Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Can climate change cause earthquakes?

It's hard to see how one can get away with putting climate change and earthquakes in the same sentence, but a closer look suggests the theory may not only make sense, but also could have historical precedent.

What's the argument?
The argument goes like this: When the climate changed naturally in the past, and the planet emerged from an ice age, large ice sheets covering much of the planet retreated. They were so heavy that the resulting release of pressure on the earth's crust caused it to 'bounce back', triggering earthquakes, tremors, and even volcanic activity along pre-existing fault lines.
Right now, the Earth is still responding to the end of the last ice age some 20,000 years ago when temperatures began to rise, causing large ice sheets to retreat.

Climate change occurring due to human activities has the potential to alter the risk of geological and geomorphological hazards through the twenty-first century and beyond. Such changes in risk have not yet been systematically assessed. The risks of dangerous changes in the earth's surface due to man-made climate change are yet to be intensively investigated. 


We cannot safely assume that there is no link between human activities resulting in global warming and causing subsequent change in climate, resulting in earthquakes, tremors or volcanic activities. Let us await geological studies and evidences to back the argument.

Having said all of the above, this does NOT mean that every natural calamity is a result of climate change! The earthquakes in the Himalayan ranges are a common phenomena related to the motion of the Indian subcontinental plate against the plate of China. This in itself is enough to cause large strains in the earth's crust here - the impacts of climate change, if any, in this case may be negligible. But the important message is that in case the hypothesis proves right, we cannot be sure anymore that the areas considered not very susceptible to earthquakes as of now, will remain so in the future. Perhaps another reason to rethink the current model of development that favours massive infrastructure and densely populated urban spaces?

*Professor Bill McGuire of University College London, introduced his book  Waking the Giant: How a changing climate triggers earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanoes
*The above arguments are data sourced from a blog posted on The Carbon Brief <>, in lieu of introduction of the book.


    Samuchit Enviro Tech.