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Global Warming Might Spur Earthquakes and Volcanoes

* By Andrea Thompson, LiveScience. *

Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis and landslides are some of the additional catastrophes that climate change and its rising sea levels and melting glaciers could bring, a geologist says.

The impact of human-induced global warming on Earth’s ice and oceans is already noticeable: Greenland’s glaciers are melting at an increasing rate, and sea level rose by a little more than half a foot (0.17 meters) globally in the 20th century, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Photo by W. C. Alden* Glacier National Park * Agassiz Glacier 1913

With these trends in ice cover and sea level only expected to continue and likely worsen if atmospheric carbon dioxide levels continue to rise, they could alter the stresses and forces fighting for balance in the ground under our feet—changes that are well-documented in studies of past climate change, but which are just beginning to be studied as possible consequences of the current state of global warming.

“Although they’ve described it in the past, nobody’s thought about it in terms of future effects of climate change,” said Bill McGuire of the University College London’s Hazard Research Center.

McGuire’s speculations of increased geological activity have not yet been published in a journal, but he has written an article about them published in the Guardian Unlimited.

Rebounding crust

One particular feature that can change the balance of forces in Earth’s crust is ice, in the form of glaciers and ice sheets that cover much of the area around Earth’s poles plus mountains at all latitudes. The weight of ice depresses the crust on which it sits.

As the ice melts, the crust below no longer has anything sitting on top of it, and so can rebound fairly rapidly (by geological standards). (This rebounding is actually occurring now as a result of the end of the last Ice Age: The retreat of massive ice sheets from the northern United States and Canada has allowed the crust in these areas to bounce back.)

Areas of rebounding crust could change the stresses acting on earthquake faults and volcanoes in the crust.

“In places like Iceland, for example, where you have the Eyjafjallajökull ice sheet, which wouldn’t survive [global warming], and you’ve got lots of volcanoes under that, the unloading effect can trigger eruptions,” McGuire said.

With the changing dynamics in the crust, faults could also be destabilized, which could bring a whole host of other problems.

Read more at LiveScience.

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Posted by on Mar 11 2010, With 0 Reads, Filed under Of Interest. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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10 Comments for “Global Warming Might Spur Earthquakes and Volcanoes”

  1. Until the wealthy elite come up with something better than that fraud called “Cap and Trade,” which will do NOTHING to lower carbon levels, but will clean out our wallets and give Wall Street billions, count me as a skeptic about Gore’s project underlining reasons.

    Jacking up our electrical rates is supposed to make us use less energy? What about all those who will start cutting down trees and heating with wood? Less trees around to soak up carbon and more carbon from the wood smoke is what will happen.

    And isn’t it about time to put the world’s largest glutton of oil, the Pentagon, on a diet?

    Until Gore and his kind propose funding a massive solar cell and windmill electrical generating project, to be retrofitted on people’s homes, I’m not going to believe what Gore says, he’s going to make way too much money on his tactics.

    If he was truly concerned, he’d be goading Congress to do the alternative energy thing, which would also employ millions fitting on the solar cells, erecting windmills and making the same instead of counting the potential dollars in his pocket.

    I’ve been on Earth long enough to see that something is happening to our climate, but Cap and Trade won’t do a damn thing to change that.

    • There is an area in central Wisconsin that a large company wants to put in hundreds and hundreds of windmill for power. Almost all of the people do not want them anywhere close to their property and had experts there on their behalf. It causes a number of health hazards.

  2. Oh, come on! Who are you kidding? Do you think we, layment, are stupid?!

    Yes, there is Climate Change, but it’s NOT man-made. Don’t continue to try to tell us this story.

    The Earth has changes periodically- this is one such era. Indeed, ALL planets, the entire solar system is changing- Mars and Jupiter has been noted.

    • Bonnie

      Wow, that’s great news. I’ll go tell the world to relax while you stick your head back in the sand and have a nice little nap.

  3. I’d be more concerned about the billions of tons of oil we’ve removed from the Earth. All of that weight moved and not replaced has got to be causing some kind of effect on the Earth’s crust and plates.

    And what about the billions of tons of garbage, sunken ships, both during war and peace, and man-made islands we’ve created?

    Water can’t be compressed, so it would increase in volume each time we dumped something into the oceans.

    And what about the aquifers we’ve emptied out? A lot of that went into waste water plants, which recycle the somewhat cleaned water into rivers that flow into the sea.

    Anyone checked out what that has done to sea levels?

  4. What this geologist is saying is absolutely true. The removal of large weights of ice can trigger volcanoes and earthquakes; there is no debate about this. The resulting volcanoes could release huge amounts of CO2 and methane, thereby increasing the greenhouse effect, causing more melting and even more earthquakes and volcanoes. It would be a vicious cycle ending with complete environmental collapse and a new global species mass extinction… Oh well, back to driving my SUV…wahoo!

    • This Geologist says this is all crap.Read mark 13 in your bible or google it.

      • Otis Joiner
        Funny, I don’t remember the “bible” ever being cited as an authoritative source for information in geology, physics, plate tectonics, vulcanology, climatology or any other science. I must have missed something as I plodded through the myths, legends and superstitions.

        • exactly what satellite was taking film 100 years ago? exactly how many suv’s did it take to melt this entire rock when it was an ice cube? all false science: sorta same-same bullshit.

    • Speaking of SUVs. when the Wash DC area had all that snow a short time ago, the sale of SUVs went up 40%. I drive a Toyota 4-Runner, and get 20 to 21 around town and 26 to 27 going 55MPH. Green Bay WI had more snow than normal, Milwaukee did also and Detroit had more than average, Europe had the coldest winter on record and about some six weeks ago 49 states had snow. Where was Al Gore? He was in the Bahamas warming his,….global!

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