By: Srija Bhattacharya
You might have heard about the Great Galveston Hurricane in 1900. It was a category 4 hurricane, and was the most powerful hurricane to ever hit the United States. Maybe you’ve heard of the earthquake in Nepal on April 25, 2015. This was the biggest earthquake to strike within that region in the past 80 years, hitting a whopping 7.8 magnitude. But what does climate change have to do with earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters? Scientists have been theorizing that there are links between global warming and natural disasters such as those that can and will cause large amounts of damage.
First, let’s talk about earthquakes. “Climate change may play a critical role in triggering certain faults in certain places where they could kill a lot of people,” said Professor Bill McGuire, a professor at University College London. What this means is that seismic faults are very sensitive to small pressure changes brought on by climate change. An example of this is the ice caps melting. When they melt, they change the weight load of the planet and take a large amount of weight off the Earth’s crust. This results in an isotonic rebound (in this case the Earth’s crust bouncing back) which can lead to the reactivation of faults and an increase of seismic activity.
There are many other connections of climate change to earthquakes and other natural disasters such as the explanation that (because of global warming) “magma in the Earth’s core is heating up, raising the Earth’s temperature and causing eruptions and earthquakes.” (Bill McGuire.) There have been multiple small cases around the world that show how changes in global climate may affect the frequencies of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, catastrophic seafloor landslides, and other cataclysms. Although such events haven’t occurred yet on the West Coast, they will in the future. In fact, Hawaii’s hurricane season has already become more active and started to greatly intensify.
Climate change causing hurricanes was actually a hot debate in the past and it was especially difficult to prove the connection with a lack of data from hurricanes in the past, before satellites were invented. However, there were a few monitoring stations found along the eastern seaboard of the US that recorded tide levels back from 1923. This uncovered a large gap of missing undocumented hurricane data, that can now be used to continue and strengthen the debate of how hurricanes are affected by climate change. “I have looked at every time there was a rapid change in sea level and I could see there was a close correlation between sudden changes in sea level and historical accounts of tropical storms," Dr Grinsted (found the monitoring stations.) And unfortunately, due to climate change, sea levels are changing because our ice caps are melting and flooding out to sea.
On the other side of the world in Asia, climate change is causing floods in Jakarta, and snowstorms in Nepal. Since our polar ice caps are melting, our sea levels are rising too. Jakarta has many islands that are strewn between straits and seas in between the Pacific and Indian Oceans which are being flooded. On the other hand, snowstorms are being caused because global warming leads to hotter air which can hold more moisture and transitions into more heavy snow. The more moisture the snow is available to, the heavier the snowfall. Nepal is closer to the equator than US so it is already pretty hot plus the rising temperatures because of climate change will make for some pretty disastrous snowstorms.
In Africa, climate change has deepened their droughts. These droughts are being caused because the temperatures are rising due to climate change, moisture is being evaporated from the land and water, leaving less water behind. Meanwhile, in Australia and South America, huge heatwaves are occurring. These continents are extremely close to the equator as it is so the average temperature is very hot. Now due to climate change, it is rising earth’s temperature and making these two places hotter than usual which is leading to these heatwaves.
These are only some of the events due to climate change happening around the world right now, and this is only the begin of what climate change will do to us. If we continually disregard what our actions do to our environment, we’ll not only be setting up a hot future but a geologically unstable one, we’ll be facing disasters worse than the past. However, there are some things you can change in your everyday life to make even the slightest impact such converting to solar powered energy or using electric cars. So, take that extra step and time in your lives to set up a better world for yourself, and the rest of our coming generations.