Glacier Collapse Causing Major Uptick In Greenland Earthquakes

Incidents of 5.0+ quakes up by a factor of seven

Melting Greenland Glaciers The Greenland ice sheet is losing 47 cubic miles of ice a year


Writing in the peer-reviewed journal Science, a team of scientists from Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory reports that the sudden uptick in Greenland’s seismic activity is due to massive hunks of calving glacial ice collapsing back onto the main glacier. As the “speed” of Arctic glaciers increases due to faster melting, more large end shards break off. Often, these huge chunks flip backward onto the front of the glacier. The event causes the front of the glacier to compress and actually reverse direction briefly. The water pressure behind the falling chunk decreases rapidly, while pulling the main glacier down a few inches. That also pushed the land mass upward. Hence, an earthquake.

The process happens in relatively slow motion, but causes quakes ranging from 4.6 to 5.4. The calving ice ends up in the ocean, where it melts, adding to rapid sea level rise. The ice was not previously in the ocean at all, which accounts for the increased water volume around the world.

Measurements were recorded by sensors and cameras placed on the Helheim Glacier, which is advancing to the ocean at a rate of 100 feet per day.


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