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A Mysterious Seismic ‘Blip’ From Deep Inside Earth Pulsates Every 26 Seconds

By Jake Anderson

Every 26 seconds for the last 60 years seismologists have detected a ubiquitous pulse emanating from deep inside the Earth.

Every 26 seconds for the last 60 years seismologists have detected a ubiquitous pulse emanating from deep inside the Earth. The debate over the cause of this mysterious “microseism” has gone on for decades and produced several cogent hypotheses, but scientists still don’t know decisively what’s behind the phenomenon.

First observed and recorded by geologist Jack Oliver in the early 1960s, then studied more extensively in the following decades, the pulse is known to be stronger during storms. But storms don’t turn off and on every 26 seconds, nor do volcanos, which have also been proposed as the source.

In 2005, a graduate student named Greg Bensen tracked the origin of the pulse to a more narrow location, a single source in the Gulf of Guinea, off the western coast of Africa; six years later, another team honed in even closer, pinpointing the origin in an area of the Gulf of Guinea called the Bight of Bonny.

This team believed the waves crashing on that coast were responsible for the seismic blip. Others, however, weren’t convinced. Some believed it was caused by the sun itself. While tectonic activity, earthquakes, and volcanos regularly trigger solid seismic sounds, a more mellow soundscape of seismic static runs in near perpetuity.

Mike Ritzwoller, a seismologist at the University of Colorado, Boulder, who has studied the pulse for decades, says that while the pulse is a mystery, seismic activity, in general, is not.

“Seismic noise basically exists because of the sun,” whose energy hits the equator and the poles unevenly, creating wind, storms, ocean currents, and waves, all of which work to displace and buffet energy onto the coastline.

“It’s like if you were tapping on your desk. It deforms the area near your knuckle, but then it’s being transmitted across the whole table,” Ritzwoller explains. “So someone sitting at the other side of the table, if they put their hand, or maybe their cheek, on the table, they can feel the vibration.” 

With the advent more advanced tools and technologies, scientists have been able to study the pulse more closely and most generally agree that the Bight of Bonny is ground zero for whatever is happening. Currently, many researchers are beginning to think the cause may be that this specific place on the edge of the enormous North American continental shelf (far below the ocean floor) is basically the other end of the desk Ritzwoller used as a metaphor. In other words, a drum the size of a continent is somehow consolidating its reverberations into a single spot.

Some researchers still believe volcanism is the answer and point to an active volcano on the island of São Tomé in the Bight of Bonny as evidence.

Why any of these physical phenomena would produce such a strange clockwork pulse every 26 seconds remains a mystery.

“We’re still waiting for the fundamental explanation of the cause of this phenomenon,” Ritzwoller says with a beat of optimism about the next decades of seismology. “I think the point [of all this] is there are very interesting, fundamental phenomena in the earth that are known to exist out there and remain secret.”

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15 COMMENTS

  1. The more simple amongst us will invent a God to provide an answer. The pulse you feel every 26 seconds is God talking to you. To appease him you must sacrifice ten naked boys to his priests & cut off the ticklish bits of prepubescent girls.

    After all it worked for various sects of goatgobblers over a thousand years ago in the Middle East & we’re still living by the crap today!

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      • What’s it like to be an apologist for for your ancient sect? To feel that you have to add your supercilious garbage to blog comments to cement your place in Heaven? To add to the misery caused by belief in about 10000 gods currently in vogue?

        You’re full of shit.

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        • And you, old man, are a nasty, shallow.
          arrogant coward. You must feel so wonderful
          slagging off people who believe whatever they
          want to believe in. You’re pathetic.

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          • The problem for u Arty is that being a bit older allows that you have been around and experienced a bit more than others. That the world of life allowed you to see things that others haven’t yet.
            So, like the entitled woke that have currently elected our Govt., son you have lots to learn yet. You also will learn that some never learn Like those that voted for Labour to keep NZ First out. Like last time . that worked well didn’t it.

            And you know they will along complaining shortly about their woes in this world with this government.
            Serves the stupid bastards right.
            Unfortunately some of us will just have to grin and bear it till the next fuck up by those same stupid people.
            Meantime we will make a lot of money off the dumb.

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  2. “Seismic noise basically exists because of the sun,” whose energy hits the equator and the poles unevenly, creating wind, storms, ocean currents, and waves, all of which work to displace and buffet energy onto the coastline.

    Interesting and I’d never really thought about that but its logically true. What is also true is that the heat source from the sun is not evenly spread across the face of the sun and so although the heat waves will appear fromn the one source they will actually have slightly different degrees of angle from the sun to the face of the earth.
    Then of course the earth will absorb the heat at different rates in different places and reflect or otherwise that heat. The reflectioed heat itself will cause dissruptions to the atmosphere and the incoming heat.
    Then it starts to get complicated.
    To add to that the world revolves and tips on its axis between summer and winter.
    Its is also influenced by other things happening in space.

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    • “Then it starts to get complicated.”

      But, if you can convince people that they are responsible for these fluctuations, and unless they pay more in tax, we are all doomed, then you have a winner that no politician can ignore.
      //

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  3. Also discovered in the 1960’s

    June 8, 1965 (Tuesday)
    Physicists at Johns Hopkins University reported that the mythical “four corners of the Earth” actually existed, the form of giant bulges on the Earth’s surface, confirmed by satellite radar measurements of the pull of gravity.
    The locations of the four sites where the pull of gravity was 0.002% greater.
    were in an area centered on Ireland;
    one centered in the Pacific Ocean between New Guinea and Japan;
    an area between Africa and Antarctica; and
    a fourth corner off the coast of Peru.
    “Earth DOES Have 4 Corners”, Milwaukee Sentinel, June 9, 1965, p7
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/June_1965

    Maybe something else is in alignment, on this ‘flat earth’, a supposed sphere with 4 corners. 🙂

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  4. Nah .
    According to Maori legend there is a big anchor stone at each corner so they can tie Ra (the sun God), to it to stop him running away.

    Its true an old kamatua told me and he was told by another one and its all on the talking stick.

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