Most destructive earthquakes nucleate at between 5-7 km and about 35-40 km depth. Before earthquakes, rocks are subjected to increasing stress. Not every stress increase leads to rupture. To understand pre-earthquake phenomena we note that igneous and high-grade metamorphic rocks contain defects which, upon stressing, release defect electrons in the oxygen anion sublattice, known as positive holes. These charge carriers are highly mobile, able to flow out of stressed rocks into surrounding unstressed rocks. They form electric currents, which emit electromagnetic radiation, sometimes in pulses, sometimes sustained. The arrival of positive holes at the ground-air interface can lead to air ionization, often exclusively positive. Ionized air rising upward can lead to cloud condensation. The upward flow of positive ions can lead to instabilities in the mesosphere, to mesospheric lightning, to changes in the Total Electron Content (TEC) at the lower edge of the ionosphere, and electric field turbulences. Advances in deciphering the earthquake process can only be achieved in a broadly multidisciplinary spirit.

Freund, Friedemann
Acta Geophysica
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