Pre-Seismic Electromagnetic Phenomena in the Framework of Percolation and Fractal Theories

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Understanding the electromagnetic response to geodynamic processes occurring in the earth's upper crust, in particular pre-seismic and seismic processes, is a challenging task in modem geophysics. There is increasing evidence that seismo-electromagnetic (SEM) phenomena are difficult to describe quantitatively by "linear" models using "averaged" parameters of the medium, such as electrical and hydraulic conductivities. Because the upper crust is highly inhomogeneous (at all scales), porous, and can be fully or partially water-saturated, the most natural way to describe its parameters is via fractal-theoretic and percolation-theoretic models. Recent studies indicate that the electrokinetic effect is the most likely driving mechanism for the various types of SEM signals. Here we considered the hydraulic, electric, and electrokinetic conductances of a porous water-saturated medium as a function of porosity (theta) and moisture content (theta), utilizing a percolation/fractal approach. We show that the electric conductivity and electrokinetic current in such a medium are both proportional to (phi-phi(c)) and (theta-theta(c))(2), where phi(c) and theta(c) are the critical values of porosity and moisture content, respectively. This behavior admits the possibility of a relatively large change in the respective electric and electrokinetic parameters due to a small change in the mechanical strain field. This is significant because it may account for the appearance of some types of SEM signals at large distances from the earthquake origin, which is the main deficiency of most models. Indeed, the anticipated strain changes related to pre-earthquake processes is usually very small except near the focal area. The expected 'averaged' electromagnetic response also would be very small, unless a local underground water system exists, not necessarily near the focal area, but which is close to critical point(s). We discuss the conditions under which electrotelluric and geomagnetic variations can accompany mechanical disturbances in the earth's crust.



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