A recent earthquake having a magnitude of 8.1 in Mexico caused strange flashes of bright light to spread across the city.

Although large earthquakes are linked to green and blue flashes of light, the phenomenon is still not very usual.  

This phenomenon has occurred many times in the past, where the cause of it was explained using the concept of tectonic stresses and seismic activity. However, many find a reason to believe that in some of the reported cases it was just a power supply being destroyed. Mostly, it becomes quite difficult to identify the exact source of these lights – as is the case in Mexico.

Photo Via. Forbes

The recent earthquake in Mexico resulted in blue and green flashes of light emitting from and spreading across Mexico.

In videos of the earthquake, the light flashes resembled lightning and could have been caused by massive releases of energy from the ground due to the earthquake. Alternatively, major explosions of the electric systems could have been the reason behind it. While both the explanations are reasonable, it is difficult to decide which one was the cause for the earthquake lights in Mexico.

Past instances of earthquake lights

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In the past, several instances of experiencing flashes of light before or after an earthquake have been reported. For example,

  • Light flashes with a hue of white and blue were reported in the Kalapana earthquake in 1975.
  • The phenomenon of earthquake lights was caught on camera during the earthquake in Peru in 2007.

One thing that is common in all the earthquakes that resulted in this phenomenon is that they all were large in magnitude.  

What does research say about earthquake lights?

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Studies suggest that the flashes of light as a result of earthquakes can be explained by understanding the ionization of oxygen to oxygen anions. Due to this ionization, the ions become able to travel through the rocks through small fissures and cracks until they reach the atmosphere and form plasma light.

Another study drives the focus on the intense electric filed produced as a result of the movement of rocks that contain quartz minerals. Research also suggests that when two rocks rub against each other and then get separated, it results in a huge positive voltage spike, which on a large scale may produce earthquake lights.   

Photo Via. The Globe and Mail

The recent earthquake that hit Mexico was perhaps the most powerful in many years. The aftershocks that it triggered were of magnitude 5 and greater.

Although the phenomenon of earthquake lights remains a mystery, it serves as a constant strong reminder of the tremendous amount of energy large earthquakes release.

Since the severity of an earthquake is directly associated with loss of life and infrastructure damage, this phenomenon is yet another way to quantify the amount of energy involved in the earthquake of 8.1 magnitudes that recently struck Mexico.