Electrical resistivity measurements have been conducted as a possible means for obtaining precursory earthquake information. Before five great earthquakes (M>7,h<25 km) in China, the apparent resistivity ρa showed systematic variations within a region 200 km from the epicenters. In particular, 9 stations in the Tangshan-Tianjin-Beijing region prior to the Tangshan earthquake (M=7.8,h=11 km, 27 July 1976) showed a consistent decrease of apparent resistivity around the epicenter, with a maximum resistivity change of 6% and a period of variation of 2–3 years. Simultaneous water table observations in this region showed a declining water table, and ground surface observations indicated a slight (5 mm) uplift in the epicenter region relative to its surroundings.
In order to develop an explanation for the observed change of apparent resistivity associated with these great earthquakes, we have used Archie's Law to explore the effects of changes in rock porosity, water content and electrolyte resistivity on measured resistivity.
Tentative conclusions of this study are as follows: (1) the apparent resistivity change is opposite to the effect expected from the simultaneous water table trend; (2) the dilatancy needed to give such resistivity variations (assuming Archie's Law holds) is much larger than that needed to explain the observed uplift (by 2–3 orders of magnitude); (3) salinity change in the pore electrolyte is a possible explanation for the variation in resistivity: an increase in the salinity would cause a proportional decrease in resistivity; the data needed to test this hypothesis, however, are lacking; and (4) the effect of changing geometry of rock pores or cracks due to pressure solution may provide an explanation for the decrease in apparent resistivity; it is different in nature from the effect of a volume change in response to stress although the geometry change is also closely related to the stress change.