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Thomas Gold - Professional Papers - Abiotic oil, Deep Hot Biosphere, Deep-earth gas, Earthquakes...

Thomas Gold - Professional Papers - Abiotic oil, Deep Hot Biosphere, Deep-earth gas, Earthquakes...


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We see that these descriptions make major earthquakes look much like violent eruptions, quite
similar to gas eruptions from volcanoes or mud volcanoes. The airborne noises, the flames, the
air pollution are all similar, and while most of the intense effects take place at the time of the
quake, some of the effects occur as precursors and cannot therefore be ascribed to secondary
effects of the mechanical deformation of the ground. It seems very strange that in all the
attempts to predict earthquakes, no gas observations are included. Highly accurate

measurements of the distortion of the ground represent the main effort, since the current
theory has earthquakes resulting from a gradually augmenting stress in the rocks until they
reach the breaking strain and the earthquake occurs. It is therefore supposed that one can
measure the building up of the stress by the slight deformation prior to a quake. However, as a
means to predicting earthquakes, this method has been entirely unsuccessful. The ground does
distort on occasions, but not by any unusual amount before an earthquake.

The evacuation of Haicheng two hours before a devastating quake is an example of a
successful prediction, and it was based mainly on gas effects such as a cloud of warmer air and
fog developing above the known faultline, strange and nauseating smells and changes in
groundwater levels. The same effects have been mentioned in very many of the ancient

Gases can indeed have a lot to do with earthquakes. A large volume of gas entering the crust
of the Earth from deeper levels and at a high pressure, will greatly change the mechanical
properties of the rock. Pore-spaces will be inflated, and the overburden weight of the rock will
be effectively relieved by the pressure of the gas. The great weight of the overburden would
normally have resulted in high internal friction, opposing any slippage at all but the shallowest
levels. But with gas effectively bearing the overburden, slippage can occur much more easily.
Much smaller values of stress in the rock will then be sufficient to cause a quake.

The absence of high stresses along the San Andreas fault was indeed a surprise to the
investigators, when they had a chance to make such measurements in the deep well drilled at
Cajon Pass in Southern California. They also failed to find there the extra heat that the known
past slippage should have left behind, had it taken place without gas levitation.

When gas has invaded an area of the crust, it generally shows some emission at the surface
that can be observed, and that results in the various effects mentioned. Of course the gases
that were in the pore-spaces to start with are pushed up first, before the "new" gas has got to
the surface. This brings up smells which cause surprise or consternation among many animals;
it brings up more carbon-dioxide and less oxygen than air has normally, and this drives animals
out of burrows; it brings up humidity and temperature of the sub-surface and thus frequently
makes a fog. This contains more of the heavy CO2 molecule than the average air, and can
therefore make a warmer cloud that stays on the ground instead of rising rapidly. Radioactive
gases that are normally generated in the ground make a prominent appearance as they are
flushed from the ground.

These signs should be taken to mean that the rock underneath has now suddenly lost much of
its strength, and even small stresses will allow it to break. There was no particular build-up of
stress prior to the quake, and measurements of this are therefore useless as predictors. The
sudden event was the gas invasion that weakened the rock, and it is on this that a prediction
method has to be based. During earthquakes and after, a lot more gas escape can usually be
observed, and by then the deep source gas may have made its way to the surface. This is often
combustible, probably mainly methane as this is in most common gas in deep rocks, and it
often catches fire.

In China, in Japan, in the Soviet Union, much more attention is paid to gas phenomena. Japan
even has a "Laboratory of Earthquake Chemistry." The US is far behind in this field, not because
it does not have the technology, but just because it took a wrong choice some time ago, and
now does not wish to change course. But the citizens of earthquake-prone regions will be more
concerned with obtaining a warning than to be party to a scientific controversy. Sub-surface
gas observations are simple and comparatively inexpensive, such as changes in groundwater
levels in water wells, or changes in gas pressure above a water table. It is high time that
California and the Central Mississippi region obtained the knowledge and experience in this
field that will be necessary to establish a meaningful prediction service. Instrumentation
operated by scientists is one aspect of this; public earthquake education and a reporting
network is another, to assure the widest possible coverage for the observation of the many
phenomena that may be relevant for predictions. One wonders how many such observations go
unreported because their relation to earthquakes is not generally known.


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