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Electromagnetic Precursors to Earthquakes in the ULF Band: A Review of Observations and Mechanisms

Steven K. Park, Malcolm Johnston, Theodore R. Madden, Dale Morgan, & H. F. Morrison

Published May 1993, SCEC Contribution #98

Despite over 2 decades of international and national monitoring of electrical signals with the hope of detecting precursors to earthquakes, the scientific community is no closer to understanding why precursors are observed only in some cases. Laboratory measurements have demonstrated conclusively that self potentials develop owing to fluid flow and that both resistivity and magnetization change when rocks are stressed. However, field experiments have had much less success. Many purported observations of low-frequency electrical precursors are much larger than expectations based on laboratory results. In some cases, no precursors occurred prior to earthquakes, or precursory signals were reported with no corresponding coseismic signals. Nonetheless, the field experiments are in approximate agreement with laboratory measurements. Maximum resistivity changes of a few percent have been observed prior to some earthquakes in China, but the mechanism causing those changes is still unknown. Anomalous electric and magnetic fields associated with fluid flow prior to earthquakes may have been observed. Finally, piezomagnetic signals associated with stress release in earthquakes have been documented in measurements of magnetic fields.

Key Words
precursors, ultra-low frequency, electrical methods, geophysical methods, mechanism, frequency, resistivity, magnetic field, observations, self-potential methods, earthquake prediction, electromagnetic field, earthquakes, review

Park, S. K., Johnston, M., Madden, T. R., Morgan, D., & Morrison, H. (1993). Electromagnetic Precursors to Earthquakes in the ULF Band: A Review of Observations and Mechanisms. Reviews of Geophysics, 31(2), 117-132.