2011). Even global warming has been suggested as a cause of earthquake activity (Yasuhara 2010).

The intuitives agree with some of these speculations and associated precursory mechanisms; for example:

There is often the attraction of certain cloud forms to areas of quakes, and even the stilling of the atmosphere. … observable cloud structures, bulbulous [bulbous?] and towering in nature, up to 50 to 200 miles from the center … a great release of quantities of water from the atmosphere. [KR]

The heat and dryness of the earth’s crust is … the final catalyst after the pressure buildup has reached a certain point … even though the particular time of the occurrence is not dry per se. [LH]

Large cumulus and other unusual cloud patterns before particular shocks have often been reported from Japan and China (e.g., Li-Xin 2009, Park 2003, Guo 2008), and the dryness of the crust is consistent with the favorable pre-earthquake atmospheric conditions involving electric charge build-up (EQE) and electromagnetic activity (EQM). Moreover, the weather itself is now seen to be a dynamic electromagnetic process, interactive with familiar atmospheric thermodynamics:

Electromagnetic forces that account for atmospheric conditions of storms, even the triggering of lightning, are grounding principles involving the electromagnetic fields of the earth. They are … directly related to the earth’s electromagnetic energies. [KR]

During the 1980s satellite observations allowed the earth’s weather to be monitored from space, and large computers enabled it to be modeled and forecast globally and accurately. Electromagnetic effects such as lightning, aurora and the movements of ionospheric layers began to be better understood. The overall process turned out to be very complicated. There is much to be explained before the full relation between earthquakes and the weather can be understood, even just for a practical precursor.

The intuitives’ comments on weather phenomena associated with earthquakes are simple and partially supported by the knowledge and data gained in the last thirty years. While none of their information has been contradicted, most of it is vague and remains to be verified. At this point weather changes may become a contributing precursor, but their great complexity and variability makes it doubtful that they will ever turn out to be directly useful.

EQA—Abnormal Animal Behavior

Many animals are known to possess physical senses not enjoyed by humans, both in kind and sensitivity: sounds, vibrations, thermal radiation, gases (smells), electromagnetic and static magnetic fields and surely others (Buskirk 1981). It is reasonable to expect that they may be able to pick up subtle environmental clues related to forthcoming earthquakes. Hundreds of popular reports of observations of abnormal animal behavior near particular earthquakes have come from all across the world, from ancient Greece to news items every year in this century. A persistent folk legend had grown up around the possibility. Reports of observations accumulated up to 1980 left no doubt that the phenomenon has at least limited validity as a precursor (Lee 1976, Evernden 1976, Davis 1979, Kerr 1980, Lott 1981), though solid data were missing.

While the intuitives confirmed this hypothesis, specifics were neither offered nor requested as to which kinds of quakes, animals, animal sensitivities and perhaps other factors are behind the precursor and how it might be utilized.

Three surveys in later years sought to sort out the huge volume of accounts and try to identity those which were credible enough for scientific acceptance (Schaal 1988, Kirschvink 2000, Bhargava 2009). The main difficulty was that many of the reports arose only after the quake occurred and were therefore likely to be fortuitous recollections. Often the abnormal behavior itself occurred only after the quake. Most critical, these accounts do not usually distinguish the alleged abnormal behavior from ordinary animal behavior due to predators, rutting, storms and fire sirens, for instance. Further research identified some likely animal sensitivities (Buskirk, 1981) and explored some of these possibilities (Otis 1981, Brown 1997, Pararas-Carayannis no date) but led to no significant new options.

The relatively few acceptable reports showed that the animal precursor is generally and widely valid though not forming a consistent pattern. There are just too many kinds of animals, earthquakes and potential sensitivities to allow conclusions to be drawn about the underlying triggering process, let alone to serve as a useful precursor for prediction purposes. A major research effort would be needed to explore these many distinctions, and there would be no prior guarantee of eventual success.

The intuitives’ information on abnormal animal behavior before earthquakes is therefore verified, though this precursor is not likely to be helpful by itself unless much research is carried out. Further intuitive inquiries could identify the most likely possibilities.

EQH: Human Precursors?

Since expert intuitives are able to provide such detailed technical information on the earthquake triggering process, might they also be able to predict earthquakes directly—that is, to be precursors themselves?

The answer is yes but there are further conditions on this particular application of intuition because the prediction now becomes part of the event being predicted. Personal experience in collecting and evaluating intuitive earthquake predictions from both amateurs and experts shows that their efforts are sometimes remarkably successful, though their overall reliability and usefulness is small. It turned out that the intuitive acquisition of predictive information (of any sort) is easily limited or blocked unless the consequences of acquiring and utilizing it later are taken into account and respected. When the prediction would do more harm than good, because of consequences not foreseen, the flow of information can be blocked.

The intuitives offered further explanation for this blockage. First of all, they remind us that man already possesses both the intuitive and the physical capacities to be aware of when and where earthquakes are about to occur. He is always free to make use of these faculties for his own benefit:

Unconscious material is admitted into consciousness according to the beliefs an individual holds about himself, his reality and his place in it. Those who want to use their own unconscious precognition of such an event will take advantage of it. … On other than conscious levels, simply as creatures, you are well aware of impending storms, floods, tornadoes, earthquakes and so forth. There are many hints and signs picked up by the body itself—alterations in air pressure, magnetic orientation, minute electrical differentiations of which the skin itself is aware. [JR]

In other words, blockage is already taking place for almost everyone.

When intuitive earthquake predictions are intended for non-personal use, the reaction to the information is part of the prediction. Intuition can aid or retard the reception process. Since predictions for public use are not consistently accepted and acted upon equally by everyone, they can easily induce confusion and panic. To be useful they must be announced officially with scientific and governmental authority and with clear directions for evasive action, as noted earlier. Without this sanction it is better not to release the prediction in the first place, or even seek it. A competent intuitive may not be able or willing to provide it (Kautz 2005).

For personal predictions the intuitive process operates differently. The recipient is then free and responsible to choose whom he listens to and his own response. While the prediction can activate his fears and expectations, he is the only one who must deal with it. If he is the intuitive himself he may find the information blocked. Even the most expert intuitives sometimes find it difficult to obtain reliable information about themselves. Like surgeons and psychiatrists they know they can be blinded to their own issues and limitations.

Sometimes a prediction is not called for at all:

Natural disasters are brought about more at an emotional level than at a belief level, though beliefs have an important part to play for they generate the emotions. … Those in earthquake regions are attracted to such spots because of their innate understanding of the relationship between exterior circumstances and their own private mental and emotional patterns. [JR]

That is, while one person will chose to live in a quiet locale which places few demands on his personal development, another will choose to live in an energetic environment with political unrest, wars, tornadoes—or earthquakes. Our private tremors tend to coincide with those of the earth! Persons inwardly seeking quiet and security will avoid such circumstances, while those seeking challenging drama will find themselves unconsciously gathering in earthquake-prone areas. This is just as some persons choose to join the military, enter the business world or become involved in politics: they select what they deeply feel they need.

These individual choices can even help bring about the earthquake in the first place:

The qualities of such individuals … en masse affect the deep electromagnetic energy of the earth. … Obviously, there have been earthquakes where there are no people, but in all cases the origins are to be found in mental properties rather than exterior ones. … Your feelings have electromagnetic properties … There are what I am going to call “ghost chemicals”—aspects of normal chemicals that you have not perceived so far—which are changed into purely electromagnetic properties. Energy is released that directly affects the atmosphere. [JR]

Geoscience is not yet aware of any such “ghost chemicals.”

Finally, and in a broader sense, man “creates” his earthquake experiences whenever he builds flimsy houses on ground susceptible to shaking, liquefaction and slides, and constructs tall buildings covered with plate glass. He locates his cities (and nuclear reactors!) on shorelines subject to tsunamis. It is already established that quakes can be triggered from the creation of coal mines (Lovett 2010), dams and reservoirs (Gupta 2002) and geyser plants (Streepy 1996). It’s also known that under favorable conditions small shocks can be turned on and off by pumping water into and out of wells near faults (Raleigh 1976). Man explodes nuclear bombs underground (McEven,1988) and extracts huge quantities of oil and gas out of the earth’s crust (Anon1), without serious concern for how these activities mighty affect stressed faults. As new precursors are found, still more human effects on earthquakes may be uncovered.

Humans, aware or not, are creating many of their own earthquakes.

10. Candidate Precursors Not Verifiable

EQN—Nuclear and Other Radiation

Two intuitives spoke briefly of nuclear activity and radiation emitted inside the earth:

(What kind of forces are acting upon the rock at the point of fracture or sliding?) These are static pressures that come about from electrostatic, electromagnetic and nuclear pressures. The electrostatic and electromagnetic forces act not directly on the epicenter [hypocenter?], but in the surrounding area, while the nuclear force acts directly on the epicenter . [AA]

The principal triggering action is coming from changes in the internal radiation which originates in the central core of the earth. … It throbs and pulsates like a powerful human heart, and is continually changing its shape. These changes affect its radiation accordingly. [BR]

The main energy for earthquakes comes from the central core of the earth. This energy is very powerful and can take any form. … This energy has a very high vibration. … [It] is like atomic energy, and has some electrical and magnetic properties. [AA]

The term “radiation” is ambiguous since it can refer to any form of energy which is emitted, including thermal and electromagnetic waves as well as particle emission from nuclear decay. The “nuclear pressure “and “nuclear force” in the first excerpt may refer only to the radioactive decay in the crust and upper mantle, which produces radon, as verified above for that precursor (EQG). The internal radiation in the earth’s central core (second excerpt) may be thermal only (EQTh). The vague terms “very high vibration” and “like atomic energy” (in the third) could also refer to thermal radiation. While these ambiguous intuitive statements have at least one valid interpretation, they are unfortunately not sufficiently informative to be verifiable.

Recent studies of antineutrinos emitted continuously from the earth have been helpful in understanding its internal composition and the source of heat emission. It is not yet known if the location and intensity of the antineutrinos are related to earthquakes in any way (except possibly for monitoring global heat generation [EQTh]). However, the immense complexity and cost of the detection equipment (KamLAND and Borexino) precludes its use as a practical precursor that could be monitored regionally (Araki 2005, Fields 2006, Fiorentini 2007, Bellini 2010).

Ionizing cosmic radiation is certainly impinging upon the geomagnetic field and ionosphere, parallel to the solar radiations already discussed (EQS), and could be playing a part in the ionospheric disturbances already verified (EQI) (Dorman 2004). The cosmic ray index has been shown to be correlated with cloud formation at low altitudes and the earth’s climate generally (Svensmark 1998, Damon 2004). This influence was not mentioned by the intuitives except for a brief referral to an “upper energy” which affects the ionosphere. It could then be translated into infrared and propagated downward into the atmosphere. This phenomenon could be interpreted as cosmic radiation but evidence is again lacking.

The intuitives statements on nuclear and other radiation are unverifiable.

11. Conclusions and Implications

The past thirty years have seen the small, retiring subfield of seismology expand into its parent field of geophysics, thanks mainly to the wave of technological advances in space exploration and computation, and the global media awareness of costly and tragic earthquakes which has been enabled by modern global communications. At the same time the sheer complexity of the short-term earthquake prediction problem has exceeded all earlier expectations and is now on the same scale as the problem of understanding the cause and treatment of cancer within the human body: much intricacy, no identifiable primary cause, many strongly interdependent factors, an essential interdisciplinary approach (for which the previoius generation of researchers were not equipped to handle) and no good clues on which of several possible approaches will most likely lead to a solution.

The most recent discoveries on the critical role of electrical activity (of many sorts) in the atmosphere and near-earth space, as anticipated by the intuitives thirty years ago, have added their own fuel to this scientific explosion. They have contributed new portals for exploration, a deeper understanding of triggering and several new precursors, but they have not (yet) provided the specific directional clues which are so much needed. Future intuitive inquiries hold this potential. The practical goal of short-term prediction still lies in the future, perhaps a distant one, and we are not even sure at this point if it can ever be reached.

Despite this complexity and expansion we have learned that electrical activity in the ground, atmosphere and space can no longer be neglected as part of the triggering process; that no one precursor is likely to be found sufficient by itself as measurable and reliable for short-term prediction; and that space exploration will continue to play a strong role in understanding the triggering process itself and which of the thirty or so potential precursors might be employed as measurable indicators for prediction purposes. Interested and experienced seismologists may be able to glean additional ideas from from the intuitive excerpts presented herein.

Nevertheless, the main issue in this paper was not seismology, despite its great interest and human importance, but rather the validation of a different and more powerful way of acquiring totally new information, which can then be applied to any area, even outside of science, which is limited by a lack of relevant knowledge and understanding. This study has demonstrated, through an important example, that detailed, significant and totally new knowledge may be obtained through suitably executed intuitive inquiry.

By relying more heavily on intuitive methods in the future, scientific discovery can be expanded widely through this gateway. Examples taken from prior research in disciplines apart from seismology suggest that there are few if any limits on the depth and breadth of knowledge attainable by intuitive methods (Kautz 2005, Grof 2010) so long as appropriate questions can be asked and the inquiry has a positive human purpose. A rich reservoir is waiting to be tapped.


The author is extremely grateful to the eight expert intuitives who contributed the essential information for this inquiry: Aron Abrahamsen [AA], Anne Armstrong [AAA], Barbara Rowan [BR], Debra Reynolds [DR], Jane Roberts [JR], Kevin Ryerson [KR], Lenora Huett [LH] and Marsha Adams [MA].

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  1. This page is essentially the same as the following published article: Kautz, William H. (2012). Earthquake triggering: Verification of intuitive insights obtained by intuitive consensus. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 26, 505-550  
  2. This initial section is derived from a similar section in the accompanying article on bipolar depression.
  3. For example, the large annual meetings of the Association for the Study of Consciousness at the University of Arizona, now it their eighteenth year.
  4. The hypocenter of an earthquake is the point within the earth where the rupture or slippage first begins; the epicenter is an imaginary point on the earth’s surface, directly above the hypocenter. The region of strongest ground shaking may be neither of these, since it depends in a complex way upon rock structures in the surrounding area. 
  5. The 2600 km network of Japanese high-speed trains (shinkansen) operate regularly at 130 to 320 km/hr, soon to increase to 500-600 km/hr. They are automatically and immediately braked and slowed after a very-short-term earthquake warning.
  6. A preliminary report on intuitive inquiries on the earthquake triggering problem appeared in Psi Research (Kautz 1982), a small journal no longer published, and a fuller report in Chapter 7 of the book Opening the Inner Eye (Kautz 2005).
  7. Earthquake prediction research in the US was effectively stopped in 1990 through legislation, promoted by Vice resident Al Gore, in favor of mitigation efforts. It has since been picked up again by several NASA projects centered around space observation. Foreign programs on earthquake prediction in Russia, China and Japan, with smaller programs in Greece, Turkey and Italy, have bloomed.
  8. The reference to electromagnetism requires elaboration, for these forces include in their definition all known forms of radiation, from radio, infrared, light, ultraviolet, x-ray and microwaves, to cosmic rays and even the fundamental particles of physics, which have both particle and wave properties. The distinguishing measure of all these forms of energy is their wavelength, equivalently their frequency, which varies from many miles down to billionths of a millimeter and beyond. Simple electricity and magnetism have zero frequency.
  9. The bracketed initials [XX] indicate the contributing intuitives, who are more fully identified in the acknowledgement statement at the end of this paper.
  10. In this and several later instances indicated by “e.g., …” the referenced sources are exemplary of dozens of others not individually cited.
  11. A later analysis (Campbell 2009) showed that the ULF signals were actually prevalent over much of Western North America, not just near the epicenter, at the time of the quake. Fraser-Smith’s claim for a ULF precursor is therefore still valid but may be weakened since the precursor appears to be active over a much larger area.
  12. The electric and magnetic components are effectively independent at these low frequencies and must be measured separately.
  13. Not to be confused with the Quakefinder system of JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory), which seeks to automatically and accurately map regional ground displacements as measured by satellite (Stolorz 1996).
  14. Newspaper report from Honolulu, April 1973, no longer retrievable.
  15. This phenomena must be distinguished from acoustic gravity waves created directly from the earth’s vertical movement after the earthquake.
  16. The term syzygy may refer to either an exact line-up of three planetary bodies, or merely an approximate line-up such as occurs at eclipses.
  17. See, for example,
  18. The detection of paleomagnetic traces near large seafloor faults played a major part in the development of the continental drift theory, now well accepted. The earth’s magnetism is not seen as driving the spreading.

Last modified: March 27, 2017