Could melting icecaps cause earthquakes?

The Day After Tomorrow-esque natural disasters may be around the corner as global warming melts Antarctica.

23rd November 2016
Could melting icecaps cause earthquakes? (Getty)

Asked by: John Wildes, Ireland

Earthquakes occur when the huge tectonic plates that make up the Earth’s crust slip and grind past each other along faultlines. In areas of land with thick ice cover such as Greenland or Antarctica, the immense weight of a layer of ice a few thousand metres thick may prevent plates from moving freely.

If this ice were to melt, the plates could shift, releasing pent up energy and potentially triggering a quake. Although geologists have traced some small earthquakes back to loss of ice, it remains unclear whether larger tremors follow the same pattern. 

 


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