Pre-earthquake magnetic pulses

J. Scoville, J. Heraud, F. Freund

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


A semiconductor model of rocks is shown to describe unipolar magnetic pulses, a phenomenon that has been observed prior to earthquakes. These pulses are suspected to be generated deep in the Earth's crust, in and around the hypocentral volume, days or even weeks before earthquakes. Their extremely long wavelength allows them to pass through kilometers of rock. Interestingly, when the sources of these pulses are triangulated, the locations coincide with the epicenters of future earthquakes. We couple a drift-diffusion semiconductor model to a magnetic field in order to describe the electromagnetic effects associated with electrical currents flowing within rocks. The resulting system of equations is solved numerically and it is seen that a volume of rock may act as a diode that produces transient currents when it switches bias. These unidirectional currents are expected to produce transient unipolar magnetic pulses similar in form, amplitude, and duration to those observed before earthquakes, and this suggests that the pulses could be the result of geophysical semiconductor processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1873-1880
Number of pages8
JournalNatural Hazards and Earth System Science
Issue number8
StatePublished - 20 Aug 2015
Externally publishedYes


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