11/29/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Climate Change: Whole Lot of Shaking Going On ...

Update: I will be inserting additional information about the new Earthquakes and Tsunamis that were triggered since Tuesday...
In the recent climate change debate, some of our leaders, like Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe, are still insisting that these are cyclical, natural changes, or that global warming is not real because "God is still up there".

I foresee that a decade from now -- when we see all the damage that has happened -- Sen. Inhofe's comments on climate change will be viewed as some of the most misguided statements ever made by a senator.


There was a significant development that occurred yesterday, as an 8.3 earthquake struck Samoa and set off tsunami warnings in the South Pacific. Comparisons were being made to the Indian Ocean earthquake, which was the worst earthquake ever recorded at over 9 on the Richter scale.

With up to 20 deaths reported so far, the people of the South Pacific islands have been more fortunate than the people of Indonesia, but these types of earthquakes and equally dangerous volcanoes are likely to increase in frequency worldwide -- and the reason is climate change.

Update it seems the same fault line in Indonesia has become active - from Huffington Post

A powerful earthquake struck western Indonesia on Wednesday, triggering landslides and trapping thousands under collapsed buildings - including two hospitals, an official said. At least 75 bodies were found, but the toll was expected to be far higher.

The temblor started fires, severed roads and cut off power and communications to Padang, a coastal city of 900,000 on Sumatra island. Thousands fled in panic, fearing a tsunami.

Buildings swayed hundreds of miles (kilometers) away in neighboring Malaysia and Singapore.

In the sprawling low-lying city of Padang, the shaking was so intense that people crouched or sat on the street to avoid falling. Children screamed as an exodus of thousands tried to get away from the coast in cars and motorbikes, honking horns.

The magnitude 7.6 quake occurred at 5:15 p.m. (1015GMT, 6:15 a.m. EDT), just off the coast of Padang, the U.S. Geological Survey reported. It occurred a day after killer tsunami hit islands in the South Pacific and was along the same fault line that spawned the 2004 Asian tsunami that killed 230,000 people in 11 nations.

...and the damage in Samoa was worse than previously reported
From Huffington Post

APIA, Samoa -- Disaster officials rushed food, medicine and a temporary morgue to the Samoas on Wednesday after a powerful earthquake unleashed a tsunami that flattened villages and swept cars and people out to sea. At least 119 people were killed. Survivors fled to higher ground on the South Pacific islands after the magnitude 8.0 quake struck at 6:48 a.m. local time (1:48 p.m. EDT; 1748 GMT) Tuesday

Scientists are reporting that these events are unrelated - which very well may be true, however, as you will read below, there is a common denominator to the tectonic instability that is being witnessed.

How can this be? Well, the Earth's tectonic plates have sensitive fault lines, which when triggered to move, cause earthquakes and volcanoes. As a sphere, the Earth 'reflects' vibration internally, so that an earthquake in the South Pacific is picked up by seismologists across the world -- say in Alaska. The Indonesian quake resonated so strongly that it set off quakes in Alaska. (Samoa also had a 7.9 earthquake in March.)

Now, add in this to the equation. In Greenland, and to a lesser extent, Antarctica, ice sheets and glaciers are melting and more importantly, sliding in rapid bursts. This is caused by moulins, which are holes that melting water form from the top of a glacier to the bottom. The water then lubricates and melts the underside of the glacier, causing them to detach from the bedrock -- and creating a 'slip-n-slide' for glaciers that weigh in the megatons -- some the size of Manhattan.

Robert Corell, chairman of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, said in Ilulissat [Greenland] yesterday: "We have seen a massive acceleration of the speed with which these glaciers are moving into the sea. The ice is moving at 2 meters an hour on a front 5km [3 miles] long and 1,500 meters deep. That means that this one glacier puts enough fresh water into the sea in one year to provide drinking water for a city the size of London for a year."
The glacier is now moving at 15km a year into the sea although in surges it moves even faster. He measured one surge at 5km in 90 minutes - an extraordinary event.

The result, each 'slide' of these multi-ton glaciers sets off an 'ice quake' that register an average of 3 to 5 on the Richter scale. This might sound minor, but these are occurring multiple times a year. This means that the Earth is being jolted repeatedly by these ice quakes, destabilizing faults lines which has many, many consequences.

The latest scientific discipline to enter the fray over global warming is geology.
And the forecasts from some quarters are dramatic - not only will the earth shake, it will spit fire.

A number of geologists say glacial melting due to climate change will unleash pent-up pressures in the Earth's crust, causing extreme geological events such as earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions.

A cubic metre of ice weighs nearly a tonne and some glaciers are more than a kilometre thick. When the weight is removed through melting, the suppressed strains and stresses of the underlying rock come to life.

(from Alan Glazner, a volcano specialist at the University of North Carolina)

"When you melt glacial ice, several hundred metres to a kilometre thick . . . you've decreased the load on the crust and so you've decreased the pressure holding the volcanic conduits closed.

"They're cracks, that's how magmas gets to the surface . . . and where they hit the surface, that's where you get a volcano."

And it is not likely to slow down, but may instead speed up:

...quakes ranged from six to 15 per year from 1993 to 2002, then jumped to 20 in 2003, 23 in 2004, and 32 in the first 10 months of 2005 - matching an increase in Greenland temperatures.


...quakes ranged from six to 15 per year from 1993 to 2002, then jumped to 20 in 2003, 23 in 2004, and 32 in the first 10 months of 2005 - matching an increase in Greenland temperatures.

That is tripling of earthquakes in a 15 year period and more importantly an exponential change in the activity.

This trend is causing changes exponentially. For instance, since the Arctic has opened an ice free passage, the Arctic is no longer a stationary sea -- currents from the Pacific and the Atlantic are encroaching into the Arctic circle and creating an additional heating feedback loop -- which is as equally dangerous as a heating feedback loop as the loss of reflective ice.
This video highlights the feedback loop that scientists are seeing in Greenland.

And, sadly, the latest report from the IPCC reflects this exponential change, as scientists report now that even if the world's countries commit to all of the recommendations to reach by 2050 -- (which the U.S. Senate is likely to block) the Earth's temperature will rise 6.3 degrees by 2100.

This is not good, since scientists worldwide have agreed that to survive climate change, we must limit the temperature rise to 2 degrees.

So, not only are we on a path that with displace as many as 75 million people by 2050, many of them islanders, but we are also putting many more people in peril due to the threat of this increased tectonic activity.

The industrialized countries must change their polluting policies and begin to think about their responsibility for the Indonesian earthquake that resulted in 229,866 people lost, including 186,983 dead and 42,883 missing.

These may have been the first wave of people who have died in a widespread fashion from the unintended effects of climate change.

And yes, even though as some will argue, tectonic plates have been moving for thousands of years, it is a fact, that the climate is changing, the Arctic is heating, and Ice Quakes are increasing, all due to human made pollution.
Since writing this story Tuesday, I feel both vindicated and horrified to see the very things I am worried about happening - and to see that our Senate is still waffling on the middling, do little, but necessary ACES Climate bill. We must do pass much, much more effective legislation and recognize the legal status of Environmental Refugees.

There are many changes that are going to happen, and we are going to have to realize, globally, that we are all in this together. Most importantly, we must begin to talk openly about adaptation to these global changes, and not act in merely a reactionary approach.