Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • Letter
  • Published:

Do aerosol anomalies precede earthquakes?


REPORTS of strange animal behaviour in my home village, which was struck by the Friuli earthquake in northeastern Italy (6 May 1976) convinced me that aerosol particles were electrostatically charged before the quake and that the physiological effects were essentially caused by an increase of the ion concentration in the air resulting in reactions such as the serotonin irritation syndrome. A mechanism is suggested here for the liberation of electrical charge from underground: electrochemical glow discharge.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Buy this article

Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Similar content being viewed by others


  1. Tributsch, H. Wenn die Schlangen erwachen—mysteriöse Erdbebenvorzeichen (Deutsche Verlags Anstalt, Stuttgart, 1978).

    Google Scholar 

  2. Matteucig, G., in Messagero Veneto (Udine, 22 September 1976); Corriere di Napoli (9 October 1976).

    Google Scholar 

  3. Chu, F. M. J. seism. Soc. Jap. 11 (1976).

  4. Chinese Seismological Delegation, Sci. Geol. Sinica no. 2, 120 (1976).

  5. Raleigh, C. B. et al. in The prediction of the Haicheng Earthquake Rep. by Liaoning Earthquake Study Delegation, US, 1976).

  6. Geological Bureau, Earthquake Questions and Answers, 132 (Geology Press, Peking, 1975).

  7. Liu, Y. Y. Sci. Geol. Sinica no. 2, 116 (1967).

  8. Seismological Office of Tientsin, Earthquakes (People's Arts Press, Tientsin, 1973).

  9. Taramelli, T. & Mercalli, G. Il terremoto ligure del febbraio 1887 (Rome, 1888).

    Google Scholar 

  10. Mercalli, G. I terremoti della Calabria Meredionale e del Messinese (Rome, 1897).

    Google Scholar 

  11. Scient. Am. Suppl. 100, 14 August (1909).

  12. Lawson, A. C. The California Earthquake of April 18, 1906—Report of the State Earthquake Investigation Commission, Vol. 1, 382 (Carnegie Inst., Washington D.C., 1908).

    Google Scholar 

  13. Anderson, C. J. Bull. Field Mus. nat. Hist. 44, 9 (1973).

    Google Scholar 

  14. Rikitake, T. Earthquake Prediction (Elsevier, Amsterdam, 1976).

    Google Scholar 

  15. Musha, K. Bull. seism. Soc. Jap. Ser. 1, 7 (1935).

  16. Fitz Roy, R. Narrative of the Surveying Voyages of HMS Adventure and Beagle between the Years 1826 and 1836, Vol. 2 (1838).

  17. Milne, J. Earthquakes and Other Movements, Philadelphia (1939) (rewritten from Milne's work from 1883).

    Google Scholar 

  18. US Dept Interior, Geological Survey: Conf.1, Abnormal Animal Behaviour prior to Earthquakes, Menlo Park (1976).

  19. Humboldt, A. v. Reise in die Aequinoctalgegenden des neuen Kontinents (ed. Hauff, H.) Stuttgart 1859: 1, 231; 2, 59; 1 245.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Kant, I. M. Vorkritische Schriften I: 1747–1756, Vol. 1 (Königlich Preußische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Berlin, 1910).

    Google Scholar 

  21. Buffon, G.-L. L. L'histoire de la terre (Paris, 1749).

    Google Scholar 

  22. Reiter, R. Meteorobiologie und Elektrizität der Atmosphäre (Leipzig, 1960).

    Google Scholar 

  23. Krueger, P. A. & Reed, E. J. Science 193, 1209 (1976).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  24. Krueger, P. A. & Kotaka, S. Int. J. Bioclim. Biomet. 13, 61 (1969).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Gilbert, G. O. Int. J. Biometeorol. 17, 267 (1976).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Olivereau, J. M. thesis, Univ. Paris (1971).

  27. Robinson, N. & Dirnfeld, F. S. Int. J. Bioclim. Biomet. 6, 101 (1963).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Sulman, F. G., Levy, D., Pfeifer, Y., Superstine, E., & Tal, E. Int. J. Bioclim. Biomet. 18, 313 (1974).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  29. Israel, H. & Israel, G. W., Spurenstoffe in der Atmosphäre, 29 (Wiss. Stuttgart, 1973).

    Google Scholar 

  30. Derr, J. Bull. seismol. Soc. Am. 63, 2177 (1973).

    Google Scholar 

  31. Terada, T. Bull. Earthquake Res. Inst. Tokio Univ. 9, 225 (1931).

    Google Scholar 

  32. Musha, K. Bull. Earthquake Res. Inst. Tokio Univ. 9, 214 (1931).

    Google Scholar 

  33. Galli, I. Boll. Soc. Sis. Ital. 14, 221 (1910).

    Google Scholar 

  34. Vasalli-Eandi Mem. Matem. Fisica Soc. Ital XIV, Verona (1808).

  35. Mercalli, G. I terremoti della Liguria e del Piemonte (Napoli, 1897).

    Google Scholar 

  36. Montessus de Ballore, F. de Ethnographie Sismique et Volcanique (Libraire Ancienne Honorè Champion, Paris, 1923).

    Google Scholar 

  37. Parkhomenko, E. I. Electrification Phenomena in Rocks (Moscow, 1968).

    Google Scholar 

  38. Finkelstein, D. & Powell, J. R. Nature 228, 759 (1970).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  39. Finkelstein, D. & Powell, J. R. IUGG XV-Conf., Moscow (1971).

  40. Sakuma, S. & Nagata, T. in Encyclopedia of Physics (ed. S. Flügge), Vol. XLVIII, 1003 (1957).

    Google Scholar 

  41. Hickling, A. & Ingram, M. D. J. electroanalyt. Chem. 8, 65 (1964).

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  42. Denaro, A. R. & Hickling, A. J. electrochem. Soc. 105, 265 (1968).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Hickling, A. & Ingram, M. D. Trans. Faraday Soc. 60, 783 (1964).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  44. Plinius Secundus, G. Historia Naturalis, 2. book, section 81.

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

TRIBUTSCH, H. Do aerosol anomalies precede earthquakes?. Nature 276, 606–608 (1978).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing