Scientists: Earthquakes can be caused by global warming

Melting ice sheet in Alaska | Image: National Geographic I get really annoyed whenever there’s an earthquake and people say “it’s all because of global warming”. There is no doubt that climate change influences hurricanes and droughts, but earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes are all down to Earth’s natural processes.

Well at least that’s what I used to think, up until now. New research suggests that maybe I shouldn’t have been getting so annoyed with those people after all, because there may actually be a direct link between climate change and earthquakes. How on Earth is that possible, because what has the atmosphere – which causes global warming – got to do with the inner workings of our planet (which cause earthquakes)?

Damage from the February 2008 Nevada quake | Image: CNN The science behind it is surprisingly simple. Because ice sheets become so huge, they ‘glue’ the land underneath them together. This prevents earthquakes happening because the power of the earthquake would not be enough to overpower the force of the ice which is holding the land together. 

So any stress building up between Earth’s tectonic plates carries on building up and building up, unable to be released. (In case you don’t know, tectonic plates are the massive lumps that make up the Earth’s surface, and can cause earthquakes by sliding past each other or colliding.) This is great as long as the ice is there, because it means there are very few earthquakes.

Map of the world's major tectonic plates. There are many smaller plates that also cause earthquakes | Image: johomaps.com

The problem comes when the ice melts: once the ice isn’t there to ‘glue’ the tectonic plates together, all the stress between the tectonic plates will suddenly be released. Depending on how fast the ice is melting, this stress could be released in a series of mini-quakes (if the ice is melting slowly) or a disastrous giant quake (if the ice melts really fast).

Isn’t this all just a big scare story – where’s the evidence? Well actually, the whole study was based on real evidence. Scientists found that a series of earthquakes near the Arctic around 10,000 years ago matched the time when the ice started melting, after the end of the last Ice Age. And they even managed to trace the quakes going gradually northward, as the ice retreated further north.

Every day the effects of human-induced global warming seem to get worse and worse. But it doesn’t have to be that way – small changes to our lives really can make a big difference.

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26 Responses

  1. good.keep it up

  2. You are an idiot. Ooops. You sound like an idiot. You may very well not be one. You look back 10,000 years for earthquake activity AS YOUR EVIDENCE. My God, Man! Come up with some real time actually happening proof.
    Oh, by the way, the ice that covered all of Canada and most of North America has b melted (100% before the arrival of MMGW) and the continent has been rebounding since then because the weight has been removed.
    As for the quakes following the melting ice front, pay attention. THE ICE HAS GONE ALREADY!!!

  3. ^Oooh, someones a bit grouchy!^

    I think you’re right. it’s a brilliant theory. keep up the good work!

  4. The plate tectonic NOT makes the earthquakes.
    The moon makes the earthquakes as raising the earth crust.
    See more than 800 world earthquake predictions who happened.
    There will be an strong earthquake in Costa Rica on the 28th of March 2009.
    YouTube: BOYKOILIEV2008

  5. ok i dnt wanna be mean but this really realllly sounds like bullshit. srsly. correct me if im wrong but arent the plates like miles and miles below the ocean floor? how is it possible that the ice caps are that massive that they can even reach plates much less “glue the together”. im confused.

  6. What a crock of Bull. Once you dudes started lying, there’s no stopping you.

  7. Inspite of numerous thoughts, well explored articles still bring in reviewers like me. You exhibited broad understanding of the matter matter and my views are now complete after reading your post. Please sustain up the admirable work and i will subscribe to your rss feed to be enlightened of any likely postings.

  8. I like your explanation but I don’t know what are you trying to prove!!!!……

  9. So, could this have anything to do with earthquakes in sunny places like Chile and Haiti or does it only effect places like Alaska?

    And what about more far out theories that the carbon cycle could be related to earthquakes, etc.?

  10. You all have plausible theories but, sadly I don’t think they are confirm-able. My theory however i believe could be confirm-able. You guys say the ice keeps the worlds earthquake numbers down, I say that human migration along with global warming. My theory could be understood by pressure distribution. An easy way to see what I am talking about is to, have a friend stand in the middle of a trampoline, then measure from the closest part of your friend to ground. Next, you have your friend laydown flat on the trampoline and do the same thing you did while they were standing up. If you measured correctly you should have found out that when your friend was lying down they did not go as close to the ground as when standing. This in turn means that highly populated areas on smaller tectonic plates will have a high tendensity not to move with the natural move ment of the world. For example the North America Plate has roughly 400 million people this is most distributed near the tectonic boundaries making it harder to move it some areas but, easier in others. So that means some areas around populated areas move while the actual cities stay in place and continue to build up stress. This I believe is also the reason big cities normally have stronger earthquakes. I having a strong belief that The Ring of Fire also has something to do with earthquakes, but have not came up with a good enough theory to put on the internet. BTW im 15 years old

  11. [...] AGW. The cold spell = AGW, Floods = AGW, Tornadoes=AGW, Hot Spell=AGW and now even earthquakes=AGW (Scientists: Earthquakes can be caused by global warming exploring our world) .. How stupid do these people think we are ? Reply With Quote   + [...]

  12. What an absolute load of crap. How the hell can Ice “Stick” tectonic plates together when rock can be literally ripped apart by the forces of the plates moving. Ice doesn’t have the tensile strength of rock and wouldn’t hold back a moving tectonic plate in the first place. If that was the case; all it would possibly do is alter the direction a plate moved in, acting maybe like a hinge.
    When you consider how little of the world is covered by ice that would be anywhere near capable of holding back a tectonic plate; there isn’t any way you could convince me that this could happen. Bear in mind too that a lot of the polar ice caps have water under the ice.
    Global warming is a phenomena invented by governments in the biggest tax rip off since time began. So far all we’ve seen as a solution to global warming is a rise in taxes and fines for everything. Politicians swanning off to lengthy discussions about saving the planet. So far; after several years of discussion, they have decided on the carbon limits allowed, but as yet haven’t actually come up with a solution that will improve the situation if that is what is needed.
    We are treated like mushrooms by politicians, ie kept in the dark and fed bullshit, scientists are jumping on the fashionable topic as no one can easily disprove their theories, and no doubt as usual with all experts; they will contradict their own theories in a few years time.
    Call me synical if you must. The weather we experience now is exactly the same as I remember it as a child in the fifties and sixties. I have seen extremes of weather in this country over the years, and since the growth of the global warming scam; Britain has had five of the coldest summers I can remember. Winters are no different to my memories as a child.
    Get real people………. this is scaremongering in the name of tax and price hikes. Every government and business is jumping on the bandwagon to claw in more money.

  13. I propose to theorise on the grounds that global warming is well known to increase the temperature of the atmosphere. If the air is hotter, the tectonic plates will become more horny and therefore decide to rub up against each other, causing an earthquake.

    • At least this makes more sense than most global warming theories.
      Most proponents of GW claim that CO2 will cause a runaway greenhouse effect when our planet has had far higher levels of CO2 in the past. In fact our atmosphere is CO2 starved right now in comparision to ages like the jurassic age.

  14. [...] I get really annoyed whenever there's an earthquake and people say "it's all because of global warming". There is no doubt that climate change influences hurricanes and droughts, but earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes are all down to Earth's natural processes. Well at least that's what I used to think, up until now. New research suggests that maybe I shouldn … Read More [...]

    • Interestingly enough, Hurricanes have not increased in intensity or number for centuries. We are still well within the normal range of number and intensity of all hurricanes in recorded history.

      Also, the destruction of Katrina is mostly attributed to two other factors. One, New Orleans is below sea level. Two, Courts found the government was mostly responsible for the disaster (levies where left to rot, and many other issues existed).
      In fact, Katrina lost most of it’s strength before it hit land. It was only a category 3 when it hit New Orleans.

  15. “Plates at our planet’s surface move because of the intense heat in the Earth’s core that causes molten rock in the mantle layer to move”

    I’ll ask you ? where is the earth’s core energy came from ?

    Fact is, sun is the major source of heat and heat is energy. I believe there’s a direct link.

    Global warming will only increase heat rate of our earth’s core that’s what happened unfortunately in Japan.

    There will be more earthquakes to come, be prepared, because our earth’s energy distribution is not normal anymore.

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  17. Hey,
    Global warming is happening to ALL the planets in our solar system!
    Last time I checked, we haven’t sent humans to ALL the other planets, so how are we supposed to be responsible for their warming? There are scientists, and there are scientists – they all interpret the data they research through all their paradigms.
    What do ALL our planets have in common? The Sun, and the equator of our Galactic Center, which we are crossing in December of 2012.
    Keep up with the times, man.

  18. 2 billion that went outside for new ideas.

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