Changes in groundwater trace element concentrations before seismic and volcanic activities in Iceland during 2010–2018

Maurizio Barbieri, Stefania Franchini, Marino Domenico Barberio, Andrea Billi, Tiziano Boschetti, Livio Giansante, Francesca Gori, Sigurjon Jonsson, Marco Petitta, Alasdair Skelton, Gabrielle Stockmann

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26 Scopus citations


We analysed temporal variations of trace element concentrations in groundwater from a 101 m-deep borehole (HA01) in northern Iceland during 2010–2018 and compared them with seismic and volcanic events that occurred in the same period to identify potential hydrogeochemical precursors. An increase of B, Al, V, Li and Mo concentrations started from eight months to one month before the 2014 Bárðarbunga eruption (~115 km from HA01), a major rifting event in central Iceland, while Ga and V concentrations began to increase one day and one month after the onset of the event, respectively. We also found that concentrations of some trace elements (Li, B, Ga, Mo, Sr, Rb and Fe) significantly increased before an Mw 5.0 earthquake that occurred ~80 km from the borehole in 2018. However, other notable hydrogeochemical changes were detected during the monitoring period without apparent correlation with the seismic and volcanic events in the region. This study shows that the systematic long-term hydrogeochemical monitoring in seismic and volcanic areas is critical to advance the science of seismic and eruptive precursors. Furthermore, the use of statistical tools, such as Principal Component Analysis (PCA) and Change Point (CP) detection can help identify the most useful chemical elements and validate the trend variability of those elements in the time series, reducing arbitrary choices of pre-seismic and pre-volcanic hydrogeochemical anomalies as potential precursors.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)148635
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Jun 24 2021

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2021-08-06
Acknowledgements: This research was partly funded by Fondi di Ateneo, Sapienza University of Rome and partly by Fondazione ANIA ( through the HydroQuakes Project that involves Fondazione ANIA, Istituto di Geologia Ambientale e Geoingegneria (IGAG-CNR) and Sapienza University of Rome. We thank Dr Umberto Guidoni (Fondazione ANIA) and his collaborators for granting the permit to publish these results. We thank Hreinn Hjartarson for his help in collecting all of the groundwater samples. The authors thank the Associate Editor and three anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments.


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