GDB2 | Does climate change affect earthquake risks?
Does climate change affect earthquake risks?
Co-sponsored by JpGU, DGGV, and AGU
Convener: Mary Antonette Beroya-Eitner | Co-conveners: Fabrice Cotton, Kate NelsonECSECS
| Thu, 18 Apr, 08:30–10:15 (CEST)
Room E1
Thu, 08:30
Studies in recent years have provided evidence for the potential link between climate change and increased earthquake activity. For instance, seismicity has been shown to increase in former glaciated regions (Hampel et al., 2010; Stewart et al., 2000). An explanation for this is that glacier melting reduces the massive weight on the earth’s crust, causing it to bounce back through the process known as “isostatic rebound” (Masih, 2018). While this may be applicable in regions of extensive ice sheets like Greenland and Antarctica, the mechanism is less clear in areas of smaller ice caps.
Meanwhile, droughts that are expected to intensify in a warming climate have been identified as another potential trigger for increased seismicity. Alternating periods of drought and heavy rain have been shown to cause the “rise and fall” of mountain ranges (Argus et al., 2017), the resulting stress changes of which could potentially be felt on nearby faults, particularly where these faults are already in a critical state. Amos et al. (2014) also showed that excessive groundwater pumping, which is exacerbated during droughts, may cause stress regime change on nearby faults by “unweighting” the earth’s crust. In the Appenines, trends in the temporal correlation between geodetic displacement and seismicity indicate that the poroelastic deformation resulting from karst aquifer recharge is modulating the occurrence rate of seismicity (D’Agostino et al., 2018, Picozzi et al., 2022)
Moreover, a recent study (Steer et al., 2020) shows that typhoons, which are expected to intensify in the future, could temporarily change the seismicity of a region significantly. Super typhoons could cause extensive erosion and landslides, removing enormous loads that could then change the state of stress in the upper part of the Earth’s crust. Li et al. (2020) arrived at a similar conclusion, attributing several M>6 earthquakes in Central Taiwan to typhoon-induced erosion and landslides.
From the foregoing, are we now really uncovering how deeply sensitive our planet is, and how interconnected its systems are? Could changes in our atmospheric, hydrospheric and cryospheric systems as a result of climate change really bring about damaging geospheric processes such as earthquakes? Where are we in terms of understanding this connection? How will this affect the way we evaluate and mitigate seismic risks? These are among the questions we are hoping our proposed Great Debate session can shed light to.

Session assets

Session materials

Programme: Thu, 18 Apr | Room E1

Chairpersons: Mary Antonette Beroya-Eitner, Fabrice Cotton