Did solar magnetic eruptions cause the Japanese earthquake?
By Simon Macara
In the days leading up to the Japanese earthquake there were two spectacular magnetic eruptions on the surface of the sun. Could these eruptions have somehow played a part in the timing of the Japanese disaster?
Itís an intriguing question that few people seem to be asking. Much has been said in the media recently about the possible gravitational effect of an unusually close moon on the Earthís tectonic plates. There have also been theories put forward connecting the cycles of Jupiter, Saturn and Venus with seismic activity, but most scientists are reticent to attribute any similar tectonic influence to electromagnetic emissions from our local star.
Yet the timing of last weekís devastating earthquake (which occurred on 11 March 2011) was remarkably close to the moment when an unusually rapid Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) collided with the Earthís magnetosphere.
Coincidence? Perhaps, but if so then its the 3rd similar coincidence in a row, because both last yearís Chilean earthquake and the Icelandic volcanic eruption also just happened to occur very soon after significant electromagnetic eruptions on the sun. Evidence is starting to mount in favour of a strong cause and effect relationship between major solar magnetic eruptions and powerful tectonic events on Earth.
Letís wind the clock back to February 18th 2010. Solar physicists and backyard astronomers alike watch in awe as a million kilometer long magnetic filament emerges from the sunís surface and arcs out into space. It throbs menacingly above the surface of the sun for a whole week as speculation rages as to what will happen next. How long will it remain intact before it snaps? Will it fall back to the surface producing a rare and powerful Hyder Flare? Hyder Flares can rival the strongest flares produced by sunspots, and itís thought that they occur when a reconfiguration of the magnetic field causes filament material to fall back onto the sunís chromosphere.
On 24th February 2010 the monster filament finally snapped, producing a CME and sending 3 separate clouds of plasma hurtling away from the sunís surface. Solar physicists predicted at the time that any material heading towards the Earth (travelling at around 1.5 million miles an hour) would impact our planet on the 27thor 28th of February.
On the 27th of February at 06:34 Universal Time (UT) Chile was hit by a magnitude 8.8 quake, the 6th largest ever recorded. I was so struck by the synchronicity of the quakeís timing that I went to see Dr Lucie Green (one of Britainís most eminent solar physicists, and a specialist in the study of magnetic filaments) at the Greenwich observatory to pose the question:
ďDo you think itís possible that material ejected when the giant filament snapped may have somehow influenced the Earthís magnetic field sufficiently to cause the Chilean earthquake?Ē
Dr Green was unwilling, however, to accept the possibility of there being any kind of connection between the two events. Pushed on the issue, she admitted that the timing of the quake did indeed tally rather perfectly with the arrival here of any magnetic energy ejected in the eruption, but insisted that this must be a coincidence.