Melting glaciers in Alaska causing frequent earthquakes, study finds

Researchers have said that massive glacier loss in Alaska could be causing earthquakes with a magnitude of 5.0 or greater since the past century. According to a recently published research article, scientists with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute, melting glaciers and shifting tectonic plates may be contributing to the rise in earthquakes in the region. Scientists, in their study, suggested that the ground underneath the enormous glacier pops up like a spongy mattress after pressure is removed, which causes tectonic plates to change positions and in turn triggers earthquakes.

Melting ice resulting in rebound of EarthMeltig glaciers

The study, published in Science Daily, says that earthquakes are common after glacier melts, such as in places like Canada and Scandinavia. But the pattern has been harder to detect, particularly in Alaska, where earthquakes occur regularly in the southern part of the region. Southern Alaska is located on the boundary between the North American tectonic plate and the pacific plate and the constant collusion causes frequent earthquakes.

“There are two components to the uplift. There’s what’s called the ‘elastic effect,’ which is when the earth instantly springs back up after an ice mass is removed. Then there’s the prolonged effect from the mantle flowing back upwards under the vacated space,” Chris Rollins, the study’s lead author who conducted the research while at the Geophysical Institute, said in the article.

According to the study, the melting ice in South-East Alaska is causing the land to rise at about 1.5 inches per year. Rollins studied models of earth movement and ice loss since the 1700s and he found a correlation between earthquakes and melting glaciers. Rollins said that melting ice is not directly linked with earthquakes in the region, but it can determine the timing and severity of one.

(Image Credit: AP)

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