Outgoing long wave radiation variability from IR satellite data prior to major earthquakes

Dimitar Ouzounov, Defu Liu, Kang Chunli, Guido Cervone, Menas Kafatos, Patrick Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

239 Scopus citations


Our analysis of the continuous outgoing long wave earth radiation (OLR) indicates anomalous variations prior to a number of medium to large earthquakes. The most recent analysis of OLR is from the M9.0 Sumatra Andaman Islands mega trust event. We compared the reference fields for December 2001 to 2004 and found OLR anomalous values, > 80 W/m2, (2σ) within the epicentral area on Dec 21, 2004, 5 days before the event. We used the NOAA/IR daily (one degree) and monthly (two and half degree) gridded data to differentiate between the global and seasonal variability and the transient local anomalies. The cause of such anomalies is not fully understood; one possible explanation is the existence of thermal outgoing radiation as a result of near ground air ionization and latent heat change due to change of air humidity and temperature. This phenomenon is hypothesized to be part of a relationship between tectonic stresses, electrochemical and thermodynamic processes in the atmosphere and increasing mid IR flux, all part of a family of electromagnetic (EM) phenomena related to earthquake activity. The time scale of the observed variations is a few weeks before the onset of the seismic event. In comparison with several years of data, the observed time-series preceding the earthquake had unusually high OLR. The OLR anomaly corresponds to a large area of ground coverage and coincides with the main epicentral zone. The significance of these observations is explored using data from most recent East Asian earthquake swarm of December 2004 and three other earthquakes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)211-220
Number of pages10
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - Feb 20 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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