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Solar Flare Effects on Earthquake Intensity

Solar Flare Effects on Earthquake Intensity

Solar flare is a phenomenon that has fueled an interesting topic of debate among scientific communities the world over, as to whether they can affect earthquakes and their intensity. Let us attempt to unravel the myths and seek out some facts here.
ScienceStruck Staff
A solar flare, quite simply put, is nothing but the most powerful high energy explosion on the surface of the sun. The adjacent image shows how exactly such a flare would appear through an advanced telescope. It is equivalent to millions of hydrogen bombs exploding within minutes. If you visit the NASA official website, you will be able to view more images and even videos that capture this amazing phenomenon. Solar flares have been a fascinating subject of study for several decades. NASA and other scientific institutes have been closely watching this enormous energy-releasing process to see if the electromagnetic radiations emitted can alter weather systems and cause climate change on earth. A new field of study called Heliophysics, is dedicated to the study of the earth and solar system interactions. Official research in this field has so far not indicated conclusive evidence of a correlation between sun flares and seismic activity.
Is there Proof of a Correlation between Earthquakes and Solar Flares?
Most theories of correlation are based on the possibility of particles from solar flares impacting the earth's atmosphere (particularly the magnetosphere), thereby setting tectonic plates into motion at fault zones. Certain Heliophysics studies suggest that there may be a casual relation between solar flares and earthquakes as most earthquakes were preceded by solar flares. This has been interpreted out of context by certain people to suggest that solar flares trigger tectonic plate shifts. However, the fact is that the scientists came to a conclusion that, each time a solar flare occurred, an earthquake event did NOT follow. Those who support the correlation between seismic activity on earth and solar flares, are quick to point out that earthquakes may be caused due to several other reasons. They suggest solar flares as only one of the reasons for tectonic instability and earthquake intensity. In short, there's enough material for arguments and counterarguments.
A Field Day for Conspiracy Theorists!
The Internet is a great uncensored medium for propagating all kinds of conspiracy theories. So much so that, as a layperson, it is extremely difficult to take an objective view and not get carried away with the hyperactivity in these blogging sites. The 2011 Japan earthquake was a disaster of mammoth proportions that attracted a lot of media attention. Incidentally, it also became a hot topic of discussion for conspiracy theory enthusiasts on the web. Care for a lowdown on what sort of information is floating around out in cyberspace?
  • The HAARP Theory: High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) is an ionospheric research program funded by various US government agencies. According to conspiracy theorists however, it is ostensibly a research program that is in fact, a weapon of mass destruction program capable of altering global weather systems. They claim that the solar flares colliding with the earth were used as a distraction, while really the shift of the tectonic plates was artificially triggered by HAARP systems. These are supposedly, capable of mimicking the effects of a solar flare in the earth's atmosphere, like artificially created auroras (auroras typically coincide with solar flares at the polar regions of the earth) in the sky. Allegedly, a bunch of western forces decided to destabilize Japan by causing unprecedented human and economic losses. Sounds believable? I sincerely hope that no evil force can be insane enough to purposely endanger nuclear reactors in the way it did in Japan. It is common sense that nuclear explosions and resulting radiation leaks could be a global catastrophe and impossible to be contained in the areas around just one tiny country.
  • The Multiple Coincidence Theory: These theorists are paranoid about linking solar flares and earthquakes. As soon as a solar flare is reported, they put up a huge warning that warns about an earthquake that may follow soon (now we don't know whether they take the notice off, if there's no earthquake reported in a specific time). With regard to the 2011 Japan earthquake for instance, they scream out that it followed within a few hours of a massive solar flare. They even quote government agencies as having "admitted" that there may have been a relation. But if you check out official information, you will never be able to dig out those admission notices. These theories thrive on followers and bloggers that report various abnormal activities coinciding with reported solar flares. For instance, they say their pets were behaving quite weirdly, there were increased experiences of static electricity while touching metal objects and even feeling physical symptoms of vertigo, etc., around the time of solar flares. Of course, most of these incidents are blogged about after widespread reports of an earthquake occurring in an "I-think-I-felt-something-bad-is-happening-somewhere" sort of way. Intuition and clairvoyance theories of the modern age, perhaps. 
What is the Hype All About?
Plausibility aside, the above theory provided the perfect plot for a Hollywood doomsday movie, 2012. Released in 2009, the disaster film gives credence to references of a prediction in the Mayan Calendar suggesting 2012 as the year the world would witness its greatest catastrophe. The movie begins with a discovery of a massive solar flare by a group of scientists, that triggers the end of the world through a series of cataclysmic events such as earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis. Once the earthquakes cease and the tsunamis recede, Africa and few other land masses emerge above the flooding devastation. As a happy ending, a lucky few survive to lead the human race beyond this apocalypse. A great watch for some special effects, but at the end of the day, the subject remains controversial as ever.
Will Solar Flares Bring About the End of the World?
Solar activity has been as much a favorite phenomenon supporting doomsayers' predictions about the end of the world, as a giant meteor strike. The fact is, that the scale of the Japan earthquake and the tsunami that followed has left scientists baffled even though it is geographically a quake-prone region. The extensive damage propelled authorities to look for causes and triggers that could aid disaster management efforts in future, however, none of the research conclusively ties the calamity to the solar flares. If you are one of those people surfing the Internet only to find stories about the next solar flare triggering earthquakes and tsunamis, consider these scientific facts.
  • Solar flares are not easily predictable, so steer clear of doomsayers predicting the exact time of the next catastrophic flare.
  • The earth's atmosphere (specifically, the earth's magnetosphere) shields us by deflecting most of the radiations and charged particles emitted through solar flares directed earthward.
  • Most official scientific data indicate the possibility of sun flares likely to damage technologies like Global Positioning Systems (GPS), thus affecting satellite and radio communication and even power grid failures, but nothing more.

One thing is for sure, we'll know soon whether a solar flare would trigger intense earthquakes and tsunamis bringing about the end of the world as we know it, in 2012. If we live to tell that tale, maybe we could revisit the debate.