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Comptes Rendus Géoscience
Volume 340, n° 4
pages 203-210 (avril 2008)
Doi : 10.1016/j.crte.2007.12.004
Received : 29 September 2007 ;  accepted : 10 December 2007
On some electrical effects of the 1887 Ligurian earthquake
Sur quelques effets électriques du séisme ligure de 1887

Jean-Paul Poirier , Frédéric Perrier, Jean-Louis Le Mouël
Équipe de géomagnétisme, Institut de physique du Globe, 4, place Jussieu, 75005 Paris, France 

Corresponding author.

Significant electrical effects were observed in association with the 23 February 1887 Ligurian earthquake. Magnetic oscillatory signals, recorded in several locations in France and England, are inconclusive, as they can be interpreted as a consequence of the shaking of the magnetometers induced by the seismic waves. While observations in a telephone switch in Cannes could suggest the presence of electrical currents during the earthquake, evidence that is more convincing was reported near Monaco, where a telegraph operator received an electric shock that caused muscular tetanisation. This could be the first reliable evidence of a strong coseismic electrical potential. The minimal ground electric potential difference able to generate this condition is estimated to be of the order of 40V. These observations, combined with similar accounts in Italy and in Martinique during early operation of telegraph networks, also suggest the existence of electrical phenomena occurring seconds or minutes before the main shock.

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Des effets électriques significatifs ont été observés lors du tremblement de terre du 23 février 1887, en Ligurie. On ne peut tirer de conclusions valables des signaux magnétiques enregistrés, qui peuvent être dus à l’agitation des magnétomètres par les ondes sismiques. En revanche, l’existence de courants électriques cosismiques est suggérée par des observations dans un standard téléphonique à Cannes. Un soldat télégraphiste, près de Monaco, reçut un fort choc électrique au moment du séisme. Cette observation, bien documentée, constitue probablement la première évidence de l’existence d’un potentiel électrique cosismique. La différence de potentiel par rapport à la terre qui a pu causer les effets observés sur le soldat est estimée à 40V environ. Des effets électriques observés en Italie et en Martinique lors de l’utilisation des premiers télégraphes électriques conduisent à suggérer l’existence de phénomènes électriques cosismiques et peut-être se manifestant quelques secondes ou minutes avant le séisme.

The full text of this article is available in PDF format.

Keywords : Coseismic electric potential, Earthquake precursor, Telegraph, Tetanisation

Mots clés : Potentiel électrique cosismique, Précurseur de tremblement de terre, Télégraphe, Tétanisation

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