Radon concentration in seawater as a geochemical indicator of submarine fault activity in the Yatsushiro Sea, Japan

Sci Rep. 2024 Apr 15;14(1):8664. doi: 10.1038/s41598-024-59006-6.

Abstract

This study examined the relationship between radon (222Rn) concentrations in seawater and crustal activity in the Yatsushiro Sea by investigating the submarine fault zone situated at the southern end of the Futagawa-Hinagu fault zone, activated by the 2016 Kumamoto earthquake (M7.3). We conducted an analysis of 222Rn concentration in samples of bottom water just above the seafloor and pore water in sediments, utilizing multiple and piston cores from the Hakuho Maru Expedition KH18-3. The findings revealed significantly elevated 222Rn concentrations in the central sites of the Yatsushiro Sea, coinciding with a high-stress field exhibiting dense active faults. Seismicity analysis revealed heightened moment release and a low b-value post the 2016 Kumamoto earthquake, indicative of increased seismic activity and the potential for substantial earthquakes in the Yatsushiro Sea vicinity. Our results indicate that heightened concentrations of 222Rn in seawater can serve as an effective tracer for identifying and estimating submarine fault activities. Moreover, our research highlights the utility of 222Rn concentrations in detecting active submarine faults and assessing their activity. It contributes to a comprehensive understanding of the potential for significant earthquakes in the Yatsushiro Sea in the future.