Quake Question #6: Is Climate Change Responsible?

Dick writes about Earth and planetary science for Science magazine.

Readers ask: Is there a link between climate change and increases in global seismic activity? If so, could this be due to redistribution of water over the planet's surface decreasing pressure in some areas and increasing it in others?

Science answers: There is a climate-seismicity link, but it isn't detectably changing the rate of global seismicity. The weight of snow on mountain ranges in Japan may affect small quakes there. The melting of North America's ice sheet 10,000 years ago, removing the ice's weight from the crust, may still be driving quakes in mid-America, such as the large 1811-12 New Madrid quakes.

For a complete list of quake questions and answers, see our Quake Questions page. For our complete coverage of the crisis in Japan, see our Japan Earthquake page.

Posted in Asia Japan Quake 2011