Top scientists call for research on climate link to volcanoes, earthquakes, landslides and tsunamis
Periods of exceptional climate change in Earth history are associated with a dynamic response from the solid Earth, involving enhanced levels of potentially hazardous geological and geomorphological activity. This response is expressed through the adjustment, modulation or triggering of a wide range of surface and crustal phenomena, including volcanic and seismic activity, submarine and sub-aerial landslides, tsunamis and landslide ‘splash’ waves glacial outburst and rock-dam failure floods, debris flows and gas-hydrate destabilisation. Looking ahead, modelling studies and projection of current trends point towards increased risk in relation to a spectrum of geological and geomorphological hazards in a world warmed by anthropogenic climate change, while observations suggest that the ongoing rise in global average temperatures may already be eliciting a hazardous response from the geosphere.
Lots of people have asked me whether there has been any connection between global warming and the recent earthquakes and other geological activity. Today, the UK’s Royal Society published an amazingly timely special series of scientific papers on the topic. Seven leading experts co-authored the editors’ introduction (quoted above).
Reuters reported on Friday, “A thaw of Iceland’s ice caps in coming decades caused by climate change may trigger more volcanic eruptions by removing a vast weight and freeing magma from deep below ground, scientists said.” Last week, FoxNews reported, “A huge glacier has broken off and plunged into a lake in Peru sparking a 23-meter high tsunami wave that destroyed a nearby town.” Local governor Cesar Alvarez said: “Because of global warming the glaciers are going to detach and fall on these overflowing lakes. This is what happened.”
We already knew that methane hydrates were at risk of destabilizing and becoming a positive or amplifying feedback to global warming (see “Science stunner: Vast East Siberian Arctic Shelf methane stores destabilizing and venting“). Two articles in this issue go further: