New Method for Earthquakes Prediction

Aug 06, 2004

Scientists at Stockholm University in Sweden may have developed a new method for predicting earthquakes with the help of geochemistry. The method involves metering the content of certain metals in underground water, which changes before and after an earthquake.

The team of researchers behind these discoveries, presented in the latest issue of the scientific journal Geology, is led by Alasdair Skelton, professor of petrology and geochemistry at Stockholm University. An other member of the research group is Lillemor Claesson at the same department.

Earthquakes primarily represent a threat to areas where continental plates meet: Japan, Turkey, California, for example. A major problem is the difficulty of quickly predicting quakes and the risks in these prone areas. Now Alasdair Skelton and his research team are claiming that it may be possible to predict tremors by metering how the content of metals in underground water changes.

The method was developed in Iceland, before and after a major earthquake (5.8 on the Richter scale). The chemistry of Ice Age water was sampled from a 1.5 km deep well in northern Iceland and was monitored for 10 weeks before and one year after the earthquake, which occurred on September 16, 2002.

Chemical peaks for iron and chromium, manganese, zinc and copper were detected 10, 5, 2, and 1 week(s) before the earthquake. After the tremor they returned to their normal levels. Comparison with experimental studies indicates that these chemicals were dissolved from the surrounding rock, but at higher temperature and therefore deeper in the Earth's crust. Upward migration of this chemically-fingerprinted water to the team's sampling station could result from changes in the permeability of the Earth's crust, caused by the accumulation of energy before the earthquake.

Alasdair Skelton feels that it is now time to test whether these observations from Iceland agree with observations and metering in other earthquake-prone areas.

"Water chemistry may thus provide us with a tool which may help us to predict earthquakes. Shortly after the earthquake, we detected a rapid chemical shift for a range of elements and isotopes. We interpret these changes as indicative of the rapidity with which the permeability of the fault zone changes during an earthquake cycle, with one reservoir being sealed off, while another is unsealed," says Alasdair Skelton.

Source: Stockholm University

Explore further: Similarities between aurorae on Mars and Earth

Related Stories

Sustainability of the built environment

May 08, 2015

In times of limited resources and continued evidence of significant climate change, sustainability is increasingly regarded as a topic of global importance. Consider areas such as design, energy, and materials: ...

Challenges medical relief teams face after disaster

May 04, 2015

As medical relief teams from Nepal and the rest of the world work to distribute supplies and care for survivors, it's worth understanding how health workers handle extreme emergency situations.

What works and doesn't in disaster health response

May 01, 2015

On Saturday, April 24 2015, a major (Magnitude 7.8) earthquake hit Nepal shortly after midday. Long-expected by seismologists, this large earthquake has left many of the older structures in this mountainous and economica ...

Recommended for you

Image: Europa's Jupiter-facing hemisphere

4 hours ago

This 12-frame mosaic provides the highest resolution view ever obtained of the side of Jupiter's moon Europa that faces the giant planet. It was obtained on Nov. 25, 1999 by the camera onboard the Galileo ...

A bubbly cosmic celebration

4 hours ago

In the brightest region of the nebula RCW 34, gas is heated and expands through the surrounding cooler gas. Once the heated hydrogen reaches the borders of the gas cloud, it bursts outwards into the vacuum ...

Image: XMM-Newton self-portraits with planet Earth

4 hours ago

This series of images was taken 15 years ago, a couple of months after the launch of ESA's XMM-Newton space observatory. These unique views, showing parts of the spacecraft main body and solar wings, feature ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.