While there is no evidence to link Iceland’s eruption or the recent earthquake in China to the changing climate, scientist’s publishing in the Royal Society’s Philosophical Transactions suggest the atmospheric shifts can influence seismic activity.

The researchers suggest that there is a growing body of evidence linking manmade climate change to a wide range of natural disasters such as tsunamis, landslides, quakes and eruptions.

The geological phenomena are most likely to occur in areas where the earth’s crust is already very weak and slight variations in pressure could be enough to spark a significant incident.

There are a number of scenarios that could see a major change in pressure on a particularly weak section of crust – for example, melting ice, disappearing lakes, broken dams or even low air pressure could all lighten the load enough to cease to hold geological forces in check.

“Periods of exceptional climate change in Earth history are associated with a dynamic response from the solid Earth, involving enhanced levels of potentially hazardous geological and geomorphological activity,” says a summary of the research.

“This response is expressed through the adjustment, modulation or triggering of a wide range of surface and crustal phenomena, including volcanic and seismic activity, submarine and sub-aerial landslides, tsunamis and landslide ‘splash’ waves glacial outburst and rock-dam failure floods, debris flows and gas-hydrate destabilisation.

“Looking ahead, modelling studies and projection of current trends point towards increased risk in relation to a spectrum of geological and geomorphological hazards in a world warmed by anthropogenic climate change, while observations suggest that the ongoing rise in global average temperatures may already be eliciting a hazardous response from the geosphere.”

Sam Bond

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