Native Village
Youth and Education news
Volume 1   April 2011

Fire and Ice: Melting Glaciers Trigger Earthquakes, Tsunamis and Volcanoes
Read the entire article: http://environment.about.com/od/globalwarming/a/earthquakes.htm
Condensed by Native Village

 
Perito-Moreno Glacier, Patagonia, Argentina

For years, climatologists have raised alarms about global warming. Now geologists are adding their voices.  They warn that growing numbers of earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions will happen in unexpected places. People not affected by Atlantic hurricanes and Pacific tsunamis should expect seismic events of their own.

Why? Earth's glaciers are rapidly melting due to global warming.

Glaciers are massive ice sheets of tremendous weight. One cubic meter of ice weighs nearly a ton.

These ice mountains exert enormous pressure on the parts of Earth’s surface they cover.
 
When glaciers melt or break apart, that pressure is reduced and released. 

This causes many types of
geologic reactions. Included are earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis (caused by undersea earthquakes).

"What happens is the weight of this thick ice puts a lot of stress on the earth," said geologist Patrick Wu. "The weight sort of suppresses the earthquakes, but when you melt the ice, the earthquakes get triggered."

Wu says it's like pressing a thumb against a soccer ball. Removing the thumb releases the pressure, and the ball soon resumes its original shape. When that “ball” is a planet, the rebound happens slowly, but just as surely.

Today's rebound effect began 10,000 years ago when the last ice age ended.  Wu says as global warming continues to increase the rates of glacier melt, the rebound will happen more quickly.  Global Temperatures (2500 B.C. to 2007 A.D.

Professor Wu is not alone in his opinions. In Antarctica, melting ice has caused increasing numbers of earthquakes and underwater mudslides. These are early warnings of the serious events that scientists believe are coming.

"All over the world evidence is stacking up that changes in global climate can and do affect the frequencies of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and catastrophic sea-floor landslides," wrote geological hazards professor, Bill McGuire, in New Scientist magazine. "Not only has this happened several times throughout Earth's history, the evidence suggests it is happening again."

Global Temperatures (2500 B.C. to 2007 A.D.)

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