New Zealand Earthquake 2016: Supermoon links, sky lighting up in colours

By @chelean on
A fractured road caused by an earthquake stops vehicle access near the town of Ward, 70 kilometers south of Blenheim on New Zealand's South Island, November 14, 2016.
A fractured road caused by an earthquake stops vehicle access near the town of Ward, 70 kilometers south of Blenheim on New Zealand's South Island, November 14, 2016. Reuters/Anthony Phelps

Some people have linked the 7.5 magnitude earthquake in New Zealand with the supermoon phenomenon. The earthquake hit the country’s South Island around 12:02 a.m. local time on Sunday, with some locals observing the sky lighting up in colours during the peak.

Videos uploaded online show the sky lighting up during the earthquake. According to one video uploader on YouTube named Zachary Bell, the flashes were seen from Wellington over the ocean. Other people commenting on the video also claimed to have witnessed the flashing lights, which they said were in colours of mainly green, blue and white.

An Instagram video taken by user sana_aljoj also shows flashing lights in the sky during the earthquake. As the ABC notes, reports of the sky lighting up during an earthquake date back thousands of years. During the Christchurch earthquake in 2011, similar accounts were reported as well.

 A study in 2014 described earthquake lights as caused by electrical properties of rocks. These may take different shapes, forms and colours, including bluish flames that appear to come out of the group and a few inches upwards, orbs of light that float in the air for minutes, and, as observed in the Sunday NZ earthquake, quick flashes of bright light.

Earthquake due to the supermoon phenomenon

GeoNet New Zealand has denied that the earthquake was caused by the supermoon phenomenon. Some people have linked the quake with the supermoon as large group earthquakes exhibit slight associations with lunar cycles. However, it denied that it is reliable forecasting, and the occurrence of the full moon around the globe does not indicate the presence of any earthquake.

Read more: November supermoon in Australia: How to make the most of the rare natural occurrence

Magnitude 7.5 earthquake was 2 earthquakes

Although bigger, it’s less destructive than the 6.2 magnitude Christchurch earthquake in 2011, according to seismologists, because it was away from major population areas. It was still fatal, though, killing at least two people and prompting a tsunami warning.

About 244 aftershocks have been recorded following the quake, which was actually two quakes that were 50 kilometres apart.

“We had one to the south near Kaikoura, which is where everything started, and it was an earthquake we call a reversal faulting-type motion [where the hanging wall moves upward to the footwall] where one side of the ground goes up shifting like this relative to the other,” GeoNet New Zealand seismologist Caroline Little told 774 ABC Melbourne. “Then that appears to have triggered another earthquake to the north, which goes offshore in a strike-slip type motion [caused by a horizontal shifting as opposed to vertical shifting].”

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