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New study on human-induced seismic activity due to fracking wastewater injection

A brand-new study published in the journal Science entitled "Injection-Induced Earthquakes" by William Ellsworth of the US Geological Survey's Earthquake Science Center in California has concluded that deep wastewater injection wells may have played a role in the increase of earthquakes in the central US during the years 2011 and 2012.

The high volumes of wastewater being injected deep underground in these disposal wells are a by-product of the process of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking."  While the injection of this wastewater had previously been suspected as a possible cause of human-induced seismic activity, no study had yet concluded with a high degree of certainty that this injection was actually causing the increased seismic activity.  The newly-published study concludes that there is a connection between the injection of large volumes of wastewater from fracking and the increase of seismic activity, including earthquakes measuring over 3.0.

The study includes a graph showing the cumulative count of earthquakes with magnitudes of 3.0 or greater in the US "midcontinent."  The cumulative count increases steadily from 1970 through 2000 and then jumps in 2001 and increases at a more rapid pace from 2001 to the present -- an increased rate that coincides with the advent of aggressive hydraulic fracturing in the mid-continental US.

The study concludes that the fracking itself, long known to induce minor earthquakes that usually measure below 3.0, is not the probable cause of the increased number of magnitude 3.0+ earthquakes, but the practice of injecting wastewater from fracking operations into deep disposal wells is probably a contributing factor.  A quotation from the structured abstract of the study explains:

More than 100,000 wells have been subjected to fracking in recent years, and the largest induced earthquake was magnitude 3.6, which is too small to pose a serious risk. Yet, wastewater disposal by injection into deep wells poses a higher risk, because this practice can induce larger earthquakes. For example, several of the largest earthquakes in the U.S. midcontinent in 2011 and 2012 may have been triggered by nearby disposal wells. The largest of these was a magnitude 5.6 event in central Oklahoma that destroyed 14 homes and injured two people. The mechanism responsible for inducing these events appears to be the well-understood process of weakening a preexisting fault by elevating the fluid pressure. However, only a small fraction of the more than 30,000 wastewater disposal wells appears to be problematic—typically those that dispose of very large volumes of water and/or communicate pressure perturbations directly into basement faults. 
Again, although this connection had been suspected previously, it had not been studied enough for scientists in the US government to conclusively admit to a connection.  In fact, this statement from the Secretary of the US Department of the Interior (which includes the USGS) published on 04/11/2012 concludes by saying in the penultimate paragraph: "Although we cannot eliminate the possibility, there have been no conclusive examples linking wastewater injection activity to triggering of large, major earthquakes even when located near a known fault."  We can assume that the Department of the Interior will issue a new statement now that further study has demonstrated more evidence of a conclusive connection.

The process by which the injection of wastewater into the ground can trigger earthquakes is illustrated in the video above, as well as in the animated gif at the bottom of this article in Mother Jones magazine discussing the newly-published study.

The process is also discussed in some detail in a blog post that was published here on 04/11/2012 (the same date as the date of publication for the Department of the Interior statement referenced above).  The reason that post was published on the same day that the Department of the Interior chose to release a statement is the fact that at that time Bill Ellsworth, the author of this most-recent study, was beginning to suggest that the rise in seismic activity shown in the graph above may have been connected to the process of wastewater injection.  The blog post explains that this conclusion is perfectly aligned with the hydroplate theory of Dr. Walt Brown, and that Dr. Brown has in fact long predicted that the injection of water deep underground could trigger earthquakes (see for instance note 69 on this page of his book's online version -- published physical versions of his book have contained similar warnings for years prior to 2011).

As that post also explains, the presence and direction of the numerous faults found all over the earth, including in the middle of plates, is not well explained by the existing tectonic theory but is explained by the hydroplate theory.  He notes that the faults and fracture zones on the earth (including on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean) do not conform to the explanation that they were caused over millions of years by tectonic movement, because they are sometimes many degrees out of parallel, sometimes curved, and sometimes even intersect one another (see for example his discussion on this page).

The hydroplate theory proposes that faults and fracture zones were the result of the tremendous mass imbalances in the earth during the events surrounding a global flood, which included the dramatic rise of the basement mantle under what is today the Atlantic Ocean when the escaping water eroded overlying crust and removed the weight of that crust, followed by an even more dramatic collapse of the area that now form the basin of the Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean, as mass moved towards the Atlantic, accompanied by tremendous friction, melting, and magma production.  Thus, the very faults themselves which are discussed in this most-recent study of the possible connection between wastewater injection and earthquakes are important pieces of geological evidence which support the hydroplate theory's explanation of earth's geology.

Note that the connection between earthquakes and wastewater injection does not mean that all earthquakes in the center of plates, far from plate boundaries, are the product of human-induced activity.  Numerous previous posts have discussed the reasons that earthquakes can take place far from plate boundaries -- a phenomenon that the hydroplate theory explains quite satisfactorily, but one that the tectonic theory has some difficulty with.  Powerful earthquakes far from plate boundaries have been reported in previous centuries (such as the powerful New Madrid earthquake in Missouri in 1811), when no fracking was taking place, and earthquakes have been measured far from plate boundaries in the middle of Antarctica where no fracking operations are being conducted (as far as we know).

The editor's summary of this most-recent study also notes that the deep fluid injection of wastewater near faults may trigger earthquakes when powerful seismic waves from far-off earthquakes reach the faults in question.  Unfortunately, the hydroplate theory's explanation of earthquakes appears to support the likelihood that the number of such earthquakes may increase in the future.  This possibility is discussed at the end of this previous post which goes into more detail on the mechanisms that cause "deep earthquakes."

The study of earthquakes is very important, and the hydroplate theory's explanation of the cause of faults and earthquakes appears in many ways to be superior to the conventional tectonic models that most scientists are using today as the foundation for their understanding of these phenomena.  This most-recent study appears to be yet another example of research that confirms assertions that Dr. Walt Brown has been making for years based on his hydroplate theory.

Deep earthquakes

(Mobile readers please scroll down to read the post).

This past week, a very powerful deep earthquake of magnitude 8.3 originating 378 miles beneath the Sea of Okhotsk (west of the Kamchatka Peninsula) has scientists wondering whether this is the most powerful deep earthquake ever recorded.

At 3.8 miles deep or 609 kilometers below the surface, it is not quite as deep as the 395-mile deep (631 kilometer) earthquake that occurred below Bolivia in 1994, but at 8.3 it was more powerful than the Bolivia deep earthquake, which was judged to be 8.2.  

Here are two articles describing the recent deep earthquake below the Sea of Okhotsk, one from the "newsblog" of the journal Nature, and one from the website LiveScience.

Deep earthquakes present some challenges to geologists.  In fact, until the Bolivia earthquake, conventional geologists did not believe that deep earthquakes could approach the power of shallow earthquakes.  That's because conventional geologists believe that earthquakes are primarily driven by the engine of heat, primarily by the heat created by the friction and pressure at plate boundaries, which causes rock to suddenly squeeze into a denser form, leading to rapid realignment of material below the surface that creates a chain reaction from the epicenter which is felt as an earthquake.  

Deep earthquakes pose a problem for that theory, in that the heat and pressure so far below the surface are so great that the mechanism used to explain earthquakes at shallower depths would not seem to be a plausible explanation for deep earthquakes.  Whatever caused deep earthquakes, scientists did not believe that deep earthquakes would be as powerful as shallow earthquakes, but the Bolivia quake challenged that view.

As this New York Times Science Page article published in 1995, in the wake of the powerful Bolivia deep quake,  explains:
These upheavals [deep earthquakes], which occur 200 to 400 miles below the earth's surface, are puzzling in that they ought to be impossible. The pressures and temperatures at that depth are so great that rock should undergo no frictional sliding, the mechanism of garden-variety earthquakes near the surface. So most geologists came to believe that the crushing pressures and increasing heat below a certain depth squeezed the rock into forms that were suddenly denser, creating huge cracks that developed into big temblors.

No more. An extraordinarily big earthquake 395 miles beneath Bolivia last June not only shattered records by jolting cities as far away as Toronto but also left the squeeze theory shaken.

A new analysis of shock waves from that earthquake show its fault zone was 30 miles long and 20 miles wide, too big to be explained by the leading theory. In fact, experts say, the quake bears a disturbing resemblance to big ones that occur near the earth's surface.

"It's embarrassing," said Dr. Paul G. Silver, a geologist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington who questions the old theory. "It looks and acts and talks like these shallow earthquakes. But it shouldn't exist."

As the article goes on to explain, "The mystery is how earthquakes happen at all at remote depths where temperatures may exceed 2,900 degrees Fahrenheit and pressures are 240,000 times greater than those at the surface of the earth. In theory, any rock there should have the consistency of putty, ruling out the brittle fracture and frictional sliding found in faults near the surface."

In spite of the embarrassment of the "experts," that article reassures the reader that: "No matter who wins the intellectual battle, experts agree that deep earthquakes are a general expression of plate tectonics."

Well, that's comforting.

Except that proponents of plate tectonics still have a king-sized problem providing valid explanations for the characteristics of deep earthquakes, as Dr. Walt Brown -- the originator of the hydroplate theory -- explains in great detail in his discussion of the phenomenon.  Here is the beginning of an extended section of his book (the entirety of which can be read online here, or purchased to read in hardcover from his site or from Amazon) dealing with the phenomenon of earthquakes, and discussing the importance of deep earthquakes.

According to the hydroplate theory's model, the reason conventional geologists have a hard time explaining deep earthquakes is that their explanation of all earthquakes is incorrect.  On this page of his book (and the one that follows it), Dr. Brown presents an extended chart that lists features of earthquakes and then compares the hydroplate theory explanation to the tectonic theory explanation for each.  

At the heading of the two columns (hydroplate and tectonic), he explains the two different explanations that the two theories provide for the phenomenon of earthquakes (and the related phenomena of the Pacific basin, including the "Ring of Fire" and the deep Pacific trenches).  

The tectonic model explains earthquakes, deep Pacific trenches, and the "Ring of Fire" (surrounding the Pacific basin) as the product of "subducting plates that have been diving into the mantle for hundreds of millions of years."  As noted above, this explanation sees earthquakes and the related phenomena as primarily driven by heat.

In contrast, the hydroplate theory has a very different explanation.  According to Dr. Brown, "Trenches, earthquakes, and the Ring of Fire are a result of shifts inside the earth during the flood, including the rising of the Atlantic floor and the subsidence of the Pacific floor."  Rather than being driven by heat, these phenomena are primarily driven by gravity, according to the hydroplate theory.

You can explore the list of geological evidence in the two columns and decide for yourself which of the two explanations explains the evidence more satisfactorily.

According to the hydroplate theory, earthquakes today are the result of a cataclysmic event that took place at the time of a global flood.  The initial eruption of floodwaters from under the crust removed the weight of the continents above and led to an upward bulge of the basement rock beneath.  This series of events caused the mid-Atlantic ridge, and led to tremendous friction and melting inside the earth, in a widening cone whose base on the other side of the earth corresponds today (roughly) to the edge of the Pacific basin and the Ring of Fire.

In figure 95, found in note 37 on this page of Dr. Brown's online book, he presents a simplified diagram showing the effect on the inner earth of the proposed upward springing of the floor of the Atlantic after the release of the floodwaters and the erosion of the sides of the continents, which removed weight above the basement rock that forms today's Atlantic floor (this event was discussed in some detail in this previous post). The caption accompanying the image at figure 95 explains:
The mass rising to fill in the blue region of the top cone (the new Atlantic floor) would, as a first approximation, equal the mass passing through the center of the earth. The rock in the yellow cone would experience extreme shearing stresses and deformations, so rock first melted as it approached (and was extruded through) the constriction at the center of the earth. (This is how the earth’s core, shown in red, began.) As the extruded rock melted, it also shrank, by about half, because it was far below the crossover depth. That, in turn, collapsed the deepest foundations on the Pacific side of the earth and produced more shearing deformations and melting immediately above. A runaway situation quickly developed which formed the ring of fire (shown in green), and produced a myriad of fractures in and below the Pacific plate [to see the different colored areas he is describing, visit figure 95 in his book].
(This same sequence of events was also responsible for the creation of our planet's very strong magnetic field, as discussed in this previous blog post). 

Figure 86 (located almost halfway down this page discussing earthquakes, trenches, and the Ring of Fire) shows that earthquakes with magnitudes of 5.0 or greater have a distribution with two peak depths -- one at 22 miles and one at 370 miles beneath the surface.  The distribution chart shows that very few earthquakes originate at 222 miles -- the distribution curve has two distinct groupings of shallow earthquakes and deep earthquakes, with very few at the "crossover point" in between the two groups.  It also shows that earthquakes do not originate at depths greater than 410 miles.  

Dr. Brown's theory has an explanation for this surprising evidence.  His theory argues that earthquakes are caused when rock converges upon a point beneath the surface.  But how could rock converge on a point, unless rock that had been at that point were to somehow disappear to allow the surrounding rock to rush in?  Dr. Brown explains that due to the principles of physics, magma (molten rock) will expand and move upwards (towards the earth's surface) if it is above the crossover depth (of 222 miles), and that it will contract and move downwards (towards the earth's core) if it is below the crossover depth.

Shallow earthquakes are often caused when molten rock expands and moves upwards -- like a beach ball being held under the surface of the water, it wants to get up and eventually paths will open up for it to do so, often quite suddenly and with a chain reaction of further melting of the rock around them.  As this takes place, rock in the area will rapidly rearrange and cause an earthquake.

Deep earthquakes are caused by the same process, except that below the crossover depth the magma contracts and seeks to sink down to the core.  When it manages to do so, the rearrangement of rock that takes place creates a deep earthquake.

These are very broad outlines of the forces involved; for a more complete explanation, the reader is invited to examine the several pages of detailed discussion and diagrams in Dr. Brown's book on this topic.  However, it is important to point out that Dr. Brown's theory links deep earthquakes, the Ring of Fire, and the deep ocean trenches to a single originating event that connects all of them.  As you can see from the maps of this recent powerful deep earthquake, it originated in the vicinity of the Kuril-Kamchatka Trench (see map above from the USGS, with last week's earthquake location pointed out by a black arrow that I added based on the USGS report here).

The conventional explanation for the origin of these trenches, as well as the deep earthquake that took place last week, is that the Pacific plate is subducting or diving underneath another plate along these trenches, and that this subduction creates the trenches and the earthquakes.  As the article linked above from the journal Nature explains, the conventional view is that, "The crust is descending fast enough — about 8 centimetres per year — to remain cool enough to rupture even at great depths. The diving plate is thus seismically active down to 650 kilometres or greater."

Never mind the fact that a thirty-to-sixty mile thick plate diving beneath another plate would create intense pressure and intense heat, which would increase dramatically the deeper the plate went (making the above explanation somewhat problematic), the very idea that subduction is responsible for the deep ocean trenches is fraught with problems.  

One of the biggest of these, as Dr. Brown points out, is the shape of the ocean trenches -- they are frequently arcs, and sometimes they have dramatic cusps.  How could a diving plate create an arc?  As Dr. Brown points out, if you bend a thick paperback book in half (to simulate a plate that is subducting), you will have a very difficult time making that bend resemble an arc (in fact, you won't be able to do it).  

The cusps create an even bigger problem.  In the map above, you can see that the recent deep earthquake near the Kuril-Kamchatka Trench was located almost due west of a point where the trench takes a dramatic 90-degree turn.  What kind of subducting plate could create a trench shaped like that?

There are numerous other problems with the tectonic explanation for the deep ocean trenches (including the fact that almost all of them are located along the western portions of the Pacific basin).  Some of those are discussed in previous blog posts, such as this one and this oneMany more are discussed in detail in Dr. Brown's book.

On the other hand, the mechanism proposed by the hydroplate theory explains the shape and distribution of the deep Pacific ocean trenches very comprehensively, as part of the events of the catastrophic global flood, when the inner earth rose towards the Atlantic and "sucked" the Pacific basin towards the center of the earth.  The evidence supporting this explanation is detailed in Dr. Brown's discussion in points 43 through 56 towards the end of this page in his book.

All of this discussion is not a mere academic argument with no real consequence to our day-to-day lives.  According to Dr. Brown's theory, there could be reasons that powerful and deep earthquakes are becoming more common, and if his theory is correct we could see a tremendous increase in earthquakes at some point in the future.  At the end of the discussion accompanying Figure 87 on this page of his book, Dr. Brown writes:

Drainage into the outer core continues today, releases gigantic amounts of heat throughout the mantle and core,31 and will eventually produce many powerful earthquakes.  When this will happen is uncertain.32
In the footnote at the end of that statement (footnote 32), he restates the same disturbing conclusion:
Nevertheless, earthquakes will someday increase substantially, because heat is building up inside the earth and the shrinkage of rock that melts below the crossover depth increases stresses in the crust and upper mantle. Also, these microscopic movements inside the earth generate heat thousands of times faster than heat escapes at the earth’s surface. This increasing heat melts rock, especially along the relatively hot walls of faults extending from trenches down to the liquid outer core. That melt then lubricates and facilitates further internal movements. [See Endnote 31.]
This prospect for earthquakes increasing "substantially" someday is not exactly comforting.  However, it points to the importance of maintaining the ability to critically examine and question the dominant geological paradigms that inform our understanding of the world around us.  Powerful deep earthquakes such as the one that originated below the Sea of Okhotsk last week expose the weaknesses of the conventional models.  

Events such as this one should cause scientists to consider alternative explanations, such as the theory offered by Dr. Walt Brown, which has a lot of evidence to support it.

Earthquake lights, part 2 (tell your friends and family!)

The previous post discussed the subject of "earthquake lights," which appear to manifest themselves before, during, and after some powerful earthquakes and which are now at least partly accepted by the "scientific community," even if their cause is still the subject of debate.

Above is a video clip that was posted on YouTube and apparently taken during the powerful 8.8 earthquake which rocked Chile at 3:34 am on the morning of February 27, 2010.  This particular video was uploaded to YouTube the day after that earthquake, on February 28, 2010.  

During the video, the sky visibly lights up with bright blue flashes several times.  It is impossible to tell from this particular video, however, whether those flashes are caused by some man-made source, such as a major power station or power lines being disrupted by the violent shaking and sending off electrical explosions before shutting down.

In one paper linked in the previous post, studying luminous phenomena reported in Italy surrounding the 6.3 earthquake in Aquila, Abruzzo on April 6, 2009, some reported flashes were excluded due to the possibility that they were from man-made electrical sources, as well as anything that might have been caused by atmospheric conditions that were not necessarily linked to the earthquake.  For example, on page 969 of the original pagination (or page 3 of the pdf pagination), we read that:
 Roughly one hundred sightings were linked with natural phenomena such as sunsets, moon halos and fog illuminations.  For example, many witnesses reported seeing a strange moon light which appeared red and was surrounded by a small red halo.  This phenomenon was observed at nearly all the locations, from Amatrice to San Pio delle Camere.  In this study this phenomenon was considered to be atmospheric.  Additionally, eyewitnesses reported the breakdown of electrical lines.  Many flashes were also compatible with relatively small discharges coming from the ground during the main shock.  Being so, the flashes could have been short circuits, given that the area in and around Aquila is highly urbanised.  All of theses sightings which were identified as being of a natural or anthropogenic source, were excluded from the collection of luminous phenomena.
While some might dismiss the lights reported by eyewitnesses to the Chile earthquake as being only due to "anthropogenic" sources as well, it is probably best to leave both possibilities open -- in other words, to neither dismiss the possibility that the lights reported by eyewitnesses (and shown in the above video) could be due to man-made sources such as snapped power lines, short circuits, or electrical substations, nor to dismiss the possibility that the lights might have been caused by the earthquake itself, perhaps from plasma discharges coming up from the ground or from disruptions in the ionosphere that may be connected to powerful earthquakes.

Another famous eyewitness account from the powerful Chile earthquake of 2010 is the interview with freelance journalist Cecilia Lagos, who states that she "saw the sky changing colors."  While man-made electrical explosions might be expected to create sharp bursts of light, it seems less likely that they would cause the sky to be changing colors as described.  At the very least, this account would suggest that we should leave open the possibility that earthquake lights were present during the Chile quake.

The numerous eyewitness accounts described in the 2009 Aquila earthquake lights study suggests that earthquake lights do indeed come in many different colors.  For instance, beginning on page 970 (of the original pagination, or page 4 of the pdf) we read of eyewitnesses describing  "a red semicircle of light that covered the mountain," "flashes coming from below when observed from windows, particularly before the main shock," "light similar to a thin laser beam [. . .] white and clear blue," "luminous funnels, as conical structures of light, usually yellow, orange, or red, with very well defined bundles," "cones [. . .] all the same colour, that is, a mix of mostly yellow plus a little light red," "a horizontal beam of bright orange light," and even "discharges [. . .] less luminous than a lightning bolt [. . .] either white, green, or a shade ranging from red to violet."  All of this would appear to confirm the description given by Cecilia Lagos when she said that the sky was "changing colors."

The report of earthquake lights seen in Italy also tells us that:
Fiorella De Meo, from the West Aquila highway, remembers that at the tail end of the main shock and also after it, she saw about ten thin greenish blue electrical discharges to north just above Arischia and Cansatessa.  Each event was very brief, while together they lasted for about 10 s.  Some of the electrical discharges appeared simultaneously crossing each other.  De Meo saw no clouds, heard no noise and reported that the landscape was not lit.  971.
The collected reports above, as well as the "changing colors" reported by Cecilia Lagos in Chile, would appear to suggest some form of plasma activity, rather than simply man-made transformers blowing up.

Also, it should be pointed out that eyewitnesses accounts of phenomena which appear to be earthquake lights have been collected and published from survivors of powerful earthquakes well before the widespread use of electricity.   Here is a description of the "light flashes and glows" that many survivors of the New Madrid earthquakes (four powerful earthquakes that took place in December 1811 and January to February 1812 in what is now Missouri) reported, from page 46 of Myron Fuller's 1912 book on those earthquakes:
The phenomena of what may be termed "light flashes" and "glows" seem so improbable that they would be dismissed from consdieration but for the considerable number of localities from which they were reported.  Dillard, in speaking of the shocks (not especially the first one), says: "There issued no burning flames, but flashes such as would result from an explosion of gas, or from passing of electricity from cloud to cloud."  Lewis F. Linn, United States Senator, in a letter to the chairman of the Committee on Commerce, says the shock was accompanied "ever and anon [by] flashes of electricity, rendering the darkness doubly terrible."  Another evidently somewhat excited observer near New Madrid though he saw "many sparks of fire emitted from the earth."  At St. Louis gleams and flashes of light were frequently visible around the horizon in different directions, generally ascending from the earth.  In Livingston County, according to Mr. Riddick, the atmosphere previous to the shock of February 8 was remarkably luminous, objects being visible for considerable distances, although there was no moon.  "On this occasion the brightness was general, and did not proceed from any point or spot in the heavens.  It was broad and expanded, reaching from the zenith on every side toward the horizon.  It exhibited no flashes or coruscations, but, as long as it lasted, was a diffused illumination of the atmosphere on all sides.  At Bardstown there are reported to have been "frequent lights during the commotions."  At Knoxville, Tenn., at the end of the first shock, "two flashes of light, at intervals of about a minute, very much like distant lightning," were observed.  Farther east, in North Carolina, there were reported "three large extraordinary fires in the air; one appeared in an easterly direction, one in the north, and one in the south.  Their continuance was several hours; their size as large as a house on fire; the motion of the blaze was quite visible, but no sparks appeared."  At Savannah, Ga., the first shock is said to have been preceded by a flash of light.
That these sparks and flashes were not produced by power lines or electrical substations in the years 1811 and 1812 goes without saying.  It is also worth pointing out that, while many modern internet discussions of the luminous phenomena seen in Chile or in other recent large earthquakes mention the High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program (or HAARP), there was no such program in 1811 or 1812 nor is it likely that the knowledge existed at that time to create anything similar to HAARP.  This does not mean that there is no possibility of connections between modern earthquakes and HAARP, but it does mean that every report of astonishing flashes or lights associated with modern earthquakes does not automatically indicate involvement by HAARP or any other man-made program: earthquake lights from sources other than human activity almost certainly exist around some powerful earthquakes, as the eyewitness accounts from the early 1800s demonstrate.

As we have pointed out in previous discussions of this subject (such as this one), the hydroplate theory of Dr. Walt Brown suggests a different mechanism for the cause of most earthquakes than that proposed by the conventional tectonic theory.  If his theory is correct (and there is abundant evidence from many aspects of geology that appears to support his theory), it provides a scientific explanation for earthquake lights.  It also explains earthquakes that originate far from plate boundaries, including the New Madrid earthquakes in the southeastern US as well as earthquakes that continue to strike the eastern US to this day (such as today's magnitude 4.3 earthquake which originated in Kentucky and was felt as far away as Atlanta).

It is important that we do not rush to dismiss the phenomenon of earthquake lights as simply a "fringe" idea, or as a mistaken association of an earthquake with coincidental atmospheric conditions, or as the result of merely man-made electrical explosions or discharges due to short circuits, snapped power lines, or exploding transformers.  Beyond the fact that such hasty categorization could cause us to understand our world less accurately, a too-hasty dismissal of the phenomenon of earthquake lights could prevent us from pursuing avenues that could provide early warning and even save lives.

In fact, the study linked above examining reports of earthquake lights (or EQL) from the 2009 Aquila earthquake concludes with an account of a man who did have some familiarity with the connection between these weird light displays and the onset of powerful earthquakes, and who took warning from the luminous manifestations and used that early warning to make a few hasty preparations before the quake hit.  We read on page 976 (original pagination, or page 10 of the pdf), in the section entitled "Conclusions":
Finally, the experience of Carlo Strinella, who had knowledge of EQL, took measures to protect his family after interpreting some flashes he had sighted before the main shock.  This suggests that educating the general population about EQL phenomena could help save lives.
Since the general population does not seem to be receiving much education on this subject (at least I have never seen or heard any), please tell your friends and family about it!  Let's hope that the example of Carlo Strinella can be an inspiration to greater awareness of the mysterious and fascinating phenomenon of earthquake lights.

Dragons and the phenomenon of "earthquake lights"

In the previous post, we discussed the exciting upcoming total solar eclipse, and the connection between eclipses and the lunar nodes.

Previous discussions of the lunar nodes noted that many ancient civilizations -- particularly in the east, such as those whose traditions survive in India, Tibet, and China -- are known to have portrayed the lunar nodes as a celestial being which temporarily devours the sun or the moon, sometimes as a disembodied head with no lower jaw (similar to that seen at top center of the image above), and sometimes as a dragon (or two dragons, for the two lunar nodes, or the head and the tail of one dragon).  In fact, the lunar nodes are also known as the "draconitic points."

That previous post about the nodes noted that we should be careful not to assume that such a description is an example of ancient ignorance.  In fact, no less an authority than Aristotle tells us that what some assume to be ignorant myths may actually be a subtle way that the ancients preserved and transmitted advanced scientific understanding.

This lesson -- which is one of the central themes of the vitally important Hamlet's Mill by Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend, published in 1969 -- comes to mind when considering the controversial phenomenon known as "earthquake lights" (sometimes abbreviated EQL).

The term earthquake lights refers to luminous discharges that have sometimes been reported prior to, during, and after powerful earthquakes, at times being seen in the area by witnesses for many days or weeks before or after an earthquake or series of earthquakes.  Previous posts have discussed this phenomenon and some of the historical reports of these lights -- see for example this previous post, which contains a link to a 1912 book describing numerous reports of "glows" and "light flashes" seen during the New Madrid earthquake in the United States in the early 1800s.

While this phenomenon has been reported for centuries, it was generally not accepted by the "scientific community" until fairly recently (and is still not widely taught to the general public, perhaps because its causes are still not agreed upon, and perhaps because it is still not universally accepted).  Many scientific papers published in journals in the past several decades cite photographic evidence of earthquake lights taken in conjunction with the earthquakes in the region of Nagano, Japan from 1965 - 1967 as being the crucial turning point that led to widespread acceptance of this phenomena by the greater seismological community.

This report, entitled "Size and Some Features of Luminous Sources Associated with the 1995 Hyogo-Ken Nanbu Earthquake" by Tameshida Tsukuda of the University of Tokyo reports that during the Nagano earthquakes of 1965 - 1967, "A resident succeeded in taking photographs of the light five times or more" and cited texts published by geophysicist Y. Yasui in 1971 and 1972.  

This 1973 article on earthquake lights published in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America also cites those texts by Y. Yasui.  The abstract states:
The best documented observations of earthquake lights are from Japanese earthquakes in the early 1930's and mid-1960's. In the latter case, color and black and white photographs were taken of bright, hemispherical, white luminescences based at ground level, about 20 to 200 m in diameter, of duration 10 sec to 2 min, restricted to mountain summits in a quartz-diorite faulted rock. Great difficulties and uncertainties accompany any attempt to explain the phenomenon.
A list at the bottom of the above-linked page to other articles citing this one include at least seven others acknowledging the existence of earthquake lights and attempting to explain them.

Later studies have carefully documented reports of earthquake lights in other parts of the world, sometimes with photographs.  This study, entitled "The earthquake lights (EQL) of the 6 April 2009 Aquila earthquake in Central Italy" discusses "luminous phenomena which were abundantly observed on this occasion"  (page 968 of original pagination, or page 2 of the pdf linked).  Reports which could possibly have resulted from confusion with electrical lines shorting out, gas pipe leaks, or even the planet Venus were discarded, leaving dozens of startling descriptions which make fascinating reading.  The sightings are plotted on a map of the effected earthquake area, and some photographs of luminous spheres which were taken by witnesses are included.

Some of the interesting aspects of the reports include the fact that what were reported as flames were always red in color but afterwards no signs of burn marks could be found, nor were any fires started by these flames (974 or page 8 of the pdf).  Many of the sightings appeared to be electrical discharges, either vertical or horizontal, and the vertical discharges always emanated from the ground (same page).

Previous posts have cited Dr. Walt Brown, the author of the hydroplate theory, on this phenomenon of earthquake lights.  Dr. Brown's theory proposes a different mechanism for the cause of earthquakes than the mechanism put forth by the conventionally-accepted tectonic theory.  See for example this post and this post, each of which contain detailed discussions of the cause of earthquakes as proposed by Dr. Brown, along with links to his book -- available for viewing online -- in which he discusses the extensive evidence which supports his explanation.

Note that Dr. Brown's discussion of the phenomenon of electrical discharges and luminous phenomena accompanying earthquakes -- as well as ionospheric disturbances preceding large earthquakes, sometimes for a matter of days in advance -- involves plasma discharges.  His theory also maintains that powerful plasma discharges began on earth (or greatly increased) during the events surrounding a cataclysmic global flood, and that the aftereffects of this event are the cause of earthquakes (and the occasional plasma discharges that accompany them) to this day.

The possible connections between earthquakes and plasma discharges is fascinating in light of the fact that Chinese dragons appear to have been associated with earthquakes, and also appear to embody many features associated with plasma discharges (even though the modern study of plasma discharges is relatively new).  

The image below shows the famous seismographic urn designed by Chinese astronomer Zheng Heng (thought to have lived from AD 78 to AD 139 in China), which clearly connects earthquakes and dragons.

This previous post also discusses the dragon / earthquake / plasma connection in Chinese tradition -- still evident in the discussion of the start of the Year of the Dragon (which we are still in) by a Feng Shui master in the video in that post.  

While it is possible that impressive phenomena such as those reported in the eyewitness accounts above might be interpreted as being caused by actual dragons, it is also possible that the ancients were using mythological metaphor to convey advanced scientific understanding of plasma-electrical phenomena which we are only now beginning to understand with our "modern science."  

It is also possible that -- if Dr. Brown's hydroplate theory is correct -- ancient earthquakes taking place in the centuries immediately following the initial cataclysmic event were more powerful and more often accompanied by visible plasma activity.

There are many accounts on the web of "rainbow clouds" or so-called "earthquake clouds" which might be confused with the earthquake lights discussed in the articles cited above, but it is clear from reading the earthquake accounts that the luminous orbs, discharges, and flashes being described there are probably quite different from the rainbow clouds that are popularly called "earthquake clouds" (which may be caused by simple atmospheric conditions not associated with earthquakes).

It is also worth pointing out that the reports of the earthquake lights that resemble plasma discharges go back many decades and even centuries.  Some people discussing the phenomenon of earthquake lights blame them on the HAARP program created by the US government, but it seems clear that the earthquake lights reported in the New Madrid earthquakes of 1811-1812 (for instance) cannot be associated with HAARP.  

This does not mean, of course, that any connection of HAARP to strange atmospheric phenomena (or even attempts to manipulate the earth or the weather or even to cause earthquakes) cannot be possible -- it only means that the phenomena of earthquake lights appears to predate any such modern programs.  It is, of course, still possible that people who realize a connection between electromagnetic energy and earthquakes could try to make use of that connection, but that is beyond the scope of this post.

Unfortunately, some who rush to "debunk" the connection between "rainbow clouds" and earthquakes do not make any distinction between theories that connect earthquakes to one sort of phenomenon or another, and appear to throw out any possibility that atmospheric disturbances and earthquakes may actually have scientific linkages (such as this "Bad Astronomy" column on the subject, in Discover magazine).   

The smug tone of that article -- and of many of the comments from readers responding to the article -- embodies the kind of ridicule Alfred Wegener faced when he proposed a new geological paradigm, and which is often leveled at those who suggest new possibilities that lie outside of or beyond conventional models.  The tone would hardly be less condescending if those who believed atmospheric disturbances accompanying earthquakes -- and the earthquakes themselves -- had suggested that they were actually caused by flying fiery dragons.  

But, as we have seen, those who connected dragons with earthquakes in ancient times may well have known more about plasma-and-earthquake connections than "modern science" did until quite recently (and perhaps they still knew more than we have managed to rediscover).  This fascinating connection bears careful consideration.

Planetary proprioception

Yesterday's post examined the fascinating subject of "proprioception," a word apparently introduced in 1906 by English neurophysiologist and Nobel laureate Charles Scott Sherrington to describe the awareness of the body's position based on the feedback mechanisms of the body, and discussed some of the implications raised by a thoughtful Radiolab program which delved into the interface between brain and body (or perhaps mind and body).

That Radiolab program was all about the sense of location conveyed by the body to the brain, and issues arising from hitches or disruptions in this sense of location and body-awareness.  After continuing to think about this concept of "proprioception," it occurs to me that it might be valuable to expand the examination a little bit and think about the idea of our awareness not simply of the location and relative motion of our own body but our awareness of our position on the earth and our awareness of the motion of the earth.

In other words, how aware are we of the giant spinning ball upon which our point of consciousness is located (in its attendant body)?  How aware are we of the direction it is spinning and the way that this motion causes the objects that we see "out the window" (the sun, moon, stars, and planets, in other words) to travel past as we spin around?  How aware are we of our location on that ball and the orientation of the ball relative to the direction we are facing at any given moment?  Do different people have different levels of this awareness?  (It seems clear that they do).  Is there an inborn or innate ability of some people to perceive these things more readily than others, or is such awareness more learned than innate?   

These all seem like interesting questions that are something of an extension of the concept of bodily proprioception elucidated by Charles Sherrington and other researchers.

We might call such awareness in different individuals "planetary proprioception."

To help focus on your own "planetary proprioception" at any given moment, it is probably best to start outdoors somewhere.  Then, you can start to imagine the earth that you are standing or sitting upon turning with you on it towards the east (knowing which way is east would certainly be part of this concept of planetary proprioception, as would knowing which way is north and west and south).  So far, that's probably pretty easy and constitutes a level of proprioception that most people have most of the time (to greater or lesser degrees at different parts of the day and to greater and lesser degrees depending on whether they are in a very familiar or a very unfamiliar location).

But to really get a good feeling for the planet that we are standing or sitting upon, it is necessary to have a bit of an idea of where we are in terms of latitude north or south of the equator, and how our location impacts our mental image of the planet that is turning in space (with us on it).  

For instance, if we are located on the equator or just five or ten degrees of latitude from the equator, then our minds can think of the fact that as we orbit the sun we are standing up almost on the same plane that the earth is orbiting upon, and thus the path that the sun takes as we spin towards the east will be nearly vertical as we spin towards it in the morning and as the western horizon rises up to obscure it in the evening.   If we are located instead near the north pole or the south pole, or just five or ten degrees of latitude from it, then our "proprioception" of the planet beneath us should be very different: we then should be able to envision ourselves spinning along a little circle that sort of "skull-caps" the globe, and if we can envision that then it will help us to understand why the apparent path of the sun through the sky looks the way it does (arcing very close to the southern horizon for a viewer at the north pole, for instance).

Much of the world's population lives in the northern hemisphere in the latitudes between the tropics and the extreme arctic, and so the sense of the position on the globe must be adjusted to an awareness that is in between the above two descriptions.  One "mental image" to help those located in the temperate latitudes of the northern hemisphere is to imagine what the earth's turning would be like if you were standing right on the equator, and what the sun, moon, stars and planets would look like, arcing across the sky, as the earth turned with you on it towards the east.  Keeping this image going in your mind, imagine turning towards the north pole and literally reaching out with both arms to grasp the north pole (if there really were a pole there) and pulling it towards you, as the earth continues to spin, until you are standing on the spinning globe about halfway between the equator and the pole.  Now keep imagining the sun, moon, stars and planets arcing through the sky, but realize that their paths will have been altered by the shift in your latitude.

Additionally, to try to get a feel for what the globe is doing with you on it, the video above might be helpful.  Although it is discussing the impact of the tragic Japan earthquake of March 11, 2011 upon the earth's axis and rotational speed, it also contains a very helpful animation of the rotating earth (especially between 0:25 and 0:45 in the video).  If you watch the spinning earth -- tilted on its axis -- and try to see the spot where you are located on the globe and focus on that spot as it spins, it can help you to imagine what the view of the heavens from that spot should look like, and thus help you to engender a greater level of this planetary proprioception.  

For instance, if you are located somewhere on North America, you can closely watch as North America spins around, focusing on one point on North America rather than just watching the whole globe spinning.  You might even "pause" the video at about 0:28 and then think carefully about what a person on a specific point on North America should see the sun do each day, based on the angle of the axis and the rotation of the earth.  Then, press "play" again and keep thinking about it.

Another helpful tool to help develop increased planetary proprioception are the diagrams and discussion in previous blog posts about the Polynesian Voyaging Society (especially this post).   The incredible navigation accomplished by the wayfinders of the Polynesian Voyaging Society is done without modern instrumentation -- meaning that it is done by maintaining constant and very accurate "planet proprioception," based upon knowledge of the angle that the sun and stars should be rising out of the ocean and the point at which they should be rising out of the ocean based on where the ship and the wayfinder are located at any given moment.

The PVS has an excellent discussion of the motions of the heavens here, complete with circles that show the paths traced out by the stars each night, and the angles those circles would have at various latitudes where the PVS voyages.  If you can go outside and envision these circles in the sky (you can do it during the day or the night, although it might actually be easier to do at night), then this can aid you in envisioning the turning planet beneath your feet.  

If you think of the circle centered around Polaris (for those in the northern hemisphere) and then think of the arc traced out by stars further and further from Polaris (such as the arc traced out by the stars of the Scorpion, far to the south), then you can envision your latitude on the rotating, tilted planet and envision in your mind the reason that the circles are tilted the way they are tilted for an observer where you are.  From there, you can envision in your mind the rest of the spherical globe that you are standing on as it rotates towards the east.  Bingo!  Enhanced planetary proprioception!

Once you start thinking this way, you can practice focusing on your planetary proprioception at various times as you go about your daily (and nightly) activities.  It may help to enhance your awareness of the globe you are spinning upon, and eventually it may even expand your consciousness.  Perhaps analysts will do some study in the future to see how much expanded planetary proprioception can be achieved using various techniques, and whether there are any positive benefits to expanding one's awareness of the position and motion of the planet.

It may be advisable to exercise caution if you focus on the motion of the planet too intently while you are driving or operating heavy machinery. 

For more discussion of the impact of the Japan earthquake on the earth's rotational speed etc., see this previous post.

Anniversary of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake

April 18 is the anniversary of the terrible San Francisco earthquake of 1906. While official records are not extremely accurate, it is now believed that over 3,000 people lost their lives in the quake and the devastating fires that raged afterwards.

The earthquake itself is estimated to have been between 7.9 and 8.25 in magnitude. Previous posts such as this one have discussed reasons to believe that the commonly cited causative mechanism for earthquakes, namely the constant drifting of tectonic plates, is incorrect.

The hydroplate theory of Dr. Walt Brown cites extensive evidence which suggests that the entire model of drifting continental plates is flawed, and that it does not do a good job of explaining evidence regarding the depths of earthquakes or the distribution of earthquake depths around two general groupings, deep and shallow.

Dr. Brown points out that "Plate tectonic theory claims that earthquakes occur when plates rub against each other, temporarily lock, and then jerk loose. If so, why are some powerful earthquakes far from plate boundaries?" Several previous posts, such as this one and this one, have discussed the question of earthquakes far from plate boundaries.

Dr. Brown also notes another important problem with the continental drift model. In a paragraph entitled "Drifting versus Shifting," he points out that the continental drift model and the hydroplate theory each posit a very different type of force to explain earthquakes. The drift model proposes a continual force, which builds up over time and eventually leads to slippage or other sudden release of energy, while the shifting model proposes a disturbance -- an unusual force that acts suddenly.

While each of these two propositions could explain the slippage along the San Andreas Fault that occurred during the 1906 earthquake, there is some evidence which seems to support the hydroplate explanation and not the tectonic explanation. Dr. Brown notes:
Shallow earthquakes sometimes displace the ground horizontally along a fault, as occurred along the San Andreas Fault during the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Western California slid northward relative to the rest of North America. The San Andreas Fault has several prominent bends, so just as two interlocking pieces of a jigsaw puzzle cannot slip very far relative to each other, neither can both sides of the curved San Andreas Fault. Furthermore, if slippage has occurred along the San Andreas Fault for eons, friction should have greatly heated the sliding surfaces. Drilling into the fault has not detected that heat.
This is an extremely important data point, and one which strikes a telling blow against the tectonic explanation. If it were the only data point that seemed to oppose the tectonic theory, it would not perhaps be so damaging, but in fact there are dozens of other powerful data points which are very damaging to the tectonic theory but which seem to support the hydroplate theory. Some of those which have been discussed in previous posts include the arc-and-cusp shape of deep ocean trenches, the unexpectedly low gravity readings scientists have measured over deep ocean trenches, and the difficulties the tectonic theory has in explaining the location of Antarctica (did it all move south on one plate, and if so then how to explain the severe sediment displacement found in the mountain ranges of Antarctica?), as well as the earthquakes far from boundaries mentioned above, and the bimodal depth distribution of earthquakes that Dr. Brown discusses in the passages linked above. The existence of Lake Vostok in Antarctica seems to pose some serious difficulties for the conventional tectonic theory as well.

Another problem with the idea of constant continental drift should be clear to anyone who has studied the rather precise alignments that still exist in ancient structures around the world, including the Giza pyramids, Stonehenge, the passage mounds of the Boyne River Valley in Ireland (such as Newgrange and others), and the ancient megalithic temples of Malta.

The 1906 San Francisco earthquake was one of the worst natural disasters in the history of the United States, with appalling loss of life. It serves as an awful reminder of the devastating power of earthquakes. We should insist on continued research and analysis into the true cause of earthquakes, and should be wary of those who insist that our current theories are beyond questioning.

Fracking, wastewater injection wells, and earthquakes

Today on NPR it was reported that, "The U.S. Geological Survey will soon confirm that the oil and gas industry is creating earthquakes, and new data from the Midwest finds that these man-made quakes are happening more often than originally thought."

The story, entitled "Quakes caused by waste from gas wells, study finds" reports on the analysis of USGS seismologists including Bill Ellsworth, who noticed that records showed that relatively minor earthquakes in the middle of the North American continent (far from plate boundaries) were increasing dramatically in frequency beginning in 2009 and every year after that (from 50 in 2009, to 87 in 2010, to 134 in 2011).

Seismologists suspect that the tremendous increase in hydraulic fracturing -- a new technique to obtain natural gas trapped in deep shale, that has led to a natural gas boom in North America in the past five years -- may be responsible.

Fracking entails the injection of tremendous amounts of water into deep wells which go many thousands of feet down and then turn horizontal. The water doesn't stay down there forever, however -- it comes back up, and is then either processed and recycled for more fracking operations, or disposed of. While wastewater was often originally simply discharged into rivers in the early years of fracking, it is increasingly being disposed of by injecting it deep into the earth -- sometimes even deeper than the fracking wells themselves, which can be 7,000 or 8,000 feet deep (at times even deeper than that).

Deep wastewater injection wells have been used for decades to dispose of treated wastewater from municipal and industrial sources in the United States, but fracking operations produce vastly greater volumes. Scientists now suspect that the new volumes of wastewater may be unlocking existing faults and triggering earthquakes in places like Texas and Ohio which rarely experienced earthquakes in the past.

Today's report that the USGS has concluded that such deep and high-volume water injection can lead to earthquakes should come as no surprise to readers of this Mathisen Corollary blog or to followers of Walt Brown's hydroplate theory. Nearly a year ago, on May 4 of 2011, a post entitled "Earthquakes far from quake boundaries" discussed the evidence that, while it is clear that powerful geological forces are responsible for earthquakes, it is also increasingly clear that these forces are not generated by drifting tectonic plates upon a circulating molten mantle the way that conventional tectonic theory asserts.

That post pointed out that the hydroplate theory of Dr. Brown does a much better job of explaining "why earthquakes can be caused by injecting high-pressure water deep into the ground and by filling huge man-made reservoirs with water (as happened in India in 1967 and 1998 and in China in 2008 and possibly 2010)." It also noted the "possibility that the injection of high-pressure water into the ground could be responsible for earthquakes in Arkansas."

Not long after that post, another published June 8 of last year entitled "Back from the Bay Area and the San Andreas Fault" discussed in even greater detail the hydroplate theory's explanation for the existence of faults and the initiation of shallow earthquakes near faults (the hydroplate theory satisfactorily explains the existence of two distinct mechanisms for the initiation of shallow earthquakes which typically originate less than 100 miles below the surface, and deep earthquakes which originate at depths greater than 250 miles -- the tectonic theory has a very difficult time explaining the existence of these two types of earthquakes, especially deep earthquakes).

That post concluded with the statement that, "This reasoning would also explain why the process of forcing water deep into the ground at high pressures (such as for hydraulic fracking or for the harnessing of geothermal energy) has been alleged to start man-made earthquakes (see for example the article and links at this site, among many others on the web)."

Later last year, on November 7, a post entitled "Asteroids, earthquakes and lions -- oh my" discussed a series of earthquakes in Oklahoma that struck within the course of a weekend. Although news reports explained that "scientists are puzzled by the recent seismic activity," the county hit by the quakes had 181 injection wells. The post noted that, while scientists operating under the conventional tectonic theory might be puzzled by this connection, the hydroplate theory explains the origin of these earthquakes, and that Dr. Brown's published texts had been warning for many years that injecting water deep into the earth can be expected to trigger earthquakes if his theory is correct (he had written such warnings long before these recent confirmations began to crop up).

You can visit Dr. Brown's website and read his entire book about the hydroplate theory online for free. To focus on his discussions of the causes of the countless fractures in the earth's crust and the origins of earthquakes, check out his detailed examination on this page, followed by the subsequent explanation on this page.

Here's the connection between the hydroplate theory and the wastewater injection earthquakes. Shallow earthquakes are caused by forces acting along existing faults, according to the hydroplate theory and the tectonic theory, but these forces have different origins and the origin of the faults themselves have different explanations under each theory. The very existence of the countless faults in the earth's crust and mantle is better explained by the hydroplate theory, which argues that the tremendous mass imbalances in the earth during the events surrounding a global flood created the countless faults we find today (the major forces that led to faulting involved the dramatic rise of the basement mantle under what is today the Atlantic Ocean when the escaping water eroded overlying crust and removed the weight of that crust, followed by an even more dramatic collapse of the area that now form the basin of the Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean, as mass moved towards the Atlantic, accompanied by tremendous friction, melting, and magma production). The tectonic theory argues that the faults on the earth are produced by the pressure of tectonic plate movement, but Dr. Brown points out that many faults are parallel to the movement of plates, many are perpendicular to the movement of plates, and many even intersect with one another -- in other words, their origin and direction are not easy to explain via plate movement.

Similarly, the slippage of faults -- especially those located very far from plate boundaries -- is not well explained by the tectonic theory. However, the hydroplate theory explains it very coherently, and in a way that is consistent with the suggestion that high-pressure injection of water deep underground near faults could trigger earthquakes.

Dr. Brown explains the deep forces at work which cause earthquakes:
After the flood, magma under the Pacific floor, but above the crossover depth, erupted onto the Pacific floor. (To a much lesser extent, eruptions continue today, so in those places, ocean temperatures rise temporarily, a phenomenon called El Niño.14) Magma below the crossover depth drains down into the outer core, so the outer core is slowly growing today! Simultaneously, melting is shrinking the total volume below the crossover depth, so the crust is compressing like the wrinkling skin of a drying (shrinking) apple. Also, the continents, thickened during the compression event, are still sinking into and laterally displacing the mantle. So the mantle is being squeezed downward from above and upward by the growing outer core. Mantle volume is also being lost primarily from the Pacific mantle by draining below the crossover depth and by eruptions above the crossover depth. Therefore, the mantle is shifting an inch or so a year, in general, toward the Pacific to replace that escaping volume. [See Figure 91 on page 165.] These movements and stresses produce earthquakes. Slowly shifting continents led to the mistaken belief that the entire solid mantle somehow circulates as if it were a liquid—and, over millions of years, drifted continents over the face of the earth. [To read this passage in Dr. Brown's book, go to this page, to a paragraph in the section entitled "Deep Movements During the Flood Phase"].
These forces create frictional heating along faults. From there, Dr. Brown explains:
frictional heating along the fault melts the grain-sized minerals with the lowest melting temperatures, causing them to expand, because they were above the crossover depth. (Remember: Tiny movements at the extreme pressures deep in the earth create great heat and melting.) Minerals with higher melting temperatures remained solid, maybe for decades, thereby encasing and trapping the tiny droplets of melted rock.

As more frictional heat “soaked” very slowly into the rock on both sides of the fault, the previously encased droplets of melt began to leak. Paths opened up for the expanding melt to escape upward buoyantly, allowing the highly compressed solid “scaffolding” (surrounding the focus and composed of the minerals with the highest melting temperatures) to become unstable and begin to collapse. Frictional heating instantly became extreme, so all nearby minerals suddenly melted. The result: a powerful earthquake. [To read this passage in Dr. Brown's book, go to this page].

So, Dr. Brown believes that most fault slippage occurs because the fault is unlocked due to the sudden liquification of rock along the fault due to frictional heat buildup over time. However, he notes that in addition to melted rock (magma) creating a fault movement, high-pressure water could do the same thing. In note 25 on this page of his book, he says:

Shallow earthquakes, in addition to the mechanism explained in Figure 88, may involve another phenomenon. Trapped subterranean water, unable to escape during the flood, slowly seeps upward through cracks and faults formed during the crushing of the compression event. (Seismographs on the Pacific Ocean floor have measured tremors from such seepings.)11 The higher this water migrates through a crack, the more the water’s pressure exceeds that in the walls of the crack trying to contain it. Consequently, the crack spreads and lengthens. (So, before an earthquake, the ground often bulges slightly, water levels sometimes change in wells, and geyser eruptions may become more irregular.) Simultaneously, stresses build up in the crust, again driven ultimately by gravity and mass imbalances produced by the flood. Once compressive stresses have risen enough, the cracks have grown enough, and the frictional locking of cracked surfaces has diminished enough, sudden movement occurs. Water acts as a lubricant. (Therefore, large temperature increases are not found along the San Andreas Fault.) Sliding friction instantly heats the water, converts it to steam at an even higher pressure, and initiates a runaway process, one type of shallow earthquake.

This explanation reveals the reason that the injection of high-pressure water deep underground by human activity can also create a similar result.

In note 63 on this page of his book, Dr. Brown discussed the potential dangers of a proposed US government plan to drill a five-and-a-half-mile deep hole in an area of the southern Appalachians, stating that "Such a drilling project could be extremely dangerous. [. . .] major earthquakes could occur." In that discussion, Dr. Brown was concerned about the possible release of water trapped deep beneath the Appalachians, as the rapid removal of water could also trigger earthquakes (the hydroplate theory proposes that water was once trapped beneath the crust and it escaped violently to cause a temporary worldwide flood; according to this theory, we should expect to find some of the remnant water still trapped deep beneath major mountain ranges, and in fact there is some evidence to suggest that this prediction of Dr. Brown is in fact the case). Interestingly enough, in the NPR story cited above, a different seismologist, Chris Frohlich of the University of Texas, notes that removal of massive amounts of subterranean oil and gas may also lead to quakes.

The fact that scientists are now reaching conclusions consistent with the hydroplate theory, especially the possibility of a connection between the injection of water deep into the earth and the initiation of shallow man-made earthquakes, provides yet another data point in favor of the hydroplate theory of Dr. Walt Brown. In light of this new development, and in light of the hydroplate theory's superiority in explaining the even more powerful and dangerous deep earthquakes (along with the hope it offers for early warning prior to some major earthquakes), doesn't it seem obvious that professional geologists should seriously consider the merits of this theory?


Sidenote: the fact that fracking (or, more precisely, the disposal of wastewater from fracking) may cause earthquakes does not of itself automatically mean that fracking should not be used to obtain oil and natural gas. First, fracking wastewater can be recycled and reused for other fracking operations, rather than injected into wastewater wells, and such recycling is becoming more and more common. Second, as mentioned in the NPR discussion, most of these wastewater-associated earthquakes are in the range of 3.0 magnitude -- which is difficult to distinguish from the rattling that takes place when a large truck drives down your street. Some people live in parts of the globe that experience many such earthquakes as a matter of course. It is certainly possible to argue that the benefits of any human activity must be weighed carefully against the costs, and the costs weighed against the benefits. It is not an automatic "slam dunk" either way. The purpose of the above discussion is not to argue for or against fracking, but to argue that the recent conclusion by USGS scientists and other seismologists about a connection between wastewater injection and shallow earthquakes in the middle of the United States appear to be consistent with the published predictions of the hydroplate theory.