I have a habit of downloading and reading random earth science articles with catchy titles. Sometimes I stumble on ideas that are allegedly prevalent in some branch of earth science, but about which I knew nothing. I recently had this experience when looking through the latest issue of Tectonophysics. The article I am talking about is by S.A. Pulinets and M.A. Dunajecka from Ciudad Universitaria in Mexico. As a disclaimed I will state now that I am neither an earthquake expert or an atmospheric chemist, so I would be interested in hearing the opinions of specialists in either of those fields. I’d hate to inadvertently promote pseudoscience. The full reference is
Pulinets, S.A. and Dunajecka, M.A. (2007) Specific variations of air temperature and relative humidity around the time of [the] Michoacan earthquake M8.1 Sept. 19, 1985 as a possible indicator of interaction between tectonic plates, Tectonophysics, v. 431, p. 221-230.
It has been known for a while that radon levels in the atmosphere can correspond to tectonic activity. Direct measurements of radon levels have shown large fluctuations immediately preceding earthquakes. What this paper presents is the idea that instead of a direct measurement of radon levels, remotely sense temperature and humidity measurements can be used as a proxy for the same phenomena. When Radon in the air decays, it ionizes other nearby molecules or atoms. These newly formed ions are then hydrated by atmospheric water, with the result that air humidity drops. The latent heat of evaporation is released from the water during the phase transformation, which results in a temperature increase. So, big pulses of Radon into the atmosphere, as are associated with tectonic activity and seem to occur leading up to earthquakes, results in an initial decrease in humidity and increase in temperature. The radon flux reaches a maximum and starts to decrease just prior to the “seismic shock”, during which time there is a corresponding rise in humidity and drop in temperature.
Truth is I do not feel like that good of a filter for climate data, because from my perspective, the data presented in this paper do not seem as tell-tale as the authors imply. There are many swings in temperature and humidity that are not associated with earthquakes. But, I am still intrigued. I have heard the term “earthquake weather” before, which usually makes me chuckle.. But the temperature and humidity swings presented in this paper would definitely be noticeable. Anyways, I’d love input from anyone who knows more about this, I learned long ago not to trust everything that is published (as a matter of fact, I am counting on that for this paper I am working on, perhaps these authors have been asked one time too many when that paper is going to be done, and they just wanted it out the door). They reference many similar studies, which is reason enough to visit the library.