Observed Natural Events And Hypotheses Related To The Physics Of Fault-Free Earthquakes

by Timothy J. Kelly III
(Copyright December 13, 1994)


This paper introduces a set of hypotheses which incorporates many unexplained events surrounding what shall be defined as Type II earthquakes (EQ). I propose that rather than only one type of EQ, there are actually several types of EQs occurring on the planet. Fault-free EQs are not confined to fault lines, but occur in many diverse locations. This assertion is based on the inference that Type II EQs are electromagnetic in nature.

The foundation of the main hypothesis is that the dew formation process returns previously generated, airborne static electricity to the ground. This process brings about a regional atmospheric electrical equilibrium. After approximately three consecutive dewless nights, the potential for the ultra low frequency radio waves in the atmosphere to discharge (in a modified vortex shape) to the ground increases greatly. If the conditions are right (i.e. windless, so that the charges gather), the electromagnetic vortex, eddy currents, and gravity factors combine to create vertical movement of the earth at the epicenter, gradually shifting to a sinusoidal shape as the waveform propagates from the epicenter. The initial waves, which usually last approximately 40 seconds, terminate after regional atmospheric electrical equilibrium is attained. If dew forms after one, or two consecutive days of charge build-up, the atmosphere returns to a state of equilibrium.

In addition to the process of reaching atmospheric electrical equilibrium by dew formation, several fuzzy elements also alter the preconditions. These elements have both direct and indirect links to the process of equalizing regional airborne atmospheric electrical potential.


Namias (1989) noted that low frequency variations might assist in the triggering of quakes. Jonsson and Vonnegut (1992) created miniature vortices with the use of a point charge electrode. R.M.C. Lopes, et al (1990) proposed that the phases, or altitude of the moon at the epicenter factored into the earthquake triggering process. Stanford's noise monitoring equipment detected ultra low frequency radio waves (.01 to 10 Hz) near the epicenter of the Loma Prieta EQ. Though seemingly unrelated, these and several other concepts have been combined to form a hypothesis which illustrates Type II EQ scenarios. The components of the main hypothesis, and the issues to be addressed in this paper are: 1) The Key Factor; 2) The Physics of Type II quakes; 3) Fuzzy Elements; 4) Undersea EQs and Tsunamis; and 6) Conclusion. As a non-scientist (yet an astute observer), this presentation may appear simplistic, but a considerable number of the events have been observed and recorded over time and are verifiable.


Dew. It is a commonly held belief that the dew which gathers overnight comes from water molecules situated close to the ground. I propose, however, that airborne water molecules with static charges attached, descend from all levels of the atmosphere during the dew formation process. When the water molecules return to the ground and form dew, charged particles return static electricity to the earth where the initial separation occurred.

These events transpire regularly throughout the year in all regions of the world. Type II EQs usually occur after three consecutive dewless nights, when the atmosphere has become highly charged. Because dew point is a fuzzy element (a combination of temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure), this hypothesis allows for a range of temperatures. In cooler climates, when dew point is not achieved, frost rather than dew doesn't form. Regardless of the temperature, if dew point is not reached, static charges will remain in the atmosphere. Regarding colder climate Type II EQ potential, the number of days of static charge buildup increases because lower temperatures result in less humidity, leading to less charge in the atmosphere.

A subsequent element related to temperature is the separation of charge. Higher temperatures can lead to higher humidity, which, in turn, can allow for more static charged particles in the air. As the daytime temperature rises, these static charges are able to ascend to higher altitudes, possibly producing an upward draw on the earth. Tributsch (1982) recorded a highly unusual episode which took place in 1872. On the day of, but prior to the Hamada earthquake in Western Honshu, the sea receded to the degree that people could walk to an island 140 meters from shore. Stukeley (1750) mentioned a crackling noise in his ceiling for several days prior to an earthquake in the 1740's. Both of these events may have been caused by a separation of charges with warmer temperatures in upper altitudes.


What is alleged to occur before, during, and after the charge drains amounts to discharge of an enormous natural capacitor. As static charges are generated throughout the day in a given region (e.g. L.A. Basin, S.F. Bay Area) the atmospheric capacitor charges up. When the atmosphere becomes saturated, the capacitor discharges, and generates a huge electro-magnetic vortex as the airborne charges return to ground. During this discharge, the epicenter is being lifted and dropped as the charges drain back to ground. This activity allegedly produces EQ waves. Many epicentral locations are reported to be a higher elevation after an EQ event. When the draining stops, the residual airborne charges continue their movement in the direction of the epicenter. This effect could lead to increased Type II aftershocks caused by a concentration of charged particles in the epicentral area. Type I (ground-based) aftershocks could also occur where gaps in the strata of the earth caused by the initial Type II movement collapse, releasing energy in a staccato rather than rolling fashion.

As a possible explanation of earthquake lights or pillars of light, I propose that the static electricity returning to the ground, being able to move much faster than the water molecules to which they are attached, drag and eventually rip away and leapfrog down from said water molecules. These vortex lights are the same lights seen in a dark room when separating blankets, but on a much grander scale. If the vortex has a small diameter, it may resemble a pillar of light. A characteristically broad-based vortex may light up the sky for miles around. Both of these events have been reported during EQ activity.

To coalesce the sound aspect of EQs into this hypothesis, I propose that the upper levels of the vortex are pulled in various directions based on the draining of surge charges. Because the draining occurs from all levels of the atmosphere at once, I assert that, rather than its usual vortex shape, additional charge drains from the higher altitudes through the center of the vortex. During the process, I maintain that when the apex of the vortex is being pulled strongly in one direction by a surge of lower altitude charge, the vortex may lean, or bow in the direction of the surge. This condition may produce a megaphone-type effect which announces the temblor to those in the direction of the surge. If the epicenter was west of the surge, the noise would travel east. Those west of the epicenter wouldn't hear warning "groans". Geographically, if the epicenter was in Glendale, and a surge of charge came from the San Gabriel Valley, persons working at Caltech may hear warning groans, those at UCLA would not.


Several fuzzy elements influence EQ occurrences. These factors increase, decrease, or eliminate the possibility of Type II EQ activity. All elements relate either directly or indirectly to charge build-up process in the atmosphere.

Oceanic influences increase the probability of Type II EQs in several ways. These influences are: overnight low air temperature, lunar/tides, pressure changes and a concept called atmospheric e-field dielectric modification.

Overnight low temperatures in a particular region can register higher based on several considerations. Consider that a 4:00 am an 8.2 ft. high tide occurred in the San Francisco Bay Region. The amount of 57-60 degree ocean water that displaced 40 degree air temperature is considerable. Because this water radiates heat into the atmosphere, it's reasonable to infer that overnight low temperatures would be higher than if a low tide occurred at that early morning hour. This higher overnight low temperature directly relates to dew point. This inference, when combined with the fact that coastal regions experience moderate temperatures because of their proximity to the ocean, may offer an insight as to why Type II EQs are more prevalent in coastal regions.

To include sea level pressure in the hypothesis, I offer my own rudimentary description of tidal fluctuations. Consider that after the aforementioned 4:00 am high tide, the tidal period continued with a low tide of +2.6 ft. at approximately 9:20 am, followed by a 9.2 ft. high tide at 4:30 pm. Both the previous, and current day's charges are combined and compressed in the atmosphere during such a tidal rise. If the daytime temperature increases, the air can hold more water. All these elements and conditions combine to create a highly charged atmosphere during rush hour, when static electricity continues to be generated. This idea is somewhat analogous to a compression stroke of an engine. The tidal periods for both the Loma Prieta and the Northridge quakes were similar to this model.

The final ocean related factor to Type II EQs is atmospheric e-field dielectric modification. When high tides combine with large swells in the ocean, the incidence and amount of ocean spray increases. The spray entering, and remaining in the atmosphere from the break-waters and sea-walls can increase humidity (another factor of dew point), but more importantly, I allege it transforms the charged air into a stronger electrolyte, and therefore increases its conductive capability. I speculate the salted air acts as fuel and modifies the dielectric constant of air in that region, hence the term: atmospheric e-field dielectric modification. Most of the conditions previously presented in this section, with the possible exception of the dielectric modification, were in effect before the Loma Prieta EQ.

Though stated previously that the potential for discharge requires three consecutive days of charge build up, I would like to address another fuzzy element which allegedly triggered the Loma Prieta quake after a single dewless night.

Precipitation, hypothetically, can trigger a quake or equalize the atmosphere just as dew allegedly does. A difference between the Loma Prieta and most quakes of that size was its short duration. I suspect the reason for the limited duration is that, rather than three successive days of charge build up in the atmosphere, an indian summer condition was in effect for one day. The afternoon of the quake, a small low pressure system entered the region over the Santa Cruz mountains. When the rain began to fall, the descending drops accumulated atmospheric charges on their descent. This trickle effect grew, and eventually returned much of the airborne charge in 20 seconds of ground movement. I propose that this trigger effect also occurs in Southern California near Pasadena as rain enters the Los Angeles Basin from the northwest. If the same Type II EQ preconditions were in effect in L.A. and rain came from the west over the ocean, because of the broad front of rain, the charge would return to the ground gradually along the wide weather front. A possible answer to the question of ground-to-air lightning relates to the opposite of this condition. When heavy rains have fallen continuously in a region, charges are so removed from the air that the earth generates a charge (ground-to-air lightning) to fill the atmospheric electrical void made by heavy rains. I would also contend that major metropolitan areas of the Midwest and Northeast would experience more EQs if the regions didn't experience the humidity extremes. These extremely humid conditions remove charges from the air much the same way that heavy rains accomplish this task. I believe those areas also have higher incidence of lightning than less humid regions.

The last two elements that influence hypothesized Type II EQs are fog and wind. Without access to meteorological equipment, I've found that airports, or BBS lines to weather data to be good sources for wind and fog information.

Fog can return static electricity to the ground depending on the altitude, and location of the fog ceiling and floors. If the fog resides at ground level, the static being generated in that area remains on the ground. If however, a previous days' charge had risen to higher altitudes due to higher temperatures, this charge would remain in the upper atmosphere. This effect could alter the duration of charge buildup by effectively putting the charge build-up on hold. If the fog extends from ground level to higher altitudes, the atmospheric electrical potential equalizes. If the fog floor in not at ground level, charges generated on the ground ascend into the atmosphere, and into the fog. No hypothesis as to the results of this condition will be proposed.

Wind is the last fuzzy element. All Type II EQs occur in calm weather. When the wind blows, the charges disperse. Conversely when the wind stops the charges gather. If onshore wind conditions are in effect in Southern California, much of the charge generated in the L.A. basin travels to the Riverside/San Bernadino area, or moving further, ends up in the Morongo Valley. Palm Springs, because it's situated behind the pass, appears to be a location where residual charge remains because of wind driven eddy currents. In the Bay Area, northerly winds generally end up near Hollister or San Juan Bautista where the valley ends. Off-shore winds push static electricity out to sea where the charges may drain to ground through the sea water.


Early in the course of my study, undersea earthquakes and tsunamis would not fit into the hypothesis. After developing the main components of this hypothesis, I questioned whether Type II earthquakes had any effect either on, or under the ocean. The process for incorporation undersea EQs and tsunamis into the Type II processes requires one major supposition: that the ultra-low frequency radio waves were generated on the ground and therefore must return to an earth ground. The sea water is not able to diffuse the charge, therefore the charge returns to ground moving through the salt water.

Off-shore winds push the charges out over the water and they remain there until they are able to return to ground. The same charged air mass can move back over land by later on-shore winds, or drain through the sea water to ground. When the charged air mass drains through the sea water, the potential for tsunamis greatly increases.

Type II EQ tsunamis occur when the epicenter of an EQ is located in shallow water, with the major wave moving in the direction of deeper water. Recently, I modified this portion of the hypothesis due to a tsunami-generating EQ whose epicenter was in water near Sapporo, Japan. Previously, I held to an opinion that when the Type II EQ epicenter was in close proximity to the coastline, the theorized vertical earth movement generated tsunamis. A simple, yet concise example is the act of draining water from a child's plastic pool. One needs to pull up several times on the side to generate several water-draining waves. Similar waveforms generated on a much grander scale are alleged to be tsunamis. The proximity factor has since been modified to a depth-of-water factor after some observations. The tsunami near Sapporo, Japan was generated by an earthquake in the Sea of Japan. I assert that the EQ's epicenter was located in shallower water. A calculated guess as to the epicenter's location is an undersea mountain that almost breaks the sea's surface. If a Type II EQ allegedly drains in too deep of water, the weight of the water minimizes vertical movement, as does the fact that the waveform reflects off surfaces somewhat perpendicular to the source. If the sea floor is flatter (as in deeper water), no wave reflection occurs, hence the threat of tsunami activity decreases considerably.


Though no Type II data has been presented, I have presented ideas that incorporate many factors related to Type II earthquakes. Type II earthquakes:

1. Are generally 3.5 Richter or greater.

2. Caused from static charge buildup in the atmosphere.

3. Discharge similar to a capacitor discharge.

4. Have several fuzzy elements that affect occurrences.

5. Discharge through sea water.

6. Are able to generate tsunamis.

In conclusion, the raw data is easily accessible from a multitude of sources to those willing to investigate. I am confident that, after an unbiased examination of this hypothesis, the same conclusions will be reached. My request is that the hypothesis be known as the Timothy Hypothesis.


Jonsson, H.H. and Vonnegut, B., Miniature Vortices Produced By Electrical Corona, J. Geophys. Res., 1326, 1992

Lopes, R.M.C., Malin, S.R.C., Mazzarella, A., Palumbo, A., Lunar and solar triggering of earthquakes, Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors., (59), 127-129, 1990

Namias, J., Summer Earthquakes in Southern California Related to Pressure Patterns at Sea Level and Aloft, J. Geophys. Res., 94(B12), 17,671-17,679, 1989

"National Reports and Forecasts." Los Angeles Times Part II Weather, Tide Tables, 1985-1991

NOAA, 1991, Southern California Climatological Data, Daily Temperatures; Various NOAA Fiche, 1991

NOAA, 1992, Southern California Climatological Data, Monthly Summary; Various NOAA Fiche, 1992

Stukeley, W., The Philosophy of Earthquakes, paper presented to the Royal Society of London, 1750

Tributsch, H., When The Snakes Awake, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1982 end