Electrical streaming potential precursors to catastrophic earthquakes in China

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Y. Zhao
B. Zhao
F. Qian


The majority of anomalies in self-potential at 7 stations within 160 km from the epicentre showed a similar pattern of rapid onset and slow decay during and before the M 7.8 Tangshan earthquake of 1976. Considering that some of these anomalies associated with episodical spouting from boreholes or the increase in pore pressure in wells, observed anomalies are streaming potential generated by local events of sudden movements and diffusion process of high-pressure fluid in parallel faults. These transient events triggered by tidal forces exhibited a periodic nature and the statistical phenomenon to migrate towards the epicentre about one month before the earthquake. As a result of events, the pore pressure reached its final equilibrium state and was higher than that in the initial state in a large enough section of the fault region. Consequently, local effective shear strength of the material in the fault zone decreased and finally the catastrophic earthquake was induced. Similar phenomena also occurred one month before the M 7.3 Haichen earthquake of 1975. Therefore, a short term earthquake prediction can be made by electrical measurements, which are the kind of geophysical measurements most closely related to pore fluid behaviors of the deep crust.

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How to Cite
Zhao, Y., Zhao, B. and Qian, F. (1997) “Electrical streaming potential precursors to catastrophic earthquakes in China”, Annals of Geophysics, 40(2). doi: 10.4401/ag-3906.