Climate Change, Volcanoes and Earthquakes


Most people associate climate change with an increase in hurricane severity. But that’s not the only impact. Some scientists believe global warming is also leading to an increase in earthquake and volcano activity.

In terms of earthquakes, the reduced atmospheric pressure associated with increasingly-severe hurricanes and typhoons allows underground earthquake faults to shift more easily. Additionally, increasingly-frequent periods of heavy rain could act as a kind of lubricant that increases the propensity of underground faults to shift. And of course, undersea earthquakes cause tsunamis, another unwelcomed impact of a warming climate.

Volcanoes might also be impacted by global warming, as increasing sea levels essentially “bend” the Earth’s crust, and if this happens underneath a volcano, it can force magma to be squeezed out from below. Additionally, more than 10% of the Earth’s active volcanoes are located under ice, and the rapid melting of this ice could force magma to rise to the surface, leading to additional volatility. The good news is that scientists aren’t sure if this will lead to an increase in actual volcanic eruptions. Whew, that’s a relief!

The bottom line is that global warming will impact many areas of the world, but most of the impact will be concentrated in areas hardest hit – for example, in areas where ice is melting rapidly or in coastal areas likely to experience a permanent increase in sea levels. Greenland in particular is noted as a place to watch, as the area has lost a whopping 272 billion tons of ice over the last 10 years. Read this article for more details on the science behind these findings.

All of this is, of course, more reason to be prepared. Hurricanes get most of the press here in the US, and rightfully so, but it might be prudent for utility companies to incorporate ‘non-hurricane’ scenarios into emergency exercises and drills from time to time because, well, you just never know what could happen.

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