Be it observations of historic contamination, previous land uses or abstraction dynamics groundwater tells a story.

Some interesting hydrogeology research was published on 21 September 2014 in Nature Geoscience. Reported by the Guardian UK the work focused on uncovering tell-tale chemical spikes in groundwater up to six months before earthquake tremors occur.

The study took place in Iceland, carried out by Stockholm University, analysing weekly groundwater chemistry for more than five years. The researchers identified large shifts in the groundwater chemistry (stable isotope ratios and dissolved element concentrations) four to six months prior to two significant (more than magnitude 5) earthquakes in 2012 and 2013.

Statistical analyses indicated that observed changes in groundwater chemistry were associated with the earthquakes and that the chemical fluxes were likely due to the mixing of groundwater bodies. Although the changes detected were specific for the site in Iceland, it is inferred by the research team that similar processes may be active elsewhere and that groundwater chemistry is a promising target for future studies on the predictability of earthquakes.

The next steps are to understand better exactly how the chemical spikes occur and then to see if these can be observed in other parts of the world.

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