A study just published in the January/February issue of Seismological Research Letters pulls together the story. The authors suggest that, during an earthquake, the push and pull of the rocks creates stress as they grind against each other and this generates an electric charge that travel upwards along the nearly vertical geological faults that are common in rift zones. When the charges reach Earth’s surface and interact with the atmosphere, they create a glow.
The authors suggest that spreading the word about earthquake lights could raise awareness about them as a possible quake warning. The phenomenon has alerted people before: near L’Aquila, Italy, in April 2009, a man saw white flashes reflecting off his kitchen furniture in the early hours of the morning and took his family outside to safety. Two hours later, a devastating earthquake struck.
A video on YouTube shows an unusual and colorful (luminous/glowing) cloud phenomenon in the sky about 30 mins before the May 12, 2008 Sichuan earthquake took place. This was recorded in Tianshui, Gansu province ~450km northeast of epicenter by someone using a cell phone.
To read the full details of the report click on the link below.