MOUNTAIN VIEW (KPIX 5) – Several people called the KPIX 5 newsroom after Sunday morning's magnitude 6.0 earthquake in Napa, reporting mysterious flashes of light in the sky. Witnesses said the strange phenomenon looked like lightning.
Similar flashes of light have been reported in earthquakes around the world, from Japan to Peru.
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Friedemann Freund, a scientist with the SETI Institute in Mountain View, said the same thing happened during Sunday morning's earthquake. And it wasn't a transformer blowing up or UFOs.
"What they are, are a consequence of the stresses building up deep below the earth, seven miles like in the case of the Napa Valley earthquake," Freund told KPIX 5.
He calls the phenomenon "earthquake lights," the quick buildup of stress that causes an electric current to flow to the surface and burst through the earth. This typically happens before or during an earthquake.
Several North Bay witnesses contacted Freund at the SETI Institute about seeing several flashes around the time the Napa quake hit. They said there was one or two seconds between each one.
The bizarre flashes were documented all over Twitter. Minutes after the quake, Keedo tweeted:
Anne Belden also saw flashes of light that looked like lightning.
Freund has been studying the lights for 12 years. His team recently looked at 65 occurrences around the world over the last 400 years. Most seismologists don't believe such things are real.
"There are things that we still don't understand about the earth, so why not accept unusual, exceptionally unusual phenomena taking place? And the light outburst from the ground is one of them."
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