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Radon anomalies in the prismatic atmosphere associated with the 2018 North Osaka earthquake

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Radon concentrations are known to change in Earth before and after earthquakes. Previous studies have shown elevated levels of radon in the atmosphere prior to the major shock of a major internal earthquake due to frontal tremor activity and slow slip.

But now, researchers from Tohoku University have uncovered an anomaly in this phenomenon. By analyzing data before and after the 2018 North Osaka earthquake, they discovered that the concentration of radon gas in the atmosphere has decreased.

Their research results were published online in Scientific Reports on April 2, 2021.

“For the first time, we have found a decrease in atmospheric radon gas associated with seismic calm before a major earthquake caused by an internal earthquake,” said Professor John Mutu of the Graduate School of Science at Tohoku University. Muto, who led the research group with Professor Hiroyuki Nagahama, collaborated with Osaka Medical and Pharmaceutical University and Kobe Pharmaceutical University.

Monitoring of atmospheric radon concentrations from Osaka Medical and Pharmaceutical University showed a decrease about one year before the earthquake, a trend that continued until June 2020. Seismic activity in the vicinity of the monitoring site also decreased and decreased. Seismic activity after the main shock for the entire Kansai region, except for the aftershock region.

Image showing radon exhalation (222Rn) from the Earth’s interior. The concentration of radon in the atmosphere is measured in radioisotope (RI) facilities. Radon gas is exhaled into the Earth’s surface through tiny cracks in rocks that occur before and after earthquakes. © John Muto

All this indicates that radon levels did not increase after the earthquake. It also paints a more complex picture of the radon and fluid motions that cause radon to exhale into the Earth’s interior when major earthquakes occur.

“The discovery revealed more processes occurred before the earthquakes than previously thought,” Muto said. “Further analysis of other earthquakes will lead to a better understanding of the physiochemical processes at play and help us use atmospheric radon concentrations to elucidate the different crust motions associated with major earthquakes.”

The research group has established monitoring networks that measure the concentration of radon in the atmosphere at radioisotope facilities across Japan. Monitoring is also expected at nuclear power plants.

Expanding the monitoring network will help clarify the area and timing of radon anomalies, the geological features that cause these anomalies, and the relationship to the different types of earthquakes. All this will help realize the radon based earthquake prediction system.

Publication details:

Title: Prismatic atmospheric radon anomaly associated with the 2018 North Osaka earthquake

Authors: Jun Muto, Yumi Yasuoka, Nao Miura, Daichi Iwata, Hiroyuki Nagahama, Mitsuhiro Hirano, Yoshiro Ohmomo, and Takahiro Mukai

The Journal: Scientific Reports

DOI: 10.1038 / s41598-021-86777-z

/ General release. This material comes from the original establishment and may be chronological in nature, and is edited for clarity, style, and length. View it in full here. .

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