Really? You had to ask this question?

Click image for the story. h/t to WUWT reader “Eric”.

I’m always amazed at the lack of historical perspective some people have related to natural disasters. It’s doubly amazing when reporters who work in newspapers, who have huge archive resources at their disposal, don’t even bother to look. Here’s some excerpts from the story:

“There is certainly some literature that talks about the increased occurrence of volcanic eruptions and the removing of load from the crust by deglaciation,” said Martin Sharp, a glaciologist at the University of Alberta. “It changes the stress load in the crust and maybe it opens up routes for lava to come to the surface.

“It is conceivable that there would be some increase in earthquake activity during periods of rapid changes on the Earth’s crust.”

Other scientists, however, believe that tectonic movements similar to the one that caused the Japanese quake are too deep in the Earth to be affected by the pressure releases caused by glacier melt.

Some experts claim that jump can be explained by the increased number of seismograph stations — more than 8,000 now, up from 350 in 1931 — allowing scientists to pinpoint earthquakes that would otherwise have been missed.

But this does not explain the recent increase in major earthquakes, which are defined as above 6 on the Richter magnitude scale. Japan’s earthquake was a 9.

Scientists have been tracking these powerful quakes for well over a century and it’s unlikely that they have missed any during at least the last 60 years.

According to data from the U.S. Geological Survey there were 1,085 major earthquakes in the 1980s. This increased in the 1990s by about 50 per cent to 1,492 and to 1,611 from 2000 to 2009. Last year, and up to and including the Japanese quake, there were 247 major earthquakes.

There has been also a noticeable increase in the sort of extreme quakes that hit Japan. In the 1980s, there were four mega-quakes, six in the 1990s and 13 in the last decade. So far this decade we have had two. This increase, however, could be temporary.


A couple of faults in the argument, from the NYT, 1879:

As many as 200,000 people died in the 1855 quake.

And again in 1896:

and also….1923

Where was “global warming” then?

h/t to Steve Goddard, who has been doing a lot of historical research here:


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You forgot the part where it was conservative firebrands that actually accused scientists of blaming global warming for the earthquakes in Japan. They manufactured an issue and statement that just wasn’t there to beat environmentalists over the head with it. All they were saying is that isostatic adjustment can lead to increased seismic activity, which is possible. I’m not sure how any of your recent historical information applies to the pretty well understood process of isostatic rebound.

JRR Canada

Never question a liberal arts or media majors religion, its all they have as they have yet to develope reasoning ability.Talking points, must have talking points…..Canadian education system is a shining example of nanny state education, please note cousins to the south, this is where federal run education will take you, save your children, defund the state.


Of course global warming is causing these earthquakes! It’s obvious. Just the Chile and Alaska ones were caused by global cooling. When the earth heats up it expands and that causes earthquakes and when it cools down it contracts and causes earthquakes and we humans are to blame but we can pay penance in the form of a carbon tax and all feel good again. /sarc
I’m embarrassed to be on the same planet as those people much less the same city. God help us all.

Not to speak about the even more tenuous claims that the increase in solar activity causes mega-earthquakes.

Sam Patterson

TreeHugger did a similar article, where they tried to link climate change and tsunamis. I wrote about it here:
Typical environmental ‘journalism’.

Douglas Dc

Japan is a land of Earthquakes and Tsunamis. Geez ,folks, let’s have a bit of perspective
Warmists think history began 30 years ago…

Pamela Gray

My guess is that if one side or section of the ring of fire moves a lot (slips down, slips over, or slides), adjacent and opposite sides of a plate would respond to that movement at least in some domino fashion. When a plate slips up or down on one edge, or slides this way or that way against the edge of another plate, physical science theories relating to plate tectonics seems the place to go for the null hypothesis regarding the notion that global warming has any connection to swarms of earthquakes. The energy behind that movement, a calculable amount, is WAY, WAY, WAY more powerful than these other wild guesses.


I’m surpirsed they didn’t say that global warming causes an increase in atmospheric moisture with increased precipitation that “greases” the fault lines to slip, causing more earthquakes.

a jones

Quite so.
I am always amazed how people think something is new: there is nothing new under the sun.
Dr. Pielke Jr. has an excellent chart on this here:
Looks pretty random to me, but if you doubt your eyeballing no doubt with Matlab and the rest to torture the data you can probably get some sort of correlation to something: if I could be bothered I would try shipping movements. I am sure Smokey would prefer pirates. Whatever.
Kindest Regards

Rob R

Isostatic adjustment from what exactly?

Luther Wu

If the warmistas are really going to blame isostatic rebound as a reason behind the Japan quake, then I’ll be the first person to blame the Greenies for their insistence on such schemes as Geothermal heat extraction which is far more likely to cause rumblings from below.


Everything is blamed on global warming or whatever the phrase of the day is. ‘Hoomans’ are silly. This blue marble just proved it.
Oh well.. that’s life.

Par for the course when it comes to the AGW ideologists. Soon, everything will be caused by ‘man-made global warming,’ which is mathematically impossible to ever occur on Earth.
Once again, the failure of the mainstream media and AGW ideologists to look up – at the Sun – for it is there that they will find the answers. But, don’t hold your breath until AGW is nailed completely shut in the coffin in which it always belonged.

John F. Hultquist

One of the largest earthquakes ever was off of the Washington coast on January 26, about 9 P. M. in 1700. An M 9.

Baa Humbug

When can we see a graph of this increase in earthquakes? In the shape of a hockey stick no doubt.

It’s my understanding that much of the glacier recession we’ve seen since the LIA occurred before 1950. If that’s the case, the worst of the rebounding should have occurred then, not 60 years later.


I am not sure where you are getting the “conservative firebrands” from…I dont see any mention of it in the article. In fact the first 3 paragraphs set up the reporters agenda perfectly…What could possibly be causing all of these big quakes? Why, climate change, of course!
“Lubricating plates…” please…the Japan quake was located 1000’s of feet underwater, I dont think some glacial melt water is having any effect there.

JRR Canada says:
March 15, 2011 at 8:07 pm
Never question a liberal arts or media majors religion, its all they have as they have yet to develope reasoning ability.Talking points, must have talking points…..Canadian education system is a shining example of nanny state education, please note cousins to the south, this is where federal run education will take you, save your children, defund the state.

Speaking as a college teacher, all I can say is that when it comes to Canadian education, it really is “worse than we thought.”

Jeff L

As a geologist and a amateur meteorologist, this article makes me want to cry , laugh & hurl , all at the same time. I mean – come on – where do I start? 10,000 years since the last melt down & we are just seeing the effects now ??? And using the title (global warming is synonymous with AGW in the public’s mind) to imply mankind has something to do with it …. And as correctly pointed out, where’s the historical perspective??? And has anyone actually related stress field changes to rebound & related those stress field changes to earthquakes & volcanic eruptions. Last time I checked, neither were predictable but it is suggested the cause is known. I am not convinced, to say the least.


When the Washington Naval Treaty was signed in 1923, the Imperial Japanese Navy had the four Amagi class battlecruisers planned and under construction. The terms of the treaty meant that none of these ships could be completed as designed, but the treaty allowed for a certain amount of this tonnage to be completed as aircraft carriers.
The Amagi and the Akagi were selected for this purpose, and both were a-building when the Great Kantō earthquake hit Tokyo on 1 September 1923. The hull of the Amagi was so badly damaged that it had to be declared a total loss. In its place, the incomplete Tosa-class battleship Kaga was constructed as an aircraft carrier, and together the Kaga and Akagi made up the First Carrier Division of the Kido Butai (the Mobile Force carrying the 1st Air Fleet in the strike on Pearl Harbor).
The international response to the Kantō earthquake in 1923 was immediate and unprecedented, particularly on the part of both the U.S. government and the American people.
And it should surprise nobody that in 1923 the Asiatic Fleet – the predecessor of today’s U.S. Seventh Fleet – figured swiftly in the response to that devastating loss of life suffered by the Japanese people.

Pamela Gray

Here we go again. Blame the public school. What if it’s the adults who become stupid AFTER they grow up????? I know of more than one person who was pretty smart all through school and then got really stupid as an adult.
Remember, children spend their time constantly learning new things (and questioning adults). Adults spend their time telling others what they know, and usually don’t spend much time questioning it.
So for all those folks who think they know what public school teachers are telling their students, my instruction to you, as a teacher, is to question that assumption. Or else you paint yourself with the same color you are slopping on others.


I’m from Calgary and trust me, there is probably NO city in the western hemisphere where the people are LESS bought into global warming alarmism. The major industry is oil and gas and it’s the most small-c conservative city in Canada. I’m actually kind of shocked to see that article appear in the Herald.

John Q Public

There’s been an increase in moronic journalists and gullible readers, as well. Likely caused by Global Warming … and evil spirits.


Sure isostatic rebound can and will change stress in the upper crust leading to possible earthquakes when huge inlandsis are disappearing as per Martin Sharp correct statement. However, a generalization of this supposed to blame the regional warmings -remember there are zones cooling too- is simply preposterous. Moreover, one would imagine that this would concern intraplate quakes where ice sheets are located as opposed to plate boundary quakes that are related to plate cinematic and internal processes. Like it or not, molten rock convection occurs in the Mantle and drives plate tectonic regardless of the IPCC…
The following link shows that virtually all of the 16 strongest magnitude quakes have been located around the Pacific since 1900. This distribution and the fact that the more powerful the quake, the least often it will happen, suggest that none of these are linked to a “Global Warming 0.7C surface temperature according to GHCN data” induced isostatic rebound but simply are due to the internal dynamics of the planet. One would have to worry about seasonal quakes between summer and winter temperatures…
Japan statistical facts also make a moquery of this latest alarmism:
“The Japan Trench subduction zone has hosted nine events of magnitude 7 or greater since 1973. The largest of these, a M 7.8 earthquake approximately 260 km to the north of the March 11 epicenter, caused 3 fatalities and almost 700 injuries in December 1994. In June of 1978, a M 7.7 earthquake 35 km to the southwest of the March 11 epicenter caused 22 fatalities and over 400 injuries. Large offshore earthquakes have occurred in the same subduction zone in 1611, 1896 and 1933 that each produced devastating tsunami waves on the Sanriku coast of Pacific NE Japan. That coastline is particularly vulnerable to tsunami waves because it has many deep coastal embayments that amplify tsunami waves and cause great wave inundations. The M 7.6 subduction earthquake of 1896 created tsunami waves as high 38 m and a reported death toll of 22,000. The M 8.6 earthquake of March 2, 1933 produced tsunami waves as high as 29 m on the Sanriku coast and caused more than 3000 fatalities.
The March 11, 2011 earthquake was an infrequent catastrophe. It far surpassed other earthquakes in the southern Japan Trench of the 20th century, none of which attained M8. A predecessor may have occurred on July 13, 869, when the Sendai area was swept by a large tsunami that Japanese scientists have identified from written records and a sand sheet. ”
(sarc on) Geez, 1611 is in the middle of the LIA…
And finally since runaway Global warming is happening we all know the upper crust is also melting and becoming much less crusty, therefore a warming globe should see much less quakes since the crust is becoming less brittle… (sarc off).

Mark Twang

The stoopid. It just never quits.


The “increase in major earthquakes (above 6 on the Richter scale)” couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the fact that the actual Richter scale only goes up to 7 could it? The Richter scale was only reasonably accurate to 6.8 then became meaningless.
Since 1979 seismic activity has actually been measured on the Moment Magnitude Scale (MW) and expressed as MW units, and goes to a maximum of 10.
True, the two scales are roughly equivalent (but only up to 7 obviously), but that is no good reason for the press to go saying “X on the Richter scale” when it has been defunct for 32 years now.


I think you are missing their point, earthquakes are increasing in numbers over the last few decades…. wait a second, thinking, thinking, no…YES…. hey couldn’t the increase in earthquakes over the past few decades explain the rise in global temperatures?


Good grief! I’m seldom ashamed to say I’m a geologist.
The mere fact that they can find people form my profession to even speculate on such a connection is downright embarrassing.
At least I passed graduate level earthquake seismology. I doubt they can claim the same.


Didn’t the glaciers across North America like recede back when we were rubbing sticks together and so this “rebound” has been going on for like, um, 1000’s of years? I’m not knowledgeable about such things. Maybe the good folks can clue me in. Thanks!

John Blake

About BC 5200, past Earth’s 1,500-year impact-induced Younger Dryas “cold shock” that definitively ended the last Ice Age, isostatic forces resulting from melting Scandinavian glaciers precipitated an earthquake that sent a huge tsunami down the English Channel, eastward through the Mediterranean, then towering up the Dardanelles to Marmara where it breached the sill protecting the mile-deep Euxine Basin.
The resulting Black Sea Flood filled the entire Euxine in no more than forty days, scattering immemorial populations which had taken refuge there for thirty thousand years. Ethnographic, genomic, linguistic evidence agrees that the subsequent diaspora spread Indo-European cultures from Mesopotamia and Egypt east to the Indus Valley, northwest to Caucasus regions and southern Scandinavia.
So climate shifts indeed may entail regional catastrophe. But AGW Global Warming is a fool’s hypothesis, lacking any demonstrable scientific rationale whatever. Cataclysms even on massive Black Sea scales are brute-force natural phenomena, and that is all.

richard verney

Given that the plates are not homogenous, nor smooth nor oiled, it is not surprising that as they move relative to one another, frictional forces will be generated of a totally random nature.
Data going back 60 or 100 years is meaningless in the geographical time scale and cannot show a trend. Can one imagine what forces were generated when there was the breakup of the continents and for example when the Himalayas were formed?
Whilst I cannot imagine that there is any merit in this wild speculation, has anyone who puts forward the proposal that it has something to do with the reduction of pressure caused by glacier melt checked to see the pattern of earthquakes and to what extent this involves plates affected by glacier melt. Unless there is at least a first blush correlation, it is difficult to take such suggestion with any degree of seriousness.

Rattus Norvegicus

It’s fine to ask this question as long as the answer you come up with is “no”, but the premise of the question is silly.
I hope that someone has written to the author pointing out that she really made a fool of herself here.


While the crust may suffer from problems of weight of tremendous glacial ice sheets, I don’t think there were any at the location of this particular earthquake.. and I’m having a hard time trying to figure out how the plate that Greenland sits on perturbs the pacific plate so much as to cause this kind of problem..
*sigh* I just know the aliens above watching all this are just laughing their asses off. The ad rates they must charge for this must see TV have to be phenomenal..

Eric Anderson

I would be pretty skeptical of anyone who claimed to have established a link between global warming and increased earthquakes, but framed less generally and more specifically, there could be legitimate questions asked here.
Setting aside for the moment the contentious question of whether and how much net land-based glacier melting has actually occurred in the past few decades, *assuming* there has been x amount of glacier melting in a particular location, how much isostatic rebound is estimated to have occurred, to what depth does such rebound reach, and what stresses are placed on the adjacent plates as a result? Lots of open questions to be sure and my sense is that we don’t have anywhere near enough data to draw any conclusions yet, but these are legitimate things to study.
It is of course an entirely separate question whether man’s activities have had any meaningful influence on the assumed glacier melt in recent decades, and even if so, whether there is anything to be done about it. If the melting trend is due to natural causes, or if man’s influence is swamped by natural causes, then there is nothing to be done about it. The best course of action may be to adapt by continuing and extending the already-existing trend of building more earthquake-resistant structures and, please, if you are located right next to the sea, put some of the key safety components in a place where they can’t become inoperative just by getting flooded.

Where did the matter that the glaciers consist of go to? I thought matter could not be created or destroyed? Obviously the weight is still present on the crust, just shifted from the form of snow and ice, to water and its in the sea.


I believe we need to sacrifice quite a few virgins into volcanoes so as to stop this. These AGW’s desperately need to know at least a little something about human nature but I’m not optimistic.


And those weren’t the Great Ansei Earthquakes of 1854 and 1855. Two 8.4s and one 6.9. The Ansei Edo, the 6.9, was DIRECTLY under the city of Edo. Today the town is known as “Tokyo.”

Al Gored

“It is conceivable that there would be some increase in earthquake activity during periods of rapid changes on the Earth’s crust.”
It is conceivable that melting glaciers do as claimed. Canada must have been shaking steady as the Continental Ice Sheets receded.
It is also conceivable that masturbation causes earthquakes.
Really, just about anything is “conceivable.
This story is seriously pathetic. How do these ‘journalist’ find such ‘experts’ to say what they want to hear to make up their stories?


Provenance once again proves that nature dishes out disasters irregardless of current technological sophistication or lack thereof.
Kudos to you, Steve, for getting out ahead of the curveball, for as we have been reminded of by the dooming of the drums…
Global Warming causes everything….. NOT.

Paul R

I think our opponents have serious issues with scale, they forgot all about the poor old Kiwi’s as well in that piece of rubbish article.


Eric Anderson says:
March 15, 2011 at 9:14 pm
It would seem logical to assume that Global Warming would cause the crust to become more plastic, whereas Global Cooling would cause it to contract and become more brittle, if in fact Warming and Cooling of the crust is accomplished by Climate.
Hey, didn’t we just witness the SSTs go from anomalously warm to cool in Japan the past 2 weeks?
Send $$$ and I will look into it.


possibly Cosmic Rays

Yesterday a CCTV interviewer/anchor asked an “expert” on earthquakes if there was a connection between the earthquakes and tsunami in the Ring of Fire and “human interaction with the environment”
Mercifully the expert simply ignored this utter stupidity and talked past her.


I follow a few geology and volcanic oriented blogs. Whenever something interesting happens, a person will show up an start harping “doom.” What doesn’t help is when a “respectable” news outlet runs stock footage of an eruption to go along with a report that a particular volcano had an eruption. Then they try to equate the new eruption with the earthquake. Too bad that particular volcano had sprung back to life several weeks ago. Through all the reading, the sifting through B/S, and the doom… one thing has become pretty clear. The Japanese don’t sweat Mt Fuji very much. They do sweat a repeat of the Tōkai quake. It’s like… beat into them from kindergarten onwards.
Something that weighs that heavy in the social fabric has to have been pretty significant. Seeing as it happened in 1854, I don’t think it fits the global warming mantra.

JDN from Calgary

I gave up reading the Calgary Herald many years ago. No regrets.

I don’t think our idiots are any worse overall than any other countries idiots.
While we are home (ugh!) to David Suziki. And GreenPeace was started here in Vancouver. We also can claim Steve McIntrye and Ross McKitrick. So hopefully things even out in the end.


@bhr – 8:55
I’m finding that the Herald is becoming more and more of a rag of late – carrying water for the warmists – in spite of the truth of your assessment of the general view of AGW within Calgary


I haven’t noticed too many glaciers extending off the east coast of Japan disappearing recently. But there again, I have not been keeping an eye on that!
I hope Calgary, where there are more geologists per square foot than any place on earth, will hammer the Calgary Herald for such rubbish

P.G. Sharrow

Everyone knows CO2 causes quakes. When very large amounts of liquid CO2 are pumped down deep boreholes quakes happen. ;-p pg


removing of load from the crust by deglaciation,” said Martin Sharp
Melting glaciers in Indonesia?