The presence of anomalous geochemical changes related to earthquakes has been controversial despite widespread, long time challenges for earthquake prediction. Establishing a quantitative relationship among geochemical changes and geodetical and seismological changes can clarify their hidden connection. Here we determined the response of atmospheric radon (222Rn) to diurnal tidal (K1 constituent) loading in the reported 11-year-long variation in the atmospheric radon concentration, including its anomalous evolution for 2 months before the devastating 1995 Kobe earthquake in Japan. The response to the tidal loading had been identified for 5 years before the occurrence of the earthquake. Comparison between these radon responses relative to crustal strain revealed that the response efficiency for the diurnal K1 tide was larger than that for the earthquake by a factor of 21–33, implying the involvement of crustal fluid movement. The radon responses occurred when compressional crustal stress decreased or changed to extension. These findings suggest that changes in radon exhaled from the ground were induced by ascent flow of soil gas acting as a radon carrier and degassed from mantle-derived crustal fluid upwelling due to modulation of the crustal stress regime.
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