DOES THE SUN TRIGGER LARGE EARTHQUAKES?
Potential Correlation Between +M8 Earthquakes and Solar Polar Fields
(August 3, 2014 – Columbus, OH) KAHB LLC announces the discovery of a potential method for predicting the largest (+M8) earthquakes, using polar magnetic fields of the sun.
Using more than 35 years of data from the Wilcox Solar Observatory at Stanford University and from the United States Geological Survey, a model was constructed using patterns discerned in the polar magnetic fields of the sun. These patterns in solar magnetism were informally observed to match with the occurrence of large earthquakes on our planet, so mathematical modeling was used to formally develop an algorithm describing those relationships.
Dr. Christopher Holloman’s team of researchers at The Ohio State University Statistical Consulting Service was able to construct model that exhibited very strong agreement between solar magnetism patterns and the occurrence of large earthquakes. Formal testing of the model can only be performed by examining its performance over the next few years, but the agreement was sufficient to suggest that a relationship likely exists between solar polar fields, or magnetic fields associated with the north and south poles of the sun, and large earthquakes.
“The strong agreement of the model was surprising to everyone involved,” says Ben Davidson of KAHB, “but we have to understand the limitations of the analysis at this stage.” According to Davidson, this model is not predictive at this time; the analysis relies on data from the Wilcox Solar Observatory which requires at least 10 days to update past real-time, and is usually updated monthly. “The data is averaged in 10-day periods, so when a large earthquake happens, we still need to perform a retrospective analysis. What we have now is a rubric for gauging the correlations between these events into the future.”
“The most striking aspect of the model is that it is, for the most part, relatively simple,” says Dr. Holloman. “The patterns observed in the solar magnetic fields aren’t the result of applying some obscure mathematical functions. The algorithm is based on things like peaks and troughs in solar cycles or the absolute strength of one of the poles at a particular time. Such simple models are more often predictive than more complex models, and we are eager to see how the predictions play out over the next few years.”
In this retrospective analysis, the null hypothesis was that there was no relationship between the solar polar fields and M8+ earthquakes. Under this hypothesis, the fraction of days identified as residing in windows with increased likelihood of seismicity, as a percentage of the total days over the 35 years, would include a similar percentage of the large earthquakes over that same period. The analysis showed 41.6% of the days residing in these windows captured just under 78.8% of the M8+ earthquakes. “We cannot formally invalidate the null hypothesis, but the performance of the developed model is extremely encouraging. We believe it is likely to be validated by future data.”
As interesting as predicting large earthquakes would be, the lone prospective aspect of the model thus far involves periods of time when +M8 earthquakes are less likely to occur. These periods tend to occur following magnetic reversal of the solar fields at the sunspot peak of the ~11-year cycle of the sun, and could have significant implications for civil engineering projects near earthquake zones, mining, drilling, and other applications for which it may be advantageous to know when earth is less-likely to have a large earthquake.