A Taiwan academic has discovered that before a major earthquake hit central Taiwan September 21, 1999, ammonia density in a river in that area rose 20 to 40 fold higher than usual, a discovery that he has sent to an international journal for publication.
Liu Chiung-pin, an assistant professor of National Chung Hsing University, started to gather water samples from the upper reaches of Kuantao Creek in Nantou County in 1994 under a program funded by the National Science Council. Twice each month, she tested 17 chemical elements in the river.
Right before the September 21 earthquake, Liu said, the ammonia density gradually rose by 20 to 40 times from August 1998 to September 1999, and the density has remained high until the present. At the same time, she noted, the potassium density went down three to five times and the magnesium density dropped 10 to 15 fold.
Liu said he has searched international science journals and has found nothing to explain similar phenomenon except one report about Kobe, Japan, which was hit by a major earthquake in 1995. The report, which appears in Science magazine, said that five months before the January 1995 earthquake, chlorine and sulfuric acid levels in Kobe's underground water rose conspicuously.
Liu said that before an earthquake, microbes and chemical compounds in the soil might change, but she added that he does not know what kinds of microbes might have died to cause the chemical changes in the water.