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This past September, I wrote an article which pointed to scientific research that showed a possible correlation between melting Glacial Ice and Tectonic activity - specifically in reference to the back to back Earthquakes and Tsunamis that occurred 1 day apart in Sumatra and in Samoa.
While that article received mixed reviews, I want to revisit that subject in light of the recent earthquakes, such as the 6.4 earthquake in Taiwan, the 7.0 earthquake in Japan, the 7.0 earthquake in Haiti
and the most recent 8.8 earthquake in Chile and present the evidence supporting the links between Climate Change and Tectonics.
This is important because disasters like earthquakes disproportionately affect poorer nations, many of who contribute little to the pollution that is causing Climate Change.

Keeping in mind the hundreds of thousands who have died recently in Haiti and who are still suffering, let's examine some of the evidence.
First - the Greenland Ice Sheets and the phenomena of 'Ice Quakes' from a study in 2006.

Surface meltwater is not dribbling away, as if from a giant ice block melting slowly, but is seeping through cracks to the bottom of the glacier. Once there it forms a layer that "helps lift the glacier up from the rock" so it flows faster to the sea, says seismologist Göran Ekström at Harvard University, US, who led the study.

He discovered the glacial quakes three years ago, when looking for unusual earthquakes, and traced them to slips within the ice. And the quakes can be substantial: a 10-metre slip of an ice slab roughly the size of Manhattan Island, and as tall as the Empire State building, causes a magnitude-5 quake on the Richter scale.

Ekström reports that quakes ranged from six to 15 per year from 1993 to 2002, then jumped to 20 in 2003, 23 in 2004, and 32 in the first 10 months of 2005 - matching an increase in Greenland temperatures.

This is troubling, because just as with revised climate models, the changes occurring on Greenland are increasing exponentially in frequency in the period of decade.

(Ilulissat glacier of Greenland) is now moving at 15km a year into the sea although in surges it moves even faster. He (Dr.Corell) measured one surge at 5km in 90 minutes..."These earthquakes are not dangerous in themselves but the fact that they are happening shows that events are happening far faster than we ever anticipated."

What implications are there from these ice quakes?
There is of course, the consequence of Sea Level rise by these glaciers and decreased salinity of the Gulf stream current which may change weather patterns.
Also, these 'ice quakes' (and every earthquake on the planet) send reverberating waves through the Earth, a ripple effect of sorts. With increasing numbers of ice quakes, global tectonic plates are receiving numerous 'jolts', even if they are relatively small in size.

Secondly, there is the weight. Ice weighs a lot. And in addition to these glaciers sliding towards the sea, at the same time, huge amounts of water are melting through the moulins - at an alarming rate.
This is causing the land mass of Greenland to rise up at a fast rate, thus changing the balance of land mass.

A cubic metre of ice weighs nearly a tonne and some glaciers are more than a kilometre thick. When the weight is removed through melting, the suppressed strains and stresses of the underlying rock come to life.

University of Alberta geologist Patrick Wu compares the effect to that of a thumb pressed on a soccer ball - when the pressure of the thumb is removed, the ball springs back to its original shape.
"What happens is the weight of this thick ice puts a lot of stress on the earth," says Wu. "The weight sort of suppresses the earthquakes but when you melt the ice the earthquakes get triggered."

And the other aspect of this equation is Volcanic activity.

The Earth's crust is more sensitive than some might think. There are well-documented cases of dams causing earthquakes when the weight of the water behind a dam fills a reservoir.

Alan Glazner, a volcano specialist at the University of North Carolina, said he was initially incredulous when he found a link between climate and volcanic activity off the coast of California.

"But then I went to the library and did some research and found that in many places around the world especially around the Mediterranean they see similar sorts of correlations."

"When you melt glacial ice, several hundred metres to a kilometre thick . . . you've decreased the load on the crust and so you've decreased the pressure holding the volcanic conduits closed.

"They're cracks, that's how magmas gets to the surface . . . and where they hit the surface, that's where you get a volcano."

Other evidence supports this conclusion:

Increased volcanic activity is linked to ice melted by the effects of global warming, a study has found.

So much ice in Iceland has melted in the past century that the pressure on the land beneath has lessened, which allows more of the rock deep in the ground to turn to magma. Until the ice melted, the pressure was so intense that the rock remained solid.

Carolina Pagli, of the University of Leeds, led research which calculated that over the past century the production of magma had increased by 10 per cent


An analysis of records in southern Chile has shown that up to four times as many volcanic eruptions occur during the year following very large earthquakes than in other years. This ‘volcanic surge’ can affect volcanoes up to at least 500 km away from an earthquake’s epicentre.

The controversial part of my assertion here is that when two earthquakes like in Samoa and Sumatra occur so close in time, people ask, 'are they related?' and the standard answer has always been, no, because they are on different fault lines.

My concern is even though the fault lines are not connected, the seismic activity is interrelated - because there is a common source of destabilizing 'jolts' and that is the ice quakes.

I expect to be refuted here, and perhaps proven quite wrong in the long run, however, I will take that chance to allow us to consider this premise:
If climate change is affecting tectonic stability, we may have started a 'Russian roulette'  of seismic activity. In essence, people are already suffering from indirect consequences from pollution such as a lack of clean water, or decreased amount of food due to increasing desertification or lower quality and shorter life span due to respiratory illnesses. But if this theory is discovered to be true, we may have found that pollution is also directly responsible for increased deaths by earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes - and most likely, these will be the deaths of those who did little or nothing to contribute to the problem.
The floor is yours.

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Originally posted to wade norris on Mon Mar 08, 2010 at 06:56 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (18+ / 0-)

    H.D. Thoreau "What's the use of a fine house if you haven't got a tolerable planet to put it on?"

    by wade norris on Mon Mar 08, 2010 at 06:56:20 PM PST

  •  What a coincidence you post this tonight... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    boatsie, wade norris, Wheever

    I was just discussing this topic (the correlation, if it exists) with some people.

    Starboard Broadside: Firing all guns at the Right since September 2008!

    by Cpt Robespierre on Mon Mar 08, 2010 at 07:21:52 PM PST

    •  really? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Wheever, Cpt Robespierre

      what was the context? I would like to find out more, but there is not a lot of research

      H.D. Thoreau "What's the use of a fine house if you haven't got a tolerable planet to put it on?"

      by wade norris on Mon Mar 08, 2010 at 07:24:54 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Happenstance Facebook discussion. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        wade norris

        I didn't bring it up, I was just involved in the discussion. I'm a bit skeptical, but I'm no geologist, so I don't really have enough information to know what's reasonable.

        Somebody did post this, which I skimmed over.

        Starboard Broadside: Firing all guns at the Right since September 2008!

        by Cpt Robespierre on Mon Mar 08, 2010 at 07:30:31 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  i have to post some of that link Cpt R. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Cpt Robespierre

          Earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanoes.   Something real, something hard, fast, and impossible to ignore.   Increasing evidence and statistical analysis links increased seismic activity to global warming.

          This alarming notion was first discussed in 1998 and is now more widely mentioned in university studies and recent publications - from the Journal of Geodynamics to National Geographic, to blogs reporting opinions of scientists....

          Just how much does one of these ice sheets weigh?
          1 cubic foot of water weighs 62.4 lbs./ft3
          Ice (@ .9 specific gravity) = 56.16 lbs./ft3
          1 square mile (5280’ X 5280’) = 2.8 X 107 ft2
          (2.8 X 107 ft2) X 56.16 lbs./ft2 = 1.57 X 109 lbs./mi2
          Canadian Shield sheet (4000 mi2 X 4000 mi2) = 1.6 X 107 mi2
          (1.57 X 109 lbs./mi2) X (1.6 X 107 mi2) = 2.5 X 1016 lbs./vertical foot
          Assume 10,000’ thick (2.5 X 1016 lbs.) X (1 X 104) = 2.5 X 1020 lbs.  or 250,000,000,000,000,000,000 pounds!  

          wow. the number i put in bold is so high, i don't know what it is called - quatrillion?

          H.D. Thoreau "What's the use of a fine house if you haven't got a tolerable planet to put it on?"

          by wade norris on Mon Mar 08, 2010 at 07:40:54 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  250 sextillion? (0+ / 0-)

            I think that's what it says.

            Starboard Broadside: Firing all guns at the Right since September 2008!

            by Cpt Robespierre on Mon Mar 08, 2010 at 07:43:06 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  250 Quintillion (0+ / 0-)

              It's heavy.

              Of course, that's the whole ice sheet in the Canadian cap, which won't disappear all at once (if it did, the earth would probably pop open from the crust rebound).

              We are, however, losing hundreds to thousands of billions of tons of ice in the form of melt-water off of land-based glaciers a year, and the rate is accelerating.

              In 2006 signs of warming amassed so quickly that it was scarcely possible to keep track of them. A major study of Greenland showed that the landmass lost 100 billion metric tons of ice between 2003 and 2005, a melt rate three times faster than that seen five years ago and one that could be contributing to sea-level rise. ...

              And that's JUST Greenland.

              The earth's crust floats on a layer of liquid. If you want to do a test, put a sponge in each end of a swimming pool. Wiggle the water near one sponge at one end of the pool. Wait. Watch the other sponge....

    •  moi aussi. sorry im late but this is (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mataliandy, Cpt Robespierre

      just uncanny....

  •  I really doubt it (5+ / 0-)

    There are plenty of important and terrifying positive feedbacks related to climate change; I doubt that this interesting theory will find a place on that list.  I'm not a seismologist, but I'd say your theory is not supported by the fact thatthe focal depth of the Chile EQ was 21.7 miles below the surface, i.e. completely unaffected by changes in surface loading by glaciers.

    The timeframe of recent increases in EQ occurrences is statistically way too short to assess changes in earthquake frequency.

    Nevertheless, this idea does not seem completely impossible to me; just not in the running for the top 20 or so reasons why we should be concerned about global climate change.

    •  And while the weight of ice or water (0+ / 0-)

      in large quantities is impressive, it's negligible when compared to the mass of a continental plate 21.7 miles thick (the crust not under the ocean varies from about 18 miles to 30 miles thick). The density of the crust itself is 2-3 times the density of water, so a cu ft of ice weighs about 60 lbs, a cu ft of crust 120-180lbs.

      A section of ice 1 ft square and 1/2 mile thick would weigh about 160,000 lbs. A section of crust 1 ft square and 20 miles thick would weigh more than 12 million lbs.

      According to wikipedia,

      The mass of the oceans is approximately 1.35 × 10^18 metric tons, or about 1/4400 of the total mass of the Earth, and occupies a volume of 1.386 × 10^9 km3. If all the land on Earth were spread evenly, water would rise to an altitude of more than 2.7 km.[note 13] About 97.5% of the water is saline, while the remaining 2.5% is fresh water. Most fresh water, about 68.7%, is currently ice.[87]

      That would make ice about 1.7% of the total mass of water, and the amount of ice that's melted so far is a small fraction of that and an even smaller fraction of the mass of the plates.

      You also need a mechanism that translates from releasing a vertical force (ice mass) to horizontal force (plate movement) and since the ice mass is around 1% or 2% of the crust mass over a given area, removing it would only reduce frictional forces or inertia or buoyancy by that same small percentage.

      I don't know enough geology to know if it's a possible effect or not, but IMO there needs to be some clear mechanism described that links the process of ice melting to the process of plate movement, and I haven't seen anything near that posted here.

      Bitte sag mir wer das Märchen vom Erwachsen sein erfand

      by badger on Mon Mar 08, 2010 at 08:14:09 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  My Theory. (4+ / 0-)

    I studied pressurized systems and this is in line with that field.

    As the Earth's surface warms it provides less of a heat sink for the core and this may lead to an increase in magma pressure below the plates.

    When you look at Al Gore's well known historic chart of global temperature vs CO2 level there are severe drop offs in temperate ending each cycle.

    I believe global warming will cause an increase in volcanic and tectonic activity until a massive event causes the surface temperature to be reduced and the cycle will begin again.

    My biggest fear as an American is a super-volcanic eruption of Yellowstone's caldera.

    I'm no Nate Silver, TomTech, or VoteforAmerica ("WineRev" Eeman, Recounting Minnesota)

    by Tomtech on Mon Mar 08, 2010 at 07:59:14 PM PST

  •  I've been pondering this same question over the (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mataliandy, boatsie

    last couple of weeks.... 2 nights ago my wife asked me "if you're so damned smart, with all your climate change causing earthquakes bullshit, where's the next earthquake going to be?" And I said Turkey which was the first quake-prone country that came to mind. So today when she got home from work she looked at me a little awestruck.

    But all kidding and inexplicable coincidences aside, the shifting of mass from the polar regions into the oceans has to cause load changes on the crust; and those changes in load can only be expressed a few ways. It's not unreasonable at all to think that earthquakes could be one of those ways. But I'm not a geologist.

    But back to being a smartass: for the record I now predict the next decent-sized quake will be in Indochina, and in the next couple of weeks. Just feels like earthquake weather. ;-)

    "'club America salutes you' says the girl on the door/we accept all major lies, we love any kind of war"--The Cure, "Club America"

    by Wheever on Mon Mar 08, 2010 at 08:12:42 PM PST

    •  hmm... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mataliandy, boatsie, Wheever

      last time i wrote about this, i was somewhat relieved by the posts by bloggers who had some alternative evidence - yet this time, it is not the same...

      this is also news:

      Earthquake experts are warning that the devastating quake that struck Haiti on Tuesday could be the first of several in the region. They say historical records suggest that not all the energy that has built up in the faults running through the Caribbean region was released in this week's tragedy.

      H.D. Thoreau "What's the use of a fine house if you haven't got a tolerable planet to put it on?"

      by wade norris on Mon Mar 08, 2010 at 08:20:21 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Wow! Just...WOW! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mataliandy, boatsie, forgore

    The size of the demon we have wrought it as magnificent as that burg in your logo (it looks like an eagle).  I have contended for years that climate changed will end our species.  It will also end 70% of others.  We have begun to witness the destruction of everything.

    "There's really nothing I want out of the past except history." - Autoegocrat

    by rainmanjr on Mon Mar 08, 2010 at 08:24:08 PM PST

  •  As before, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    this is a load of codswallop. In so. Many. Ways.

    Mal: "...So then the Shepherd says to the Companion, "Well, a good goat'll do that."

    by crose on Mon Mar 08, 2010 at 09:30:49 PM PST

  •  Oh no, not this again. (0+ / 0-)

    Earth Science FAIL.  It's too late to address your misunderstandings...  See the comments in this diary for a thorough debunking.

    It's controversial because it's WRONG.  What field of Earth Science are you in again?

  •  It is all connected in nature (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    good diary, this needs continued study

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