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Published on March 17th, 2011 | by Susan Kraemer


More Mega Earthquakes in a Climate Changed World Say Scientists

March 17th, 2011 by  

Is this what climate change looks like?

There has been an increase in the numbers of earthquakes over 6.0, over the last few years. For the first half decade till 2006, there were about 13 earthquakes a year over 6.0 according to statistics at the USGS (13, 13, 13, 12, 13).

But in the last few years, the frequency of major earthquakes (over 6.0) increased to 20, 17, 21, 25, and in just the first 3 months of this year we already have had 7 large earthquakes.

After the Haiti earthquake in 2010, followed by one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded in Chile in January, at 7.1, followed by two averaging 6.7 in February, and also in February a 6.3 in February in New Zealand (in a part of the country not prone to earthquakes), now we have the 9.0 mega quake with a 7.2 aftershock in Japan, in March.

At last year’s American Geophysical Union meeting geologists were already questioning whether there was a climate change link underlying the increasing frequency of unusually large earthquakes, according to  Mathew McDermott at Treehugger. The Haiti earthquake was then just the latest example.

In the case of regions like Haiti, the deforestation – caused by years of drought, caused by climate change – is rendering the earth’s crust more unstable, posited geologist Shimon Wdowinski at the meeting. Deforestation leads to erosion and mudslides – and Haiti is 98% deforested.

The 2010 disaster stemmed from a vertical slippage, not the horizontal movements that most of the region’s quakes entail, supporting the hypothesis that the movement was triggered by an imbalance created when eroded land mass was moved from the mountainous epicenter to the Leogane Delta.

Other evidence of a deforestation link comes from Taiwan, which also has experienced earthquakes after major storms in Mountain regions.

But other forces are at work as well. As early as 2009, scientists were beginning to develop a theory connecting climate change to earthquakes. (Japan’s Earthquake: The Climate Change Connection)

The theory is that melting glaciers, due to climate change, are now relieving weight on the crust, and beginning to shift the pressures on the earth, and that this could be behind the recent increase in major earthquake frequency. (Which has repercussions for glaciers too: 40 Million Tonne Iceberg Dumped in Lake by NZ Earthquake)

Susan Kraemer@Twitter



About the Author

writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today and Renewable Energy World.  She has also been published at Wind Energy Update, Solar Plaza, Earthtechling PV-Insider , and GreenProphet, Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow, and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design, Susan brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention, solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci-fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times.    Follow Susan on Twitter @dotcommodity.

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