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Authors: Masci, F.* 
Thomas, J. N.* 
Villani, Fabio* 
Secan, J. A.* 
Rivera, N.* 
Title: On the onset of ionospheric precursors 40 min before strong earthquakes
Issue Date: 12-Feb-2015
Series/Report no.: /120 (2015)
DOI: 10.1002/ 2014JA020822
Keywords: Ionosphere
Total Electron Content
Earthquake precursors
Short-term earthquake prediction
Subject Classification01. Atmosphere::01.02. Ionosphere::01.02.99. General or miscellaneous 
01. Atmosphere::01.03. Magnetosphere::01.03.99. General or miscellaneous 
04. Solid Earth::04.06. Seismology::04.06.99. General or miscellaneous 
Abstract: Heki (2011) and Heki and Enomoto (2013) claimed that anomalous, yet similar, increases of ionospheric total electron content (TEC) started ~40 min prior to the 2011 Tohoku-Oki, as well as before other Mw>8 earthquakes. The authors concluded that the reported TEC anomalies were likely related to the pending earthquakes, suggesting also that TEC monitoring may be useful for future earthquake prediction. Here we carefully examine the findings of Heki (2011) and Heki and Enomoto (2013) by performing new analyses of the same TEC data. Our interpretation is that the 40 min onset of the ionospheric precursors is an artifact induced by the definition of the reference line adopted in analyzing TEC variations. We also discuss this repeatability in the tectonic and geodynamic context of the earthquakes. By performing a Superimposed Epoch Analysis of TEC data, we show that, however, the TEC increase reported by Heki (2011) was not particularly anomalous. We conclude that the TEC precursors reported by Heki (2011) and Heki and Enomoto (2013) are not useful for developing short-term earthquake prediction capabilities.
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