Wang C, Christman LE, Klemperer SL, Glen JM, McPhee DK, Chen B (2022) Assessment of a claimed ultra-low frequency electromagnetic (ULFEM) earthquake precursor. Geophysical Journal International. 2022 Jun;229(3):2081-95.
The rate of occurrence of anomalous ultra-low frequency electromagnetic (ULFEM) pulses has been claimed to have increased days to weeks prior to the M5.4 2007 and M4.0 2010 Alum Rock earthquakes. We re-examine the previously reported ultra-low frequency (ULF: 0.01–10 Hz) magnetic data recorded at a QuakeFinder site located 9 km from the earthquake hypocentre, and compare to data from a nearby Stanford-USGS site located 42 km from the hypocentre, to analyse the characteristics of the pulses and assess their origin. Using pulse definitions and pulse-counting algorithms analogous to those previously reported, we corroborate the increase in pulse counts before the 2007 Alum Rock earthquake at the QuakeFinder station, but we note that the number of pulses depends on chosen temporal and amplitude detection thresholds. These thresholds are arbitrary because we lack a clear physical model or basis for their selection. We do not see the same increase in pulse counts before the 2010 Alum Rock earthquake at the QuakeFinder or Stanford-USGS stations. In addition, the majority of pulses in the QuakeFinder data and Stanford-USGS data do not match temporally, indicating the pulses lack a common origin and are not from lightning or solar-driven ionospheric/magnetospheric disturbances. Our assessment of the temporal distribution of pulse counts shows pulse counts increase during peak human activity hours, suggesting these pulses result from local cultural noise and are not tectonic in origin. The many unknowns about the character and even existence of precursory earthquake pulses means that standard numerical and statistical tests cannot easily be applied. Yet here we show that exhaustive investigation of many different aspects of ULFEM signals can be used to properly characterize their origin. [link to publication]