Possible Anomalous Changes in Solar Quiet Daily Geomagnetic Variation (Sq) Related to the 2011 off the Pacific coast of Tohoku Earthquake (Mw 9.0)

  • Xiaocan Liu
  • Katsumi HattoriEmail author
  • Peng Han
  • Huaran Chen
  • Yoshino Chie
  • Xudong Zhao


We investigated observational data from 20 geomagnetic observatories at longitudes of 130°E to 150°E between 2009 and 2012 in order to detect possible anomalous changes in the geomagnetic solar quiet daily (Sq) variation related to the 2011 off the Pacific coast of Tohoku earthquake (Mw 9.0) that occurred on March 11, 2011, in Japan. We selected the five quietest days in every month and analyzed three-component magnetic data with 1-min resolution using the natural orthogonal component method to identify Sq variations from observations, and performed spherical harmonic analysis (SHA) to separate the internal and the external equivalent Sq current systems of Je and Ji. We found that Je and Ji were distorted near the epicenter on two geomagnetic quiet days, January 23 and 27, 2011. This was about 2 months before the earthquake. We then employed backward computation on the external and internal parts of the SHA model geomagnetic fields, Be and Bi, to determine the possible anomalous magnetic field variations at each station. The results showed significant differences in daily variation for all components on January 23 and 27, 2011. On the other days, we could not recognize any apparent anomalous behaviors apart from known secular, seasonal, and solar activity dependence. A possible connection between this anomaly and the very strong Tohoku earthquake, which followed only 1.5 months after the geomagnetic anomaly, is of extreme interest for research on earthquake precursors.


Geomagnetic solar quiet daily (Sq) variation Natural orthogonal component (NOC) method Spherical harmonic analysis (SHA) the 2011 off the Pacific coast of Tohoku Earthquake  internal and external equivalent Sq current systems possible anomalous magnetic field variations 



The authors thank the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) and the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan (GSI) for providing geomagnetic data for Japan. The geomagnetic activity index Kp and 5 quiet days list were obtained from the World Geomagnetic Data Center, Kyoto ( The data for Japan used in this study were obtained from INTERMAGNET (, and the authors also thank them for the data. This research is supported in part by The National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 41504129), the Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (XDA14040404), the Natural Science Foundation of Guang Dong Province China (No. 2018A0303130010), and a Grant-in Aid for Scientific Research of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (26249060). Thanks are extended to the China Scholarship Council (No. 201604190011) for their support of this work.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Institute of Geophysics China Earthquake AdministrationBeijingChina
  2. 2.Graduate School of ScienceChiba UniversityChibaJapan
  3. 3.Center for Environmental Remote Sensing, Chiba UniversityChibaJapan
  4. 4.Department of Earth and Space SciencesSouthern University of Science and TechnologyShenzhenChina

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