Climate Change, Environmental Hazards, Nature, Science

Melting Glaciers Could Lead to Earthquakes, Volcanic Eruptions

Erupting volcano in Iceland
A recent study shows a correlation between melting glaciers and volcanic eruptions in Iceland.
Image: Shutterstock

Scientific study of the rapid melting of glaciers is nothing new; studies go back as far as the 1800s. However, a new study suggests that global climate change is directly affecting glacial melting, which could lead to other environmental problems, including earthquakes and volcanic eruptions in Iceland.

The weight of the glaciers pushing down on Iceland has lessened as those glaciers melt, which means the land is rising at a rate of 1.4 inches a year. Geologists believe this rising land could cause increased volcanic activity and earthquakes.

There are several active volcanoes in Iceland, including Eyjafjallajökull and Bárðarbunga. The former erupted in April 2010, causing clouds of smoke to reach up 20,000 feet into the air. European air travel was halted for about a week because of it.

Bárðarbunga is currently erupting and emitting large amounts of sulphur dioxide, drastically affecting air quality.

To study these phenomena, researchers at the University of Arizona and the University of Iceland have placed 62 global positioning system receivers throughout Iceland to measure the amount of glacial melting and the change in ground level. They estimate that Iceland will rise 1.6 inches every year by 2025.

Similar land rising occurs in other parts of the world, including North America, but the pace is much slower.

This latest study, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, raises concerns because of the speed with which the land is rising and the glaciers are melting.

“There have been a lot of studies that have shown that the uplift in Iceland is primarily due to ice loss,” said study lead Kathleen Compton, a PhD student at the University of Arizona. But this one is the first to show that the acceleration of one speeds up the other.

Scientists will continue to study the relationship and whether or not it appears in other parts of the world.

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