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A new study may have found a link between tremors, and changes in groundwater chemistry, but actual prediction is still a long way off.

Scientists may have found a way to detect early signs of an earthquake

Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter

Monday, September 22, 2014, 1:53 PM - Earthquakes are arguably the most destructive of the forces of nature, but they're also the hardest to predict.

While we've identified the areas where the motion of tectonic plates can result in the kind of friction that results in earthquakes, such as Chile and California, we can't tell you when, or even exactly where a tremor is likely to occur.

However, a study published this past weekend in the journal Nature Geoscience may be the first, shaky step to narrowing down the location of future tremors, with a look at groundwater chemistry.

The research team monitored groundwater taken from a borehole in Iceland between 2008 and 2013, and they detected changes in the water's composition four to six months before two earthquakes, larger than Magnitude 5, which occurred in the same area in October 2012 and April 2013.

The team says the data indicates the changes were related to the quakes, likely due to stresses in the area causing different components to mix.

"Although the changes we detect are specific for the site in Iceland, we infer that similar processes may be active elsewhere, and that groundwater chemistry is a promising target for future studies on the predictability of earthquakes," the paper's authors write.

It does sound promising, but the paper's lead author, Alasdair Skelton, was a bit more circumspect in an interview with Live Science, stressing that there was still a long way to go before anybody could talk about early warning systems for earthquakes.

"All we found is chemical changes before two earthquakes, and that's it," Skelton told the site. "I don't want to give any false hope."

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