U.S. Water News Online
WASHINGTON -- The discovery that earthquakes can affect the
level of groundwater in wells, sometimes thousands of miles away,
offers scientists a new opportunity to learn more about the planet's
Though often recorded in earthquake lore, the relationship between
quakes and water sources has not been thoroughly studied, earth
scientists David Montgomery and Michael Manga point out in a review
in a recent online issue of the journal Science.
In a look at reports of groundwater changes during quakes, the two
found that major quakes can affect the level of wells over thousands
For example, they found that a magnitude 7.9 quake in Alaska last
fall was associated with sloshing water in Lake Union near Seattle
and New Orleans' Lake Ponchartrain. The quake was also blamed for
muddy tap water the next day in Pennsylvania, where the water table
And the massive 9.2 magnitude earthquake that struck Alaska in
1964 was said to have affected wells 6,000 miles away.
``Wells in South Africa, clear on the other side of the world,
responded. They didn't respond much, mind you, but the observations
corresponded with the Alaska earthquake,'' said Montgomery, an expert
on surface water at the University of Washington.
Manga, at the University of California, Berkeley, is an expert on
Surface water like rivers and streams responded to earthquakes
that were closer than those that affected groundwater like wells and
aquifers, they reported.
Their analysis can help scientists understand the broad range of
earthquakes' effects on hydrology and should help guide the study of
links between seismology and hydrology, Montgomery said in a
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