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Researchers Suggest Studying Aquifer Water Levels in the Himalayas to Predict an Earthquake

Whenever earthquakes occur, widespread cracks and deformations on the earth's surface are common, resulting in changes in groundwater levels, believe researchers

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Can water levels in the foothills of Himalayas forewarn about earthquakes? The blinking red light on a seismograph shows the epicentre of an earthquake. (representational image) Wikimedia
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Bengaluru, October 16, 2017 : Continuous monitoring of water levels in the foothills of the Himalayas can warn about an impending earthquake in the region, which is due for a major temblor.

This recommendation to the Ministry of Earth Sciences has come from Ramesh Singh, professor of environmental sciences at California’s Chapman University, who is also president of the Natural Hazards Group of the American Geological Union.

Singh says the utility of monitoring the water levels of underground aquifers for predicting earthquakes in quake-prone regions has been confirmed from analysis of water level data in a bore hole collected during the earthquake that rocked Nepal’s Gorkha district on April 25, 2015.

The findings of the study carried out by Singh and three seismologists from China have recently been published in the journal Techtonophysics.

The Gorkha quake, one of the deadliest in Nepal, killed about 5,000 people mainly in Nepal, a few in bordering India, two in Bangladesh and one in China, and injured about 9,200 people.

Whenever earthquakes occur, widespread cracks and deformations on the earth’s surface are common, resulting in changes in groundwater levels, Singh told this correspondent in an email.

In China, many parameters are being monitored in water wells, including water level, water temperature, and water radon concentrations to detect any signal prior to an impending earthquake.

According to the scientists, due to seismic wave propagation, the volume of an aquifer expands and contracts, forming fractures that change the water flow in a bore well sunk into the aquifer.

In the case of the Gorkha quake, the scientists considered the water level in a bore well — called “Jingle” well — atop an aquifer in China’s Shanxi province, 2,769 kilometres from the temblor’s epicenter. The data was analysed soon after the Nepal earthquake.

A “spectrum analysis” of the co-seismic response of the bore hole water level showed large amplitude oscillations with a maximum peak-to-peak value of about 1.75 metres associated with ground vibrations generated by the earthquake, says their report.

In addition, the analysis revealed the arrival of a possible precursor wave at the “Jingle” well about 6.5 hours prior to the actual occurrence.

ALSO READ Indian Seismologist Arun Bapat had Predicted China Earthquake on August 8

“The study of co-seismic changes in groundwater has emerged as an important research area which can provide an improved understanding of earthquake processes and corresponding changes in surface and subsurface parameters,” Singh said.

Water level data in close proximity to the epicenter may be of great importance in getting early warning signals of an impending earthquake, he said. China and the United States routinely monitor aquifer water levels at 15-minute intervals.

In the light of the finding, Singh said that “India’s Ministry of Earth Sciences may consider deploying water level sensors in the Himalayan foothills areas, which may provide valuable information about an impending earthquake in the Himalayan region, which is due for a major earthquake.”

Such data, he added, “is also useful in understanding the dynamic nature of the Indian plate”.

However Arun Bapat, former head of Earthquake Engineering Research at the Central Water and Power Research Station in Pune, says he has some reservations about the study’s conclusion that water level changes observed in the bore hole were the warning signal for the Gorkha earthquake.

“Various effects associated with a large earthquake (Magnitude 7.5 or more) such as electrical, magnetic, geological, tectonic, hydraulic, radioactivity, etc., have been observed within about 600 to 800 km from the epicenter (but not beyond),” Bapat told IANS.

Bapat said the magnitude of the Gorkha quake was about 6.5 to 6.75 which is considered as moderate. “The effect of this quake on water level changes at a distance of 2,769 kilometres from its epicenter is almost not possible.” (IANS)

 

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Earthquake Then Volcano, There is No Relief For the Hawaii Residents

Hundreds of people have evacuated from Leilani Estates, a community of about 1,700 people, and Lanipuna Gardens.

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Hawaii Could Face Volcanic Smog, Acid Rain
Hawaii Could Face Volcanic Smog, Acid Rain. Pixabay

A massive quake measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale jolted Hawaii residents were evacuating from their homes following a volcanic eruption that has not showed any signs of slowing down, authorities said.

The temblor that struck 16 km southwest of Leilani Estates at 12.32 p.m., on Friday, was one of more than 110 earthquakes that hit the island since the Kilauea volcano, one of the world’s most active, erupted on Wednesday, reports CNN.

US Geological Survey (USGS) seismologist Jana Pursley said there have been 119 earthquakes on the Big Island since Thursday afternoon.

The USGS said Friday’s 6.9 quake was the most powerful on the island since 1975.

About 14,000 customers of Hawaii Electric Light lost power immediately after the earthquake.

About 14,000 customers of Hawaii Electric Light lost power immediately after the earthquake.
Earthquake in Hawaii, IANS

The quake has knocked out power to residents who were already dealing with mandatory evacuation orders, molten rock and high levels of sulphur dioxide in the air.

The situation wasn’t getting any better, Civil Defence Administrator Talmadge Magno told reporters on Friday afternoon.

“Activity continues. It doesn’t look like it is slowing down,” CNN quoted Magno as saying.

He said five volcanic vents have opened and indicated that at least one house and another structure were destroyed by lava.

It is highly unusual to see the vents so far from Kilauea volcano, he said.

Hundreds of people have evacuated from Leilani Estates, a community of about 1,700 people, and Lanipuna Gardens.

Harry Kim, Mayor of Hawaii County, said the government will support residents, including those who want to go back to their homes to pick up some belongings.

“We have to work with them as to how we are going to minimise (the inconveniences) as best as possible,” he said.

Also Read: An Idaho University Misses Small Amount of Plutonium, Fined $8,500 

Kim said people who want to check on their homes would be allowed into the neighbourhoods.

Cracks in Kilauea volcano’s rift zone — an area of fissures miles away from the summit — erupted on Thursday and early Friday, spurting lava near the island’s eastern edge.

Video posted on social media showed lava spewing several feet into the air from a new crack in a Leilani Estates street.

Aerial videos showed lava searing a long orange and smoky line through a wooded area.

Hawaii Governor David Ige has activated the National Guard to help with evacuations and security. (IANS)