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Discover an interesting relationship between earthquakes and cosmic radiation

Discover an interesting relationship between earthquakes and cosmic radiation

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In space, you can see impending earthquakes. Not in the literal sense of the word, as in the group of photos above, but still obvious – in changes in the intensity of cosmic rays recorded by observatories on the surface of our planet. Credit: IFJ PAN/NASA/JSC

Scientists have found a strong statistical relationship between changes in cosmic radiation and seismic activity, which may help predict earthquakes. However, the ability to predict specific locations remains unclear, and the discovery has led to intriguing questions about the possible influence of phenomena such as dark matter streams.

There is a clear statistical correlation between global seismic activity and changes in the intensity of cosmic radiation recorded on the surface of our planet, which may help predict earthquakes. Surprisingly, it displays a frequency that escapes obvious physical explanation.

Strong earthquakes usually lead to many human losses and huge material losses. The scale of the tragedy could be greatly reduced if we had the ability to predict the time and place of such catastrophic events. The CREDO project, initiated in 2016 by the Institute for Nuclear Physics of the Polish Academy of Sciences (IFJ PAN) in Kraków, attempts to verify the previously known hypothesis that earthquakes can be predicted by observing changes in… cosmic radiation. Statistical analyzes have shown that there is indeed a relationship between the two phenomena, but they show characteristics that no one expected.

The international CREDO (Highly Distributed Cosmic Ray Observatory) project is a virtual cosmic ray observatory, open to all, that collects and processes data not only from high-end scientific detectors, but also from a large number of smaller detectors, among them the CMOS sensors in smartphones. The way (to turn a smartphone into a cosmic ray detector, just install the free CREDO Detector app). One of CREDO’s main missions is to monitor global changes in the flux of secondary cosmic radiation that reaches our planet’s surface. This radiation is produced intensely in Earth’s stratosphere within what’s called the Regener-Pfotzer max, where particles of primary cosmic radiation collide with gas molecules in our atmosphere and start a chain of secondary particles.

At first glance, the idea of ​​a link between earthquakes and cosmic radiation, in its most basic form reaching us mainly from the sun and deep space, might seem strange. However, its physical underpinnings make perfect sense,” asserts Dr. Piotr Humola (IFJ PAN and AstroCeNT CAMK PAN), coordinator of CREDO and first author of the article describing the discovery in the Journal of Terrestrial Atmospheric and Heliophysics.

The main idea here is to note that eddy currents in our planet’s liquid core are responsible for generating Earth’s magnetic field. This field deflects the paths of the charged particles of the primordial cosmic radiation. Thus, if large earthquakes are associated with disturbances in the flows of matter that move the Earth’s dynamo, these perturbations will alter the magnetic field, which in turn will affect the trajectories of primary cosmic radiation particles in a dynamics-dependent manner. of disturbances within our planet. As a result, ground-based detectors should see some changes in the number of secondary cosmic ray particles detected.

CREDO physicists analyzed cosmic ray intensity data from two stations of the Neutron Monitor Database Project (collected over the past half century) and the Pierre Auger Observatory (collected since 2005). The choice of observatories was determined by the fact that they are located on opposite sides of the equator and use different detection techniques. The analyzes included changes in solar activity, as shown in a database maintained by the Solar Effects Data Analysis Center. Basic information about the Earth’s seismic activity, in turn, was obtained from the US Geological Survey.

Analyzes were performed using several statistical techniques. In each case, over the period studied, a clear correlation emerged between changes in the intensity of secondary cosmic radiation and the total magnitude of all earthquakes with magnitudes greater than or equal to 4. Importantly, this correlation only becomes apparent when the cosmic ray data show 15 days forward relative to to seismic data. This is good news, as it indicates that upcoming earthquakes can be detected much earlier.

Unfortunately, it is not clear from the analyzes whether disaster sites can be identified. Correlations between changes in cosmic ray intensity and earthquakes do not appear in the site-specific analyses. They appear only when seismic activity is taken into account on a global scale. This fact may mean that in changes in the intensity of cosmic rays one can see a phenomenon that our planet as a whole is experiencing.

“In the scientific world, it is accepted that a discovery is said to be made when the statistical confidence level for supporting data reaches five sigma, or standard deviations. For the observed correlation, we get more than six sigma, which means that there is less than a one-in-a-billion chance that the correlation It’s due to chance. So, we have a very good statistical basis for claiming that we’ve discovered a phenomenon that really exists. The only question is, is it really the one we were expecting?” Dr. Homola asks.

Indeed, it turns out that the global nature of the observed phenomenon and the 15-day advance in seismic activity evident in cosmic radiation aren’t the only exciting mysteries associated with the discovery. The biggest surprise is the widespread frequency of the association – a phenomenon that no one expected. Analyzes show that the maximum correlation occurs every 10-11 years, a period comparable to the solar activity cycle. However, it does not at all match the maximum activity of our star!

Moreover, there are other common periodic periods of unknown nature in both cosmic rays and seismic data. Examples include periodic changes in seismic activity and the intensity of secondary cosmic radiation over the course of a cycle corresponding to Earth’s sidereal day (equal to ~24 hours minus ~236 seconds). Could it then be that cosmic-seismic associations are caused by an agent reaching us from outside the solar system, capable of simultaneously producing radiation and seismic effects? Just what conventional physical phenomenon can qualitatively explain the apparent correlations?

The lack of classical explanations for the observed cyclicality raises consideration of the possible role of other, less classical phenomena. One such factor could be Earth’s passage through a dark matter stream that is modified by the Sun and other massive bodies in our planetary system. The Earth, with its large magnetic field, is a very sensitive particle detector, much larger than man-made detectors. It is therefore reasonable to allow the possibility of responding to phenomena that are not visible to current measuring instruments.

“Regardless of the source of the observed periodicity, the most important thing at this stage of the research is that we have shown a link between the cosmic radiation recorded on our planet’s surface and its seismicity – and if anything we can be certain that our observation points to entirely new and exciting research opportunities.” Dr. Humola concludes.

Reference: “Observation of large-scale primary correlations between cosmic rays and earthquakes with a periodicity similar to the solar cycle” by P. Homola, V. Marchenko, A. Napolitano, R. Damian, R. Guzik, D. Alvarez-Castillo, S. Stuglik, O. Ruimi, O. Skorenok, J. Zamora-Saa, JM Vaquero, T. Wibig, M. Knap, K. Dziadkowiec, M. Karpiel, O. Sushchov, JW Mietelski, K. Gorzkiewicz, N. Zabari, K. Almeida Cheminant, B. Idźkowski, T. Bulik, G. Bhatta, N. Budnev, R. Kamiński, MV Medvedev, K. Kozak, O. Bar, Ł. Bibrzycki, M. Bielewicz, M. Frontczak, P. Kovács, B. Łozowski, J. Miszczyk, M. Niedźwiecki, L. del Peral, M. Piekarczyk, MD Rodriguez Frias, K. Rzecki, K. Smelcerz, T., J. Stasielak and A.A. Tursunov, April 13, 2023 Available here. Journal of Physics of the Atmosphere, Sun, and Earth.
DOI: 10.1016/j.jastp.2023.106068

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