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Water-Level and Stream-Flow Earthquake Precursors and Their Possible Mechanisms
  • Chi-Yu King
Chi-Yu King

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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This paper presents some pre-earthquake and coseismic water-level and stream-flow changes observed in Japan and Taiwan. The results suggest that: (1) Hydrological precursors do occur; (2) they can be observed at a relatively few sensitive sites; (3) these “sensitive” sites consistently show coseismic changes; (4) the mechanisms of these precursors can be understood, if crustal heterogeneity and pre-earthquake slow-slip events are included in their mechanism consideration. In Japan, the monitored well was sensitive, because it tapped a permeable aquifer connected to a nearby fault, which was under a hydraulic –pressure gradient caused by pumping activity in an underground gallery on the other side of the fault. Also, the fault was in a near-critical condition, such that leakage could be caused by a small crustal disturbance, such as seismic shaking, in the case of coseismic changes, or a stress increment, in the case of precursory changes. In Taiwan, both the sensitive well and the stream gauge were located on the hanging wall of the seismogenic fault of the magnitude-7.6 Chi-Chi earthquake in 1999. The hanging wall probably bulged before the earthquake, causing opening up of fractures along some secondary faults, and allowing stored groundwater to flow down to the monitored stream and caused the observed pre-earthquake stream-flow increase. The continued fracture-opening process toward greater depth then caused down-flow of water into greater depth of the crust and triggered the occurrence of slow-slip events, which propagated down-dip to where these faults met the seismogenic fault and caused slow-slip events to propagate up-dip the seismogenic fault toward the hypocenter, triggering the earthquake and the observed water-level precursor at a well located near the tip of the wall.