Geophysicist argues that global warming causes earthquakes and volcano eruptions

THIS ESSAY by British geophysicist Bill McGuire is sure to annoy our Applesauce regulars who embrace global-warming denialism, which is exactly why I’m posting it here.

I can only wonder which of the aforementioned skeptics will be the first to respond with a snarky comment about Al Gore.

If we think about climate change at all, most of us do so in a very simplistic way: so, the weather might get a bit warmer; floods and droughts may become more of a problem and sea levels will slowly creep upwards. Evidence reveals, however, that our planet is an almost unimaginably complicated beast, which reacts to a dramatically changing climate in all manner of different ways; a few – like the aforementioned – straightforward and predictable; some surprising and others downright implausible. Into the latter category fall the manifold responses of the geosphere.

The world we inhabit has an outer rind that is extraordinarily sensitive to change. While the Earth’s crust may seem safe and secure, the geological calamities that happen with alarming regularity confirm that this is not the case. Here in the UK, we only have to go back a couple years to April 2010, when the word on everyone’s lips was Eyjafjallojokull – the ice-covered Icelandic volcano that brought UK and European air traffic to a grinding halt. Less than a year ago, our planet’s ability to shock and awe headed the news once again as the east coast of Japan was bludgeoned by a cataclysmic combination of megaquake and tsunami, resulting – at a quarter of a trillion dollars or so – in the biggest natural-catastrophe bill ever.


The bottom line is that through our climate-changing activities we are loading the dice in favour of escalating geological havoc at a time when we can most do without it. Unless there is a dramatic and completely unexpected turnaround in the way in which the human race manages itself and the planet, then long-term prospects for our civilisation look increasingly grim. At a time when an additional 220,000 people are lining up at the global soup kitchen each and every night; when energy, water and food resources are coming under ever-growing pressure, and when the debilitating effects of anthropogenic climate change are insinuating themselves increasingly into every nook and cranny of our world and our lives, the last thing we need is for the dozing subterranean giant to awaken.



  1. “Between about 20,000 and 5,000 years ago, our planet underwent an astonishing climatic transformation. Over the course of this period, it flipped from the frigid wasteland of deepest and darkest ice age to the – broadly speaking – balmy, temperate world upon which our civilisation has developed and thrived. During this extraordinarily dynamic episode, as the immense ice sheets melted and colossal volumes of water were decanted back into the oceans, the pressures acting on the solid Earth also underwent massive change. In response, the crust bounced and bent, rocking our planet with a resurgence in volcanic activity, a proliferation of seismic shocks and burgeoning giant landslides.
    The most spectacular geological effects were reserved for high latitudes. Here, the crust across much of northern Europe and North America had been forced down by hundreds of metres and held at bay for tens of thousands of years beneath the weight of sheets of ice 20 times thicker than the height of the London Eye. As the ice dissipated in soaring temperatures, the crust popped back up like a coiled spring released, at the same time tearing open major faults and triggering great earthquakes in places where they are unheard of today. Even now, the crust underpinning those parts of Europe and North America formerly imprisoned beneath the great continental ice sheets continues to rise – albeit at a far more sedate rate.
    The huge environmental changes that accompanied the rapid post-glacial warming of our world were not confined to the top and bottom of the planet. All that meltwater had to go somewhere, and as the ice sheets dwindled, so the oceans grew. An astounding 52m cubic kilometres of water was sucked from the oceans to form the ice sheets, causing sea levels to plummet by about 130 metres – the height of the Wembley stadium arch. As the ice sheets melted so this gigantic volume of water was returned, bending the crust around the margins of the ocean basins under the enormous added weight, and provoking volcanoes in the vicinity to erupt and faults to rupture, bringing geological mayhem to regions remote from the ice’s polar fastnesses”.

    Hmm… Sea level dropped by 400 feet in ice age, and then rose when it melted? Huge climactic changes in a short time? And it wasn’t even related to humans screwing with it?
    AND, he’s hawking his latest book, AND he’s on TV a lot in Britain. I wonder if he has a slide show (there’s your snarky Al Gore comment, Pat, so I guess I’m first!).

  2. Brian G Valentine

    Volcanoes and earthquakes aren’t nearly as disturbing a consequence of CO2 in the air as is the abject stupidity arising from unfathomable loss of coherent reasoning

  3. Craig D

    Yep, thousands of feet of ice on top of the crust did depress it and yep, Chicago’s underlying crust is still rebounding. But that was THOUSANDS of feet of ice on top of entire continentws. According to alarmist theory, AGW is melting a few hudred feet from Greenland and the Himalayas (oops, that one fell through, didn’t get the email, I guess). And that little dab of ice and the tiny rise in ocean levels (1m or less projected by the most extreme?) is supposed to cause the same kind of increase in earthquake and volcanic activity. If they weren’t so serious, they would be hilarious. BTW, where is the evidence that volcanic activity and earthquakes are occurring at higher levels? AHHHH, I thought so.

  4. GoFigure

    We are very likely contributing to the current rise in co2. It was constant at 280ppmv for several hundred thousand years (as far as measurements can accurately determine), but it was MUCH higher for several hundred million years before that. It’s been higher during two ice ages and going into one ice age.

    By 2099 the co2 level is predicted to be at 600ppmv still a trace gas. A crowded gymnasium with poor venting would be at perhaps 1000ppmv. Submarine crews operate in 3000 to 5000ppmv. Plants absolutely love the extra co2 (and require less water). Lifeforms not unlike our own have done quite well in 10 to 20 times higher levels than now.

    No reason not to look for better energy processes, but don’t let the politicians introduce radical system changes to solve the problem. We have lots of time. It’s not necessary.

    Our current warming began at the bottom of the little ice age, around the 1680s. That was some 200 years before co2 began increasing, and also long before our industrial revolution. While a bit of extra co2 may add to temperature, it is not at all clear that the feedbacks to that are positive. In fact, the computer models all assumed that water vapor, another ghg which happens to be 50X more prevalent than co2, actually works as a positive feedback so influences the temperature by 2 to 3 times that of co2.

    Problem is, there are better climate theories around, (Henrik Svensmark & his multidisciplinary crew) that argue that low cloud feedback is actually negative rather than positive, and the over-estimate of temp increases by all the models would seem to confirm Svensmark is correct. Also, the models make no mention of the fact that, when the planet is warmer, more heat escapes to space. (This more recently picked up by satellite measurements.)

  5. GoFigure

    Then there is the issue of Michael Mann’s infamous “hockey stick graph” which managed to basically do away with both the Medieval Warming Period and the subsequent Little Ice Age. To say that was controversial is a wild under-statement. Consider this: Mann used proxies together with a computer program to weight his proxy measurements to come up with his graph. At the time there were some 800 or 900 peer-reviewed studies already showing that the MWP was as warm, likely warmer than now, ande global in nature.

    The major news media literally overwhelmed those years of studies, involving 800 or 900 research organizations in some 40+ countries. What’s ironic is that those studies continue to arrive. Now there are over 1000 of them. All are accessible via links provided at website co2science.org.

    Not only that, Mann’s hockey stick graph has been debunked by more than one study. McIntyre demonstrated that random numbers used in Mann’s computer program would also generate a hockey stick graph.

    Finally, Mann has recently commented that his study “wasn’t all that importnt”. ! Wiping out 1000 other peer reviewed studies? ! Even phil Jones, another CRU player has admitted that if the MWP was global rather than regional, that “would be a whole different story.”

  6. Charles Higley

    ” lining up at the global soup kitchen ”
    “loading the dice in favour of escalating geological havoc”
    “debilitating effects of anthropogenic climate change”
    ” the dozing subterranean giant to awaken”


    Our greatest threat is the damage the alarmist policies can do and the UN’s Evil Agenda 21. THAT we need to fight.

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