The video has accumulated more than 6 million views in three days. On X (formerly Twitter), a user shared on Saturday images from a surveillance camera probably recorded at the time of deadly earthquake that hit Morocco. We notice, a few seconds before the earthquake, several flashes of blue light illuminating the sky on the horizon. “Does anyone have an explanation?” », he asks.
This is not the first time that this type of light flashes has been observed during an earthquake. In Mexico, during deadly earthquakes from 2017 And of 2021, similar blue and green halos were also seen shortly before or during the tremors. The phenomenon was also observed at the start of the year, during the powerful earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria.
Enough to question Internet users about the origin of these mysterious lights. Between hypotheses relating to conspiracy and theories with scientific value, Le Parisien tried to disentangle the truth from the falsehood on what has been circulating on social networks for several days.
Among the most outlandish hypotheses, some are convinced that these sources of blue light are a sign of the presence of UFOs or that the earthquake was caused by human action. Many also hold responsible the HAARP program (High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program in English), regularly implicated during natural disasters.
This American scientific project developed in the 1990s is based in an observatory in Alaska and studies the upper layer of the atmosphere, the ionosphere, using radio transmitters. Proponents of this theory are convinced that there are hidden HAARP devices all over the world. They say they are secret weapons of the US military capable of altering the climate and causing seismic and weather events.
This conspiracy theory is regularly debunked by scientists. In 2021, science writer Mick West explained to The Observers of France 24 that HAARP is “just a radio transmitter located in one location in Alaska and it can only affect a small amount of air above it,” adding that “the actual power used by this radio transmitter is very very weak”, therefore incapable of causing such a catastrophe.
In the case of the earthquake in Morocco, “we are on a fault which has slipped around thirty kilometers under our feet. It is not a disturbance of the ionosphere which will have any interference with the deep subsoil and trigger an earthquake,” explains Samuel Auclair, seismic risk engineer, to Parisian. The HAARP program “cannot therefore be responsible” for the light sources observed, he erts.
The most credible hypotheses
The blue lights observed in Morocco could simply be manifestations of “electric arcs” due to shaking of power lines. “It would not be surprising if a disruption in the electrical network during the earthquake resulted in blue sparks,” says Samuel Auclair. Especially since this has already been the case: in 2021 in Mexico, the flashes of light were caused by the explosion of an electrical transformer, the bluish sky being due to the reflection of the explosion in the clouds, explained Futura Sciences at the time.
Finally, the last hypothesis that could explain this phenomenon consists of saying that these colored flashes are “seismic lights”. This is a scientific theory according to which seismic faults cause “a sudden release of electrical charges” which, when they rise to the surface, “ionize the ambient air”. In other words, upon contact with the atmosphere, they would transform into a light source.
This hypothesis was put forward by four Canadian and American geologists in 2014 in the journal Seismological Research Letters. After having identified around sixty testimonies of these light phenomena appearing before or during an earthquake, they identified four main families of “seismic lights”, including “atmospheric luminosities, rapid and brief flashes, even illuminations visible over several kilometers” , explained one of the researchers to Figaro.
They had noticed that these “seismic lights” most often appeared above vertical faults, in the middle of the continent, and were caused “by slides of crystalline rocks”. However, in Morocco, “we are on a very steep fault, almost vertical, and these are crystalline zones, with quartz”, explains to Parisien Philippe Vernant, seismologist and teacher-researcher at the University of Montpellier.
Could the light manifestations observed therefore be “seismic lights”? “Why not, but it is impossible to confirm it scientifically,” warns the seismologist.
A scientific theory that does not reach consensus
This theory is very controversial within the scientific community because, apart from the study dating back almost 10 years, there is very little scientific literature on the subject. “No one has really taken hold of it,” recognizes Samuel Auclair. These phenomena have “never been measured and exploited in a scientific way. It is always on the basis of testimonies, photos or videos…” confirms Michel Parrot, former retired director of the CNRS.
“What is certain is that light phenomena before or during an earthquake do indeed exist,” ures Samuel Auclair. But the mechanisms at work behind it depend on many factors that remain to be understood. » The theory of “seismic lights” is therefore “not sufficiently characterized” to affirm that this is what happened in Morocco, concludes the seismic risk engineer.