Mon, Jan 09, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Academic discovers quake phenomenon


A Taiwanese academic has discovered that ammonia density in a river in central Taiwan rose between 20 and 40 times higher than normal in the immediate period prior to the massive earthquake that hit the area on Sept. 21, 1999, a discovery that he has sent to an international journal for publication.

Liu Chiung-pin (劉瓊霦), an assistant professor of National Chung Hsing University, started to gather water samples from the upper reaches of Taokuan Creek in Nantou County in 1994 under a program funded by the National Science Council. Twice each month, he tested 17 chemical elements in the river.

Immediately before the Sept. 21 earthquake, Liu said, the ammonia density rose by 20 to 40 times from August 1998 to September 1999, and the density has remained high until now. At the same time, he noted, the potassium density went down three to five times and the magnesium density dropped 10 to 15 fold. Both densities have remained at high levels since, he noted.

Liu said he has searched international science journals and has found nothing to explain similar phenomenon except one report about Kobe, Japan, which was also hit by a major earthquake in 1995. The report, which appeared in Science magazine, said that five months before the January 1995 earthquake, chlorine and sulfuric acid levels in Kobe's underground water rose conspicuously.

Liu said that before an earthquake, microbes and chemical compounds in the soil might change, but he added that he does not know what kinds of microbes might have died to cause the chemical changes in the water.

His findings, sent to the Water, Air and Soil Pollution journal last September, will be published in the journal's spring or summer edition.

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