Methane in association with seismic activity



It has been hypothesized that upward movement of vast quantities of methane gas from the earth's mantle is a causative agent of earthquakes [Gold, 1979]. Much of this hypothesis rests on accounts of flames and/or loud, booming noises (“brontides”) accompanying seismic events, possibly caused by the explosive release of this “primordial” methane to the atmosphere [Claflin-Chalton and Mac-Donald, 1978; Gold and Soter, 1979]. This speculation has generated much controversy because it implies a nonbiological origin for petroleum, as well as the presence of an abundant, potentially harvestable supply of energy in the mantle [e.g., Nature, 1982; Eos, 1983]. However, there is a paucity of experimental data to either support or contradict this hypothesis. Because of this continuing, unresolved controversy, I have decided to publish some observations made several years ago with respect to methane emanations during an earthquake that struck near Mammoth Lakes, Calif. [Oremland, 1979]. It is of significance that this region lies in close proximity to Owens Valley where accounts exist of flames emanating from the ground during the 1872 earthquake [Claflin-Chalton and MacDonald, 1978; Gold, 1979].