Mooie ontwikkeling. Het zou een hoop levens kunnen sparen!quote:Gas Levels Can Predict Earthquakes, Say Chilean Scientists
Radon gas emissions can be used to detect impending earthquakes and volcanic activity, say scientists at a leading Chilean University.
A joint project by Valparaiso-based Universidad Tecnica Federico Santa Maria (USM) and Spanish institution Universidad de Extremadura is studying the link between radon gas levels and seismic activity in the earth’s crust.
Radon gas is emitted naturally from the earth in constant patterns. But variations result from tectonic activity between plates in the earth’s crust, movements which generally precede earthquakes. Detecting these variations can therefore warn authorities of impending earthquake or volcanic activity.
Changes in radon emissions will also alert scientists to movements occurring at a far greater depth than can be currently detected by seismographs, therefore allowing for a larger period of anticipation. Previous research in Italy and Indonesia revealed a much higher atmospheric concentration of radon weeks before major tremors.
The Chile is also developing ways to measure underwater emissions, in the hope of applying similar technology to thermal waters which surround volcanoes.
Authorities announced earlier this year plans to establish a national seismic and volcanic monitoring system comprised of 196 stations installed along the length of Chile. In place by 2011, the system will report seismic events with improved accuracy, providing an earthquake’s location and magnitude with in five minutes of its detection (ST. July 8).
But the radon measurements enable scientists to predict activity before it happens, which is good news in such a tectonically active country as Chile. Over 16 major tremors of 6 or more on the Richter scale have been recorded in Chile since 1900, with last year’s Papudo quake reaching 6.3 in magnitude. The 2007 Antofagasta earthquake reached 7.7 in force leaving two people dead and 150 injured, as well as destroying 4,000 homes (ST. Nov 15 2007).
Chile is also one of the most volcanically active countries in the world, with last year’s eruption at Region X’s Chiaten volcano displacing 12,000 people (ST. June 25 2008).
Francisco Cerceda of USM's environmental engineering faculty said his group is also studying the link between radon exposure and lung cancer. It is believed that radon is the second biggest cause of lung cancer, after tobacco, and high concentrations in closed spaces can cause serious health problems.
“Radon gas can be absorbed into the human respiratory system and permanent exposure carries grave risks to ones health,” he said. “We will study radon concentrations across the country to evaluate potential health risk areas.”