The Meaning of Blue Lights on Mexican Earthquake

A 7.1 magnitude earthquake occurred in central Mexico the last September. The quake was responsible for the death of a man who was a victim of a falling post. Various buildings were affected, and rock-falls also took place.

The Woman Post | Catalina Mejía Pizano

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As it was reported soon after the earthquake took place, it had a magnitude of 7 and it hit 11 miles northeast of Acapulco. But there was something besides the earthquake that caused panic among the people that were present. Large flashes of blue lights in the sky were witnessed by many. How can these lights be explained? Before answering this interesting question, we must remember how the earth moves. According to the modern theory of plate tectonics, the whole crust of the earth is a complete set of interlocking plates. This means that it is not only the continents that move, but the plates they sit on, and there is no single part of the earth’s surface that isn’t part of a plate.

It is worth highlighting that most of the plates are located under the sea and land masses that are commonly referred to as continents, are the high ground of the plates, sticking up above the water. As mentioned by Richard Dawkins in his book "The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True," the plates are made of hard rock and most of them are under the sea. The plates are several miles thick and under the rock is a thicker layer of treacle called the upper mantle. The hard rock plates float on the sphere of treacle and convection currents carry the rocky plates floating above in all sorts of directions.

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So back to the initial question of the strange blue and white lights witnessed during the recent Mexican earthquake, we must first mention that science has not offered a concluding explanation yet, but some scientists argue that they are caused by a phenomenon named triboluminescence, meaning that materials release light due to frictional interaction. For instance, during an earthquake a seismic wave hits the ground, the friction occurring in some rock types like basalt can cause electrical currents on its surface.

On the other hand, USGS earthquake geologist Austin Elliot warned people not to rely on videos of blue lights during the event, claiming that they were just power flashes from swinging wires in the electricity grid hitting other lines, trees, or buildings. Víctor Manuel Cruz, who is a seismologist from the UNAM, believes in the triboluminescence phenomenon but concerning the recent earthquake, mentioned that the sky was full of a lot of electrical activity from a rainstorm.

The earthquake took place at the southern part of the Guerrero Gap, which is a seismic gap that can potentially cause an earthquake of 8.0 or greater magnitude. On September 7 of 2017, Mexico’s largest earthquake in the last 100 years took place, killing 100 people and injuring many more. However, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador stressed the recent earthquake did not cause major damages in Guerrero, the neighboring region of Oaxaca, Mexico City, or any other areas.

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