Climate change: melting ice will trigger wave of natural disastersScientists at a London conference next week will warn of earthquakes, avalanches and
volcanic eruptions as the atmosphere heats up and geology is altered. Even Britain could face being struck by tsunamis
Scientists are to outline dramatic evidence that global warming threatens the planet in a new and unexpected way – by triggering earthquakes,
tsunamis, avalanches and volcanic eruptions.
Reports by international groups of researchers – to be presented at a London conference next week – will show that climate change, caused by
rising outputs of carbon dioxide from vehicles, factories and power stations, will not only affect the atmosphere and the sea but will alter the
geology of the Earth.
Melting glaciers will set off avalanches, floods and mud flows in the Alps and other mountain ranges; torrential rainfall in the UK is likely to cause
widespread erosion; while disappearing Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets threaten to let loose underwater landslides, triggering tsunamis that could
even strike the seas around Britain.
At the same time the disappearance of ice caps will change the pressures acting on the Earth's crust and set off volcanic eruptions across the globe.
Life on Earth faces a warm future – and a fiery one.
"Not only are the oceans and atmosphere conspiring against us, bringing baking temperatures, more powerful storms and floods, but the crust beneath
our feet seems likely to join in too," said Professor Bill McGuire, director of the Benfield Hazard Research Centre, at University College London
"Maybe the Earth is trying to tell us something," added McGuire, who is one of the organisers of UCL's Climate Forcing of Geological Hazards
conference, which will open on 15 September. Some of the key evidence to be presented at the conference will come from studies of past volcanic
activity. These indicate that when ice sheets disappear the number of eruptions increases, said Professor David Pyle, of Oxford University's earth
"The last ice age came to an end between 12,000 to 15,000 years ago and the ice sheets that once covered central Europe shrank dramatically," added
Pyle. "The impact on the continent's geology can by measured by the jump in volcanic activity that occurred at this time."
In the Eiffel region of western Germany a huge eruption created a vast caldera, or basin-shaped crater, 12,900 years ago, for example. This has since
flooded to form the Laacher See, near Koblenz. Scientists are now studying volcanic regions in Chile and Alaska – where glaciers and ice sheets are
shrinking rapidly as the planet heats up – in an effort to anticipate the eruptions that might be set off.
Last week scientists from Northern Arizona University reported in the journal Science that temperatures in the Arctic were now higher than at any time
in the past 2,000 years. Ice sheets are disappearing at a dramatic rate – and these could have other, unexpected impacts on the planet's geology