Global Warming Causes Massive Earthquakes

I used to think global warming would cause drought, storms, and rising sea levels. This June, scientists realized that global warming is also going to increase global earthquake activity. How? The answer has to do with glacier movement.

Glaciers are huge rivers of ice, progressing in a stately fashion from an ice sheet into the sea at a relatively constant rate. That rate might be increased by global warming, but only slowly. At least, that's what we used to think. Recent research suggests that some ice sheets move in a 'stick-slip' pattern. That is, they become stuck to the ice next to them and pressure accumulates along their edges, until they slip forward a few inches at a time. These massive lurches forward produce earthquakes of up to 7 magnitude on the Richter scale- nearly the magnitude of the recent Sichuan earthquake in China. How often does the Whillans Ice Stream-- the first glacier observed with this behavior-- lurch forward? Twice a day. Each slip produces tremors that can be felt 4,000 miles away in Australia. What does this have to do with Global Warming? As the glaciers melt, they move faster, so we can expect more and more earthquakes from the Whillans Ice Stream. This increase has been observed in recent years, as glacial earthquakes increased. The increase in glacial earthquakes is bad news for the Greenland ice sheet, whose glaciers are thunderously pounding into the sea. Glaciers are often on, or connected to massive ice sheets like the Greenland sheet.

As ice sheets slip away, earthquake frequency is likely to increase. Scientists have observed this in Alaska, and models support the idea that melting ice sheets leads to earthquakes. It seems large, stable ice sheets hold tectonic plates in place, preventing their movement and the associated earthquakes. As ice sheets melt at an ever faster rate, we can expect to see global increases in earthquake activity. Further Reading:


If you see any unhelpful comments, please let us know immediately.

c tone (anonymous)

Earthquakes release large amounts of CO2, and as a planet heats up after a long ice-age the melting of large ice shelves can cause relatively large earthquakes (7.0 or so on RS). The 2008 quake in china was 7.9, and reportedly released a large amount of C02.

But really the C02 emission is moot. The facts are facts, earth is coming out of an ice age, and there is a giant ball of nuclear reactive gas attacking us 24/7. (Read inset article).

Now maybe these quakes are common place for planet warming. What if we could look at other planets and map this? Perhaps Venus or Mars, if we could look at the surface and somehow chronologically separate the fissures seen and make connections with that to the climate..we might be able to at least realize that this event we are going through is quite possibly natural.

Have we really explored all options for climate change?

Written in July 2009

Lothahnus (anonymous)

Friggen ridiculous. Earthquakes are cause by the movement of tactonic plates. If Temperature effect the earth in this way then the season change from summer to winter and back again would cause havoc throughout the world. Damn some people will believe anything. Before beleiving some crack pot about global warming try doing some research for yourself.

Written in February 2010

ID10T (anonymous)


Written in February 2010

cesar (anonymous)

The earth is also NOT round! Everything is NOT connected!

Written in March 2010

cesar (anonymous)

people think everything is known. I don't dispute doing research but I wouldn't go as far as saying that global warming has nothing to do with earthquakes. Besides according to scientists and history obtained from the glaciers through drilling they have come to the conclusion that the earth should be cooling now and instead is warming up, hence the talk about global warming. Wake up and stop saying no to everything just because.

Written in March 2010

The Denier (anonymous)

If global warming creates earthquakes then why is al gore not jumping up and down screaming 'I told you so' ?

If CO2 creates global warming then we have to get rid of;
1. The Sea
2. All plant life
3. Top soil (big producer of CO2)
4. Animals - all breath out CO2
5. Everything else on the planet.

Written in March 2010

Jeff Grass - BA UVA, JD W&M (anonymous)

What a total freaking leap of logic from the research you cite. Here is a quote from the resarch mentioned in your report. "The new findings themselves are neutral in their implications about global warming." The report concludes that the stick slip of glacier movement creates earthquake like tremors. It doesn't suggest that it creates earthquakes or that global warming is changing this at all. This fuzzy headed thinking is what will doom humanity, not global warming.

Written in March 2010

oblong (anonymous)

I don't think this idea can be dismissed out of hand, in fact there are several mechanisms by which a warming atmosphere may influence geological activity.
Apart from the phenomenon mentioned here, which could indirectly jolt an already unstable fault line, the transfer of mass from glaciers and ice sheets to the oceans could change the distribution of tension in the crust, and lead to increased seismic activity. And if large quantities of CO2 and methane are released in these events, it could further amplify the warming, and so on....
See this article for more info:

Written in March 2010

p diddy (anonymous)

pretty cold winter where i lived.

Written in April 2010

michael skopal (anonymous)

Scientists are aready telling us the ice sitting on top of antarctica is melting and is going to cause sea level rises, but there is more, it isnt just a sea level rise the planet will experience. What is going to happen the antarctic shelf if all the ice disperses from its surface. Well it would be neive to think the earths crust floats on molten lava. It doesnt actually float, its a crust on the surface so its not going to rise up like a barge u suddenly drive a truck off, but this is still a unfathomable amout of weight that is shifting. It HAS to cause an increase in tectonic activity and further more all the other continental shelves are getting flooded by the increased sea level and so the pressure at the bottom of the oceans is increasing too. ok 10 metres deeper isnt much more than the current depth of the ocean, but its accurring all over the planet at the same time. This has to be significant.

Written in April 2010

We need to kill off all domesticated pets or require that they go low (anonymous)

I know my cat farts up a storm that, if he were to stop, would probably lower the temperature in my town by a degree or two.

I can't help but think there are other pets out there doing the same thing. They must be stopped.

I've also heard that we could reduce a great bit of CO2 if we were to eradicate caribou in all of Scandinavia. I'm all for it - never did care for caribou.

Peace (except for the Shrub).

Written in April 2010

alex (anonymous)

yes earthquakes are coused by the movement of tactonic plates, but if that is all you know than you know nothing. ice weights at a ton per cubic meter and when it melts you releass all the pressure on the earth crust/tactonic plates that start to rebound back to their origianl pastion. and since they dont have all that pressure on them any more they being to move more freely so they can build up more pressure and cause more earthquakes. think of it this way take a plastic ball in your had and sqeees it than releas it, it springs back to is orignal positon it the same thing the earth does when a glacier melts. if you dont believe me just look at the great lakes and see how the deeth of the lakes is decressing, that is because the ice sheet that made them is long gone and we are eye witness to the rebound of the earth.

Written in April 2010

Chris Handerson (anonymous)

I heard global warming is actually causing global cooling which intern is going to increase the glacial size and put more weight on the earth causing more earthquakes. Like a thumb pushed into a candy covered ice cream cone. When that happens good luck heating your house thanks to all the warming!

Written in May 2010

Tim (anonymous)

daaahhh i pooped my pants.

Written in June 2010

mark (anonymous)

this guy is wrong, that study he is quoting showed that the melting of glaciers and ice can cause the ground to shift; but thats only where the ice is. For people to blame haiti on global warming is comical. If you actually look in to the issue of global warming "not just watching gores movie or repeating information you got from a commercial" you see its not so simple. People will look back and laugh at this just like we did for pesticides/ice age and the whole ozone thing. If you have a well researched opinion on this issue and still believe this shit then i respect you for it but most people know nothing but "the debate is over" n what they hear in commercials. ps how can the debate be over when the majority of scientists dont think its happening at the rate they r saying n that theres far more evidence its the sun and not man causing it

Written in February 2011

mel (anonymous)

it's not about "believing" in global warming. it would be ignorant to think that the current lifestyles of our population does not have any effect whatsoever on the planet. and to the gentleman who said everything is not connected after he said the earth is not round. could you explain how garter snakes carrier pigeons and other animals use the center of the earth along with sophisticated sense organs as a magnetic field to find their way home. probably because the majority of it is connected. i thought this was an interesting article-the stick and slip movement makes sense how it could be connected to increasing magnitude of quakes. like today-japan 8.8 with aftershocks of 7.1

Written in March 2011

Super (anonymous)

What an Idiot.

Written in March 2011

Dan (anonymous)

How can global warming cause earthquakes when the earth is cooling according to the UEA (climategate) scientists?

Written in March 2011

FR33 (anonymous)

Simple linear minded thinking process is always fun to read in these comments.

Written in March 2011

Lamere (anonymous)

Global warming is causing the ice caps to melt, popping up the crust of the earth and causing localized earthquakes in Japan.....NO wait G.W. is causing the ice caps to freeze (ice age) squishing down the earth's crust, causing earthquakes........NO wait...G.W. is causing extreme sways in temperature......Well, maybe we're not sure exactly how global warming works, but we are absolutely sure the consequences are bad, very, very bad...And all this is proved beyond a shadow of a doubt by garter snakes and carrier pigeons. Gee, I feel so much better now about that $600 electricity bill I got last summer!!

Written in March 2011

jajajajajjaj (anonymous)

...covering the HAARP

Written in March 2011

Anarchyandy (anonymous)

Ice weighs a lot but it is (apart from the poles and Greenland) fairly insignificant. The atmosphere weighs, perhaps, a lot more than all the frozen water on earth. If G.W. is real it stands to reason the atmosphere is getting lighter (hot air rises) and so the earths crust has a teeny bit more room to flex. At 60yrs old I have known of tsunamis since my schooldays but until recently never heard of a large destructive tsunami. Now we have had three in the last ten years or so. (Indian Ocean, Pacific (Samoa) and Pacific (Japan))!!

Written in July 2011

Mike (anonymous)

Global warming is definitley causing an increase in earthquakes.
The plant earth is formed of a molten core (whihc exudes as lava from volcanoes) and a crust. Global warming is increasing a rise in the temperature of the core which is expanding (swelling). The swelling of the core is exerting outward pressure on the crust from within and causing the tectonic plates to shift.

Written in August 2011

Mondo Moose (anonymous)

If you look into the holy Scriptures in Job 9;1-8 you will see where and why earthquakes are on the earth and if you ask NASA of 3 Earthquakes maybe more Indonesia 2004 Chili 2010 and Japan 2011 The earth came off it's axis and Chili and Japan slowed down the earth and shortened the day
NASA said the universe is slowing down. Bible Prophesy says in 2 Peter 3; 10 everything is going to melt and Isaiah 13;13 says at the end of the tribulation period and the end of the age this earth and universe will disappear.

Written in November 2013

Dr. Wladyslaw Kowalski (anonymous)

A slight increase in the average surface temperature of the Earth will cause thermal expansion of the crust. This means more earthquakes and volcanoes, as we are seeing currently.

Written in May 2015

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