01 October 09
Posted by: Richard Graves
Climate change may trigger earthquakes and volcanoes
Far from being the benign figure of mythology, Mother Earth is short-tempered and volatile. So sensitive in fact, that even slight changes in weather and climate can rip the planet’s crust apart, unleashing the furious might of volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and landslides.
That’s the conclusion of the researchers who got together last week in London at the conference on Climate Forcing of Geological and Geomorphological Hazards. It suggests climate change could tip the planet’s delicate balance and unleash a host of geological disasters. What’s more, even our attempts to stall global warming could trigger a catastrophic event (see “Bury the carbon”).
Evidence of a link between climate and the rumblings of the crust has been around for years, but only now is it becoming clear just how sensitive rock can be to the air, ice and water above. “You don’t need huge changes to trigger responses from the crust,” says Bill McGuire of University College London (UCL), who organised the meeting.
You don’t need huge changes to trigger a response from the crust. They can be tiny.
Among the various influences on the Earth’s crust, from changes in weather to fluctuations in ice cover, the oceans are emerging as a particularly fine controller. Simon Day of the University of Oxford, McGuire and Serge Guillas, also at UCL, have shown how subtle changes in sea level may affect the seismicity of the East Pacific Rise, one of the fastest-spreading plate boundaries.
Source: New Scientist