Quake lights likely caused by grinding rocks in rift zones, study suggests

01/2/2014 | Nature (free content)

The mysterious lights sometimes reported before or during earthquakes occur most frequently in geological rift zones, according to a study published in Seismological Research Letters. Researchers say the glow emanates from electricity generated as rocks grind together along vertical faults during temblors. "Earthquake lights are a real phenomenon -- they're not UFOs. They can be scientifically explained," said geologist Robert Theriault of Quebec's Ministry of Natural Resources, lead author of the study.

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