Geologists have long puzzled over anecdotal reports of strange atmospheric phenomena in the days before big earthquakes. But good data to back up these stories has been hard to come by.
In recent years, however, various teams have set up atmospheric monitoring stations in earthquake zones and a number of satellites are capable of sending back data about the state of the upper atmosphere and the ionosphere during an earthquake.
Today, Dimitar Ouzounov at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre in Maryland and a few buddies present the data from the Great Tohoku earthquake which devastated Japan on 11 March. Their results, although preliminary, are eye-opening.