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What is Earthquake Weather?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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It’s a close, oppressive day, perhaps hot and humid, with clouds appearing overhead and no rain in sight. People may look at such a day as typical earthquake weather, a term used to describe weather patterns that suggest an earthquake might be forthcoming. Actually there’s no such thing, and a general study of the pattern and occurrences of earthquakes show they occur in all seasons, all temperatures, all times of the day, and in many different weather patterns.

Aristotle, the philosopher and intellectual, surmised that earthquakes were caused by winds in caves, and as such, there was specific weather that indicated them. This is definitely not the case. Like most people, Aristotle was looking to explain things that were mysteries by making logical hypotheses. Since Aristotle, many people have pointed to various weather signs to predict earthquakes.

While weather patterns may not cause earthquakes, they may influence the amount of damage caused by one. Prior to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, several months of heavy rain had caused the ground beneath structures to become soft, translating to greater shaking of buildings and more overall damage. The rains didn’t cause the earthquake, but they made its result more severe.

In recent studies, a theory that is gaining greater acceptance is that slight differentiations in thermal temperature, as viewed by satellite, may end up being a good predictor of certain types of earthquakes. These changes in temperature have occurred before some of the major earthquakes in the late 20th and early 21st century, and a body of evidence is being gathered that might someday help to predict earthquakes. Thermal changes tend to occur only a few hours before earthquakes, don’t tend to affect the weather, and may not offer enough time to allow for earthquake warnings.

As yet, scientists have no reliable predictors for earthquakes, and they are far removed from predicting just how bad an earthquake might be. Scientists rely on probabilities rather than predictions. For instance, it is probable that San Francisco is likely to have a large earthquake, which has been called “The Big One” for over 30 years. What is probable is not always predictable. General statements from seismologists now focus on statements like, “We’re sure it will happen, but don’t know when.”

Instead of using signs of earthquake weather as a guide for predicting earthquakes, it makes more sense for people who live in earthquake-prone areas to always be ready for one. There are many Internet sites that focus on earthquake preparedness, and they can give people a little peace of mind if they feel nervous about the chances of one happening.

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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a All Things Nature contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon996631 — On Sep 20, 2016

Californians believe that the cold weather makes the ground brittle because their major earthquakes have happened in January (Northridge), February (Sylmar, Upland), March (Long Beach) with the San Francisco Fire in early April and the World Series earthquake in October.

What they don't realize is that most earthquakes occur off the coast and don't cause as much damage.

By stoneMason — On Nov 04, 2012

@ysmina-- No, scientists say that there isn't even correlation between earthquakes and hot weather. For some reason some people think that earthquakes happen in dry, hot weather. Some people also think that earthquakes only or mostly happen during the early hours of the day. But there is no correlation between any of these.

I think we tend to make these generalizations because earthquakes are unpredictable and they cause a lot of harm but we want to be able to predict them. So if a few earthquakes happen in hot and dry weather or if they happen early in the morning, we think that this applies to all earthquakes. But this is not a logical, scientific approach to analyzing earthquake information. Earthquake weather is just a myth at this point.

By ysmina — On Nov 03, 2012

Does the weather really get warmer before an earthquake? Why does that happen?

Come to think of it, a lot of earthquakes do happen in the summer but correlation is not always causation.

By fBoyle — On Nov 02, 2012

Another reason why "earthquake weather" doesn't make sense is because earthquakes happen all over the world. They happen in so many different countries which have different climate and weather conditions.

I do believe that there is "tornado weather" though. I grew up in Ohio which experiences tornadoes often and the weather would always be the same right before a tornado hit. It would be humid, calm and the wind would stop. But tornadoes don't happen everywhere, they always happen in places with similar type of climates.

By anon232493 — On Dec 01, 2011

What these people on their high horses don't realize as everything we touch and see is made out of energy and is all connected in the grand scheme. How, we do not know, but scientists need to be more open-minded to test these kinds of predictions instead of listening to those who blow off their own thermal temperatures.

I wonder how many earthquakes per year California would have if all the cold hearted skeptics blew their hot air at once every day for a few years. Years.

By anon125612 — On Nov 10, 2010

earthquake weather knowledge is acquired after living there for a time. it's a feel in the air. you have to be sensitive to the air around you to understand. very still and a funny looking sky.

By anon79027 — On Apr 21, 2010

who cares? the whole article is some what ridiculous because whoever would believe in earthquake weather anyway. give him some credit. besides the amount of mass moved in earthquakes it would be stupid to say no heat is involved.

By surreallife — On Jan 22, 2009

I didn't know about these studies either, but if you google the key terms, you'll find more info about some of these studies. Even if scientists and researchers are excited by the results, I too am skeptical that this hypothesis will actually turn into accepted scientific fact.

By JeezNotAgain — On Dec 15, 2008

What "theory" or "recent studies" are you talking about? Do you have any sources for this claim?

The fact that earthquakes can occur deeper than 186 miles (300 km) below the surface blows that little theory away. I would love to see the evidence that purports or suggests that sufficient thermal temperature gradients are detectable through 186 miles of solid rock so as to be "a good predictor of certain types [which ones? Normal? Reverse? Transform?] of earthquakes."

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a All Things Nature contributor, Tricia...
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