Ground water chemistry changes before major earthquakes and possible effects on animals

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Abstract

Prior to major earthquakes many changes in the environment have been documented. Though often subtle and fleeting, these changes are noticeable at the land surface, in water, in the air, and in the ionosphere. Key to understanding these diverse pre-earthquake phenomena has been the discovery that, when tectonic stresses build up in the Earth's crust, highly mobile electronic charge carriers are activated. These charge carriers are defect electrons on the oxygen anion sublattice of silicate minerals, known as positive holes, chemically equivalent to O - in a matrix of O 2-. They are remarkable inasmuch as they can flow out of the stressed rock volume and spread into the surrounding unstressed rocks. Travelling fast and far the positive holes cause a range of follow-on reactions when they arrive at the Earth's surface, where they cause air ionization, injecting massive amounts of primarily positive air ions into the lower atmosphere. When they arrive at the rock-water interface, they act as •O radicals, oxidizing water to hydrogen peroxide. Other reactions at the rock-water interface include the oxidation or partial oxidation of dissolved organic compounds, leading to changes of their fluorescence spectra Some compounds thus formed may be irritants or toxins to certain species of animals. Common toads, Bufo bufo, were observed to exhibit a highly unusual behavior prior to a M6.3 earthquake that hit L'Aquila, Italy, on April 06, 2009: a few days before the seismic event the toads suddenly disappeared from their breeding site in a small lake about 75 km from the epicenter and did not return until after the aftershock series. In this paper we discuss potential changes in groundwater chemistry prior to seismic events and their possible effects on animals. © 2011 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

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Grant, R. A., Halliday, T., Balderer, W. P., Leuenberger, F., Newcomer, M., Cyr, G., & Freund, F. T. (2011). Ground water chemistry changes before major earthquakes and possible effects on animals. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 8(6), 1936–1956. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph8061936

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