Recently in future Category

Seismic activity linked to global warming

| 0 TrackBacks

Finally, human civilization is starting to get global warming events that it can FEEL.  

Earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanoes.   Something real, something hard, fast, and impossible to ignore.   Increasing evidence and statistical analysis links increased seismic activity to global warming.

This alarming notion was first discussed in 1998 and is now more widely mentioned in university studies and recent publications - from the Journal of Geodynamics to National Geographic, to blogs reporting opinions of scientists (below).

Some intuitive calculation may help understanding:   A cubic yard of ice weighs nearly a ton.   The Antarctic ice sheet is a few miles thick.  Earth adjusted to that immense weight over the millennia - now, as ice caps melt, this weight is slowly lifting..   


Today the Pine Island Glacier in Antarctica is quickly melting downward from the surface - dropping in altitude at nearly 16 meters per year.   With an area over 5 thousand square kilometers, this glacier holds a lot of cubic meters of ice and means that a lot of weight is now getting shifted into the ocean.   Similarly, the melting of glaciers in Greenland and elsewhere will trigger seismically elastic reactions that should be noted for their frequency, intensity and novel locations.

“…relative to the time period from the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s, Earth has been more active over the past 15 years or so.” — geophysicist Stephen S. Gao, Missouri University of Science and Technology.

This idea is consistent for our age:  The Anthropocene Epoch - a geological age where humans make a significant impact.   Who knew that human industrial CO2 emissions warming the atmosphere then melting the ice and then the shifting weight would  provoke such a rapid and palpable reaction.  Such a sudden, fast impact of global warming has so far been missing from this crisis. 

It is worth watching carefully and keeping score. 



Just how much does one of these ice sheets weigh?
1 cubic foot of water weighs 62.4 lbs./ft3
Ice (@ .9 specific gravity) = 56.16 lbs./ft3
1 square mile (5280’ X 5280’) = 2.8 X 107 ft2
(2.8 X 107 ft2) X 56.16 lbs./ft2 = 1.57 X 109 lbs./mi2
Canadian Shield sheet (4000 mi2 X 4000 mi2) = 1.6 X 107 mi2
(1.57 X 109 lbs./mi2) X (1.6 X 107 mi2) = 2.5 X 1016 lbs./vertical foot
Assume 10,000’ thick (2.5 X 1016 lbs.) X (1 X 104) = 2.5 X 1020 lbs.  or 250,000,000,000,000,000,000 pounds!  (Assume ice sheet was 10,000’ thick = 561,600 lbs./ft2)  or 281 tons of ice per square foot (3900 lbs./in2)!
And this is assuming that the entire sheet is composed of ice. If we assume that 30% of it is rock material, at an average specific gravity of 3.0, we can essentially double the total weight of the sheet. 

  ————————- News, Sources and Links:

University of London conference on Climate Forcing of Geological and Geomorphological hazards, Oct 2, 2009

Dr Margaret Lillian is an independent science journalist specializing in global trends.

As reported only this year, Harvard seismologist Göran Ekström has found a striking increase in the frequency of glacial quakes, particularly in Greenland, but also in Alaska and Antarctica.
Greenland quakes have risen from 6 to 15 a year between 1993 and 2002, to 30 in 2003, 23 in 2004 and 32 in the first 10 months of 2005, closely matching the rise in Greenland’s temperatures over the same period.   Their source was traced to surges and slips within ice sheets, where rapid melting is causing water to collect under glaciers, making them glide faster into the sea, triggering quakes…   

The science suggests that as redistribution of the Earth’s mass induced by global warming disturbs the relative equilibrium of its crust, monumental forces in the form of increasing earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic activity could be unleashed.  And the forecasts from some quarters are dramatic - - not only will the earth shake, it will spit fire

Impact of Global Warming On Seismic Activity

Article by Preetam Kaushik   published Apr 13, 2009 
Read more:
…opinion that is endorsed by geologists around the world is that glacial melting caused by global warming is causing a rise in water levels beyond the bearing limit of the Earth’s crust.   This, they believe, is causing the spate of devastating geological events that have struck nations in recent times.

WorldWatch Institute

Global Warming May Trigger Greater Seismic Activity

by Michael Renner on July 31, 2006

The melting of glaciers driven by global warming portends a seismically turbulent future.  When glaciers melt, the massive weight on the Earth’s crust is reduced, and the crust “bounces” back in what scientists call an “isostatic rebound.”  This process can reactivate faults, increase seismic activity, and lift pressure on magma chambers that feed volcanoes.

More links:
Sharon Begley, “How Melting Glaciers Alter Earth’s Surface, Spur Quakes, Volcanoes,” Wall Street Journal Online, 9 June 2006.
Link:; and
Bill McGuire, “Climate Change: Tearing the Earth Apart?,” New Scientist, 26 May 2006,


American Scientist 1998

The Guardian

Writing in New Scientist magazine, Bill McGuire, professor of geological hazards at University College in London, said: “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.  Not only has this happened several times throughout Earth’s history, the evidence suggests it is happening again.”

Melting Ice Sheets Can Cause Earthquakes, Study Finds

Thinning of Ice Sheets

Pine Island Glacier

This is not a new notion.   Called Isostatic rebound.   It is just that the inevitable evidence may be starting to be seen now

Volcanoes too update April 2010

(Reuters) - 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 on Friday.

“Our work suggests that eventually there will be either somewhat larger eruptions or more frequent eruptions in Iceland in coming decades,” said Freysteinn Sigmundsson, a vulcanologist at the University of Iceland…

CO2 effects well into the year 3000

| 0 TrackBacks

And our children’s children cannot escape it either.

Even if we suddenly halted all CO2 and reverted to the pure state of Adam and Eve, the damage of today will last a millenium.  CO2 causes irreversible damage for at least 1000 years

Interview with NOAA senior scientist Susan Solomon

The original NOAA press release Jan 26, 2008

New Study Shows Climate Change Largely Irreversible

January 26, 2009

A new scientific study led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reaches a powerful conclusion about the climate change caused by future increases of carbon dioxide: to a large extent, there’s no going back.

The pioneering study, led by NOAA senior scientist Susan Solomon, shows how changes in surface temperature, rainfall, and sea level are largely irreversible for more than 1,000 years after carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are completely stopped. The findings appear during the week of January 26 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Our study convinced us that current choices regarding carbon dioxide emissions will have legacies that will irreversibly change the planet,” said Solomon, who is based at NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo.

“It has long been known that some of the carbon dioxide emitted by human activities stays in the atmosphere for thousands of years,” Solomon said. “But the new study advances the understanding of how this affects the climate system.”

The study examines the consequences of allowing CO2 to build up to several different peak levels beyond present-day concentrations of 385 parts per million and then completely halting the emissions after the peak. The authors found that the scientific evidence is strong enough to quantify some irreversible climate impacts, including rainfall changes in certain key regions, and global sea level rise.

If CO2 is allowed to peak at 450-600 parts per million, the results would include persistent decreases in dry-season rainfall that are comparable to the 1930s North American Dust Bowl in zones including southern Europe, northern Africa, southwestern North America, southern Africa and western Australia.

The study notes that decreases in rainfall that last not just for a few decades but over centuries are expected to have a range of impacts that differ by region. Such regional impacts include decreasing human water supplies, increased fire frequency, ecosystem change and expanded deserts. Dry-season wheat and maize agriculture in regions of rain-fed farming, such as Africa, would also be affected.

Climate impacts were less severe at lower peak levels. But at all levels added carbon dioxide and its climate effects linger because of the ocean.

“In the long run, both carbon dioxide loss and heat transfer depend on the same physics of deep-ocean mixing. The two work against each other to keep temperatures almost constant for more than a thousand years, and that makes carbon dioxide unique among the major climate gases,” said Solomon.

The scientists emphasize that increases in CO2 that occur in this century “lock in” sea level rise that would slowly follow in the next 1,000 years. Considering just the expansion of warming ocean waters—without melting glaciers and polar ice sheets—the authors find that the irreversible global average sea level rise by the year 3000 would be at least 1.3-3.2 feet (0.4-1.0 meter) if CO2 peaks at 600 parts per million, and double that amount if CO2 peaks at 1,000 parts per million.

“Additional contributions to sea level rise from the melting of glaciers and polar ice sheets are too uncertain to quantify in the same way,” said Solomon. “They could be even larger but we just don’t have the same level of knowledge about those terms. We presented the minimum sea level rise that we can expect from well-understood physics, and we were surprised that it was so large.”

Rising sea levels would cause “…irreversible commitments to future changes in the geography of the Earth, since many coastal and island features would ultimately become submerged,” the authors write.

Geoengineering to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere was not considered in the study. “Ideas about taking the carbon dioxide away after the world puts it in have been proposed, but right now those are very speculative,” said Solomon.

The authors relied on measurements as well as many different models to support the understanding of their results. They focused on drying of particular regions and on thermal expansion of the ocean because observations suggest that humans are contributing to changes that have already been measured.

Besides Solomon, the study’s authors are Gian-Kasper Plattner and Reto Knutti of ETH Zurich, Switzerland, and Pierre Friedlingstein of Institut Pierre Simon Laplace, Gif-Sur-Yvette, France.

NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources.

The latest CO2 measurements are current and will change as soon as recorded by scientists.

Chart of the current trend for atmospheric CO2

Just up ahead...

| 1 Comment | 0 TrackBacks

Now we are in the midst of crafting our long term economy while adjusting to the ravages of a self-destructive, short-term economy.

All decisions made and actions taken in this generation will have to apply to the generations ahead.  If we want to survive as a species, today we must choose carefully and act deliberately.

The horrible penalty of pollution is that it compresses the time left to react.   The rapidly increasing rate-of-change means our adaptation must be logical and decisive rather than genetic and leisurely.

cityfogss.jpgAny failure to make and implement key survival decisions means extinction.  Any species acts to survive.  The human beings that survive and thrive into a future will have to act much differently than we do today.

It is far easier to step into our future by choosing willful change now, rather than wait for the world to deliver the predicted assaults and react at that time to imposed change.

cross-posted to