So far, 2010 has been marked by huge devastation and loss of life as a result of several large earthquakes. So I began to wonder, is this normal, or is it portentous of larger catastrophes to come? As a consummate conspiracy theorist, my first search was to see if there was a link between the seemingly large increase in the number of earthquakes and global warming. The result was…interesting. Apparently, it is possible, according to scientists, for global warming to cause earthquakes. In a 2006 article in the Wall Street Journal, author Sharon Begley explained the phenomenon. Scientists explain that glaciers weigh down crusts where they are formed, with a cubic meter of ice weighing over a ton, and glaciers can be hundreds of meters thick. When glaciers melt, this weight is lifted, destabilizing the crust below. Once the weight is removed, the crust tries to reclaim its previous shape from before the formation of glaciers. In the process, tectonic plates slip suddenly; in fact, scientists found that current spots prone to earthquakes previously held glaciers which melted and lead to the instability. In fact, according to the article, glacial melting could also lead to volcano eruptions as the magma is disturbed by the pressure shifts and plate movements. So, are the 21 earthquakes above a 6.0 magnitude in 2010, according to the USGS survey, indicative of a global warming effect? Not necessarily. In 2006, when the Wall Street Journal article was written, the author specified that global warming had not yet reached 2 degrees Celsius above the historical average and could not have caused disasters like the Asian Tsunami as some had speculated. In addition, geologist Bill McGuire, from the University of College London stated:
no one knows how much unloading there can be before you trigger certain faults
But that was in 2006, and there have been several glacial events since then. In the spring of 2008, the British Antarctic Survey reported the breaking away of an iceberg that was 41 by 2.4 km in size from the Wilikins ice shelf. The huge ice loss occurred in less than a month and was monitored by the European Space Agency satellite which has a time advanced slide show that demonstrates the dramatic loss in ice coverage. According to MSNBC, ice from the bridge continued to disintegrate through July, and an inland glacier, Perito Morino, started caving. On the opposite side of the planet, The Northwest and Northeast passages opened up in the north pole, becoming completely ice free and navigable, for the first time in recorded history according to an article in The Independent. The same article quoted an ice specialist from the US National Snow and Ice Data Center as saying that this could denote the ‘death spiral’ of the Arctic ice caps.
However, according to the earthquake facts and statistics provided by the USGS, 2010 has not been excessive in the number or magnitude of earthquakes. In 2009 there were 14,792 earthquakes worldwide, with 16 from 7.0-7.9 in magnitude and 142 from 6.0-6.9. This was similar to the statistics for years 2000-2008. In 2010, there have only been 4,958 earthquakes so far; 64 between 6.0-6.9 and 5 between 7.0-7.9. In fact, the USGS has listed only one earthquake that is higher than an 8.0 magnitude for 2010; 2007 had 4 earthquakes that were higher than an 8.0 magnitude. Yet, so far, more than 224,000 people have died because of these earthquakes in 2010, and we are only a quarter of the way through the year. Last year, only 1,787 people died as a result of earthquakes; and 2010 has exceeded most other years in total earthquake deaths already. This is because the earthquakes are happening in more populated areas.
Now, if the current string of earthquakes or volcanoes were caused because of a melt of glaciers that destabilized the crust below it, you would expect the earthquakes to occur at previous glacial sites; or at least close to it. Haiti, Turkey, and Chile do not fulfill these requirements. Of course, one can always say that a tectonic plate is large and maybe these countries are on the same tectonic plate as glaciers that have melted, and the destabilization effect was transferred to another part of the plate. However, though there have been developments in the receding of glaciers, and certainly a rise in sea level that has affected several areas, there hasn’t been a large enough change in global warming. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report that global temperatures were 0.77 degrees Celsius above average this year; they were 0.55 degrees Celsius above average in 2006. Not much of a change; not likely to cause such a huge shift in global warming effects. Therefore, I am compelled to abandon the conspiracy theory. But then why are these earthquakes occurring in these new places all of a sudden?