Science: Global Warming May Cause Volcanic Activity

by Greg Pollowitz

Now we have to cut emissions to slow down plate tectonics. Good luck with that:

New research on the effects of ice sheet melt in the Antarctic shows climate change is deforming the Earth’s crust, potentially prompting volcanic activity that could cause global sea-levels to rise much more than predicted.

Scientists led by Newcastle University in the UK studied the impact of the collapse of the giant Larsen B ice shelf in 2002, using Global Positioning System (GPS) stations to gauge how the Earth’s mantle responded to the relatively sudden loss of billions of tonnes of ice as glaciers accelerated.

As expected, the bedrock rose without the weight but at a pace – as much as 5 centimetres a year in places – that was about five times the rate that could be attributed by the loss of ice mass alone, said Matt King, now at the University of Tasmania (UTAS), who oversaw the work.

“It’s like the earth in 2002 was prodded by a stick, a very big stick, and we’ve been able to watch how it responded,” Professor King said. “We see the earth as being tremendously dynamic and always changing, responding to the forces.”  

Such dynamism – involving rocks hundreds of kilometres below the surface moving “like honey” – could have implications for volcanoes in the region, Professor King said.

“It’s one of the big unknowns: If something starts to happen with one of those volcanoes, our estimates of what sea levels might be like in the future may have a significant revision”, he said, adding “fire and ice generally don’t go well together”.

“It’s a big ‘if’ – but if a volcano erupted from underneath the ice sheet, it would dramatically accelerate the ice melt and the flows into the oceans.”

The rest here.