Persistent pre-seismic signature detected by means of Na-K-Mg geothermometry records in a saline spring of Vrancea area (Romania)
A six year-long hydrochemical monitoring operation was conducted in Vrancea seismic zone (Romania), addressing a saline spring that proved to be suitable for Na-K-Mg geothermometry diagnosis. During the considered time-interval (2003–2009), only one important earthquake (mb=5.8) occurred in Vrancea region, this circumstance providing an unambiguous reference-moment between pre-seismic and post-seismic periods. On occurrence of that earthquake, an anomalous fluctuation of the Na-K temperature was detected – a result largely similar to previous ones recorded worldwide (California, southwest Egypt, northeast India). Yet such fluctuations may not necessarily be induced by earthquake-associated processes: they can occur also "routinely", possibly reflecting some environmental, meteorologically-induced "noise". It was therefore important to examine whether the variations observed in the data values could be plausibly related to a seismogenesis process. By additionally investigating (in a "scattterplot" diagram) the correlation between the Na-K temperatures and the values of a so-called "maturity index", a specific pattern emerged, with pre-seismic data-points plotting in a distinct domain of the diagram; moreover, those data-points appeared to describe a "drift away" pathway with respect to the remaining data-points "cluster", recorded during the subsequent 4 years of post-seismic monitoring. The "drift away" pattern persistently evolved for at least 18 months, ending just before the mb=5.8 earthquake and consequently suggesting the existence of some kind of long-term precursory phenomenon.