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Changes in Groundwater May Signal Large Earthquake

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Changes in Groundwater May Signal Large Earthquake

Cracks in the lava by the Holuhraun eruption.

A crack in the ground at the Holuhraun eruption site. Photo: Geir Ólafsson.

The results of a new study on two large earthquakes in North Iceland in 2012 and 2013 indicate that changes in the chemical composition of groundwater in areas prone to earthquakes may be used to predict large earthquakes and to improve knowledge of processes in the earth’s crust that take place before such earthquakes, as stated on the website of the University of Iceland.

“The results of the study show that two to six months prior to the quakes changes in the groundwater emerged, such that the proportion of local precipitation water in the geothermal water increased. The proportion was back to its previous state around three months after the quakes. Simultaneously there were change in dissolved chemicals, i.e. sodium, calcium and silicon, a change prevalent for four months,” explained Árný Erla Sveinbjörnsdóttir, scientist at the Institute of Earth Sciences at the University of Iceland and one of the contributors to the study.

Árný pointed out that the changes in groundwater proved to be statistically significant and are in all likelihood linked to the earthquakes but stressed that the scientists involved in the research are not saying that this proves that the geochemistry of groundwater can predict large earthquakes. More research is needed.

The study was conducted by scientists from Akureyri University, the University of Iceland, Landsvirkjun (the National Power Company of Iceland), the University of Stockholm, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, the University of Gothenburg and Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm.

The results were recently featured in an article in the journal Nature Geoscience.

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