Could A Changing Climate Set Off Volcanoes And Quakes? [1 of 2]

Our government puts much emphasis on our security these days. Security of the state as well as of the people no doubt should be the supreme interest of the nation but our government also need to redefine our security, and to recognise that climate change too poses by far, the greatest threat to our security, and to that of future generations. And as the quotation from Martin Luther King reminds us: “There is such a thing as being too late”. We have less than a decade to change.
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CLIMATE CHANGE & ITS IMPACT: ARE WE READY FOR SUCH NATURE CAUSED DISASTERS?

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by Nayyar Hashmey

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“There is a growing evidence to incriminate changing climate in the planet’s most destructive geological events. Melting ice sheets and changes in sea level can, set off the largest earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Indeed, thanks to climate change, a human hand may already be at work. Potentially, the argument adds a whole new dimension to why we should be worried about climate change.”

This paragraph has been taken from a report by British geologist, professor Bill McGuire. The arrticle indeed is quite thoughtful. I’m sure those of you who love to pick things apart will have a field day. I enjoyed the article – thought he made some valid points and so I wanted to share.

We in Pakistan too have experienced increased weather intensity… but also an increase in earthquakes (think Fukushima) and – think our 2008 earthquake. Then the ones in Iceland recently and Chile and Mexico – but God forbid, I always think of the WORST possible scenario and if that could be here – and may be we should all begin seismic dancing.

Then there is this National Geographic documentary the “Year of the storms”. It is about the 2010 series of gigantic global storms and flooding, but they also mentioned something similar to the situation discussed in McGuire’s article [upcoming here]. They call it oceanic expansion. As the oceans heat up, the water expands, and can cause, not only sea level rise, but also new pressures on continental plate boundaries, leading to earthquakes and allied seismic activity.

Water then too is a strange substance. Everybody knows it expands greatly when it freezes, but most people don’t realize that it does likewise when heated to any point below its vapor pressure, like steel expands as it is heated. While the expansion is far less extreme, in large bodies like an ocean, the results can be impressive.

As far as knit picking the article, people could ponder over the unprecedented rise in annual quakes, especially the massive number, and magnitude of earthquakes taking place over the past year, and it all seems to relate directly to rising global temperatures over the past few decades.

Now switching back again to Pakistan’s context, unfortunately we experienced such disasters consequetivly in the first decade of  century 21. First it was the most tragic earthquake in October 2008 that hit Islamabad and many major areas of Kohistan, Azad Kashmir as well as the main Kashmir valley that lies under the Indian control.

Two years after this earthquake, we had another calamity waiting for us. This was the phenomenon of ferocious floods that affected   about 20 million people, mostly by destruction of property, livelihood and infrastructure, with a death toll of close to 2,000.

Then again we had that special occurrence of a landslide that caused a new lake to appear in Ata abad, a nature caused calamity which uprooted a good number of residents of that locality. Interestingly all these calamities appear to have originated out of the modern day evil of what we call global warming.

In a previous article of this series, we brought to you the views of scientists who are of the opinion that in the last 10 years there has not been any significant loss of ice from the glaciers of Himalayas. Though this study could be a matter of solace for us, yet we cannot overlook the extraordinay human activity on Siachin which is going on unhindered every day due to warlike conditions in the area.

Viewed in this context, melting of ice, widespraed deforestation on our mountains, general climate warming due to green house gases effect, all are contributing to the conditions to which professor Bill McGuire refers.

Defrosting the planet’s cold regions, warns McGuire, [and this should include our northern mountain ranges] has for some years been implicated in a range of “natural” disasters. The rapid melting of glaciers creates dangerous lakes of meltwater, perched high in the valleys of the Himalayas and Andes. Thawed soil unleashes landslides.

So McGurie’s theory apparently might apply as much to our northern mountains and glaciers, as elsewhere, in which case am only afraid of such event/s what this melting of ice going on since centuries, could cause [earthquakes, further floods of unprecedented proportions as it happened in 2010!].

Our government puts much emphasis on defence / security these days. Security of the state as well as of the people no doubt should be the supreme interest of the nation but our government also need to redefine our security, and to recognise that climate change too poses by far, the greatest threat to our security, and to that of future generations. And as the quotation from Martin Luther King reminds us: “There is such a thing as being too late”. We have less than a decade to change. 

• Climate change will change our life on Earth

• It will affect all nations, all plants, all animals

• All humans, all living beings on Earth

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CLIMATE CHANGE TRIGGERS

EARTHQUAKES, TSUNAMIS, VOLCANOES!

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by Fred Pearce

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Geological disasters might influence climate, for instance when volcanic debris blots out the sun. But climate cannot disrupt geology. Right? Well, actually no, says a British geologist Bill McGuire, in a troubling new book, Waking The Giant: How a Changing Climate Triggers Earthquakes, Tsunamis and Volcanoes.

There is, McGuire argues, growing evidence to incriminate changing climate in the planet’s most destructive geological events. Melting ice sheets and changes in sea level can, he maintains, set off the largest earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Indeed, thanks to climate change, a human hand may already be at work. Potentially, McGuire’s argument adds a whole new dimension to why we should be worried about climate change.

Bill MGuire, Volcanologist and professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London. McGuire is regarded as a UK expert on geological disasters including supervolcanoes, impact events, tsunamis and earthquakes.
He is currently researching cllimate forcing of geological hazards. McGuire describes Tokyo as “the city waiting to die”, refrerring to its placement on a prominent geological fault. In his latest book, Waking the Giant, he argues temperature change brought about by global warming could release pressure from melting ice caps and trigger quakes and volcanic eruptions as well as increased landslides resulting from heavier rainfall.  

 The most solid evidence for climatic influence on geology comes from the end of the last ice age, around 12,000 years ago, says McGuire. Analysis of volcanic deposits, published in the past decade by several authors, has found that this period of rapid climate change, when ice sheets retreated from much of the planet, coincided with a sudden outburst of geological activity. The incidence of volcanic eruptions in Iceland increased around 50-fold for about 1,500 years, before settling back to previous levels.

EARTHQUAKES AND VOLCANOES

What happened? McGuire makes the case that during the long preceding glaciation, the weight of ice some two kilometers thick over Iceland maintained high pressures underground that kept magma at the root of volcanoes solid and suppressed eruptions. But as the ice melted, the huge weight was released and the land surface lifted, sometimes by hundreds of meters. This reduced the pressure below. He cites Freysteinn Sigmundsson at the Nordic Volcanological Center at the University of Iceland in Reykjavik, who says: “Reduction of pressure enabled mantle rocks to melt, creating a zone of magma upwelling underneath Iceland.” Magma production increased 30-fold – that magma, the argument goes, burst out in a spectacular epidemic of volcanic eruptions.

What happened? McGuire makes the case that during the long preceding glaciation, the weight of ice some two kilometers thick over Iceland maintained high pressures underground that kept magma at the root of volcanoes solid and suppressed eruptions. But as the ice melted, the huge weight was released and the land surface lifted, sometimes by hundreds of meters.
This reduced the pressure below. He cites Freysteinn Sigmundsson at the Nordic Volcanological Center at the University of Iceland in Reykjavik, who says: “Reduction of pressure enabled mantle rocks to melt, creating a zone of magma upwelling underneath Iceland.” Magma production increased 30-fold – that magma, the argument goes, burst out in a spectacular epidemic of volcanic eruptions.

Similar, though less pronounced, surges in volcanic activity occurred at that time across much of the planet, wherever large ice sheets or small tropical glaciers melted, says Hugh Tuffen, a volcanologist at the University of Lancaster in England. From the Eifel mountains of Germany to the Chilean Andes, and from California to Kamchatka, volcanoes were awakened, says McGuire, who chaired a conference on climate change and geology at the Royal Society in London in 2009.

Contd…

Next: Climate Change Triggers Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Volcanoes

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  1. […] Facing Imminent Environmental ‘Tipping Point’ 3. The 9th Wonder of the World 4. Could A Changing Climate Set Off Volcanoes And Quakes? [in two parts] 5. The Himalayas and nearby peaks have lost no ice in past 10 years, study shows 6. U.S. […]


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