Evidence of Hydro-Seismicity in the Tennessee Seismic Zone

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Virginia Tech

Reservoir level and discharge data were collected for three Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) dams (Chickamauga, Watts Bar and Douglas) on the Tennessee river in the Eastern Tennessee Seismic Zone (ETSZ). Earthquake catalog data was also collected for the ETSZ from 1980-2018. Well levels from 2 U.S. Geological Survey groundwater monitoring wells were also collected. Rainfall data were collected for the ETSZ. Reservoir, well and rainfall data were examined for correlation with earthquake occurrence rates. High Pearson correlation and anti-correlation coefficients (.7-.9) were obtained for the reservoir level and dam discharge volume rates vs monthly earthquake counts. Pearson correlation coefficients for rainfall and well level vs. monthly earthquake counts were small (.0-.2). A large difference in earthquake rates between the months of February (low rate) and April (high rate) over the 39 year study period was observed. The difference in earthquakes rates for February and April are statistically significant at the 95% confidence interval using the two sample Poisson rate test. The high correlations for the reservoir level and flow discharge vs. earthquake counts provides strong evidence of hydro-seismicity occurring in the ETSZ from seasonal fluctuations in reservoir level and discharge flow.

Hydro-Seismicity, Reservoir Level, Dam Discharge