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Can climate change make the bed rock?

Warmer temperatures might have caused a prehistoric Sicilian volcanic landslide as well as several recent avalanches on the white slopes of Alaska, New Zealand, and the Alps. These two studies are published today in a special issue of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A investigating the thrust of climate change on geological hazards.

UK scientists Kim Deeming, Bill McGuire, and Paul Harrop looked closely at an ancient collapse on Mount Etna in Sicily, concluding that it was likely triggered by a warm and wet period in the early Holocene around 10,000 years ago.

The most prominent feature on Mount Etna is Valle del Bove, a natural amphitheatre over 1,000 times larger than the Colosseum and bounded by kilometre-high cliffs — excavated from the eastern flank of the volcano in a catastrophic collapse. The researchers calculated the amount of time the surface was exposed to extraterrestrial cosmic rays and found that the collapse happened 7,500 years ago, around the time when the weather was warmer and wetter.

Rain and meltwater from snow and ice that cap the volcano can interact with fresh magma, causing pressures to build within the pores of rocks, which destabilizes slopes, they propose. The warmer and wetter conditions to come, the authors suggest, may increase potential for volcano collapses.

Mt. Cook.JPGWithin the past couple decades, snowy and icy slopes have been failing more. An international team of researchers led by Christian Huggel from the University of Zurich in Switzerland analyzed weather patterns in the days and weeks before slope failures on three continents. They found that all the avalanches followed unusually warm periods that ended with sudden temperature drops.

In 1991, rock and ice detached from the eastern face of New Zealand’s Aoraki/Mount Cook (pictured) and scoured the surface as it travelled 7.5 km. In the week immediately before the avalanche, temperatures warmed to 14.4 degrees Celsius at the base of the detachment zone, then rapidly cooled to subfreezing temperatures. Rapid thaws from short-term, unusually warm temperatures enhance water production, which reduce the shear strength of the rock; and the sudden refreezing blocks the movement of meltwater in the bedrock, causing destabilizing pressure changes.

This was also observed on Mounts Steller and Miller in Alaska in 2008, as well as in two epic avalanches in the last five years on Monte Rosa in the Alps. The authors think that large slope failures will increase in high-mountain areas as the number of warm extreme events increase.

In the keynote review, McGuire writes, “Periods of exceptional climate change in Earth history are associated with a dynamic response from the geosphere.” Responses include volcanic activity, earthquakes, landslides, tsunamis, glacial outbursts, rock-dam failure floods, debris flows, and destabilizations of gas-hydrates, which are crystalline solids consisting of gas molecules encaged by water molecules. According to McGuire, anthropogenic climate change doesn’t just affect oceans and the atmosphere.

This set of 14 papers came out of the Third Johnston–Lavis Colloquium addressing the issue of climate forcing of geological and geomorphological hazards held at University College London in September 2009.

Image: Mount Cook by I. Owens


  1. Report this comment

    被リンクを増やす said:

    The climate change is continuing, but seems there’s not way to stop it…

  2. Report this comment

    John H Coelho said:

    I’m very sorry to say that you have fallen down the rabbit hole with Alice. How many more straws are you going to grasp at to try to keep this AGW going after the CRU data has been found to be absolutely false and possibly criminally fals. CO2 is NOT a greenhouse gas. Ask why the powers that be want to tax something that we all exhale and that plants need for photosynthesis. Reducing pollution generally is something to be applauded and supported for our own health, however, CO2 has been classified in surreal Kafkaesque manner that journals like yours should be, but are not for some reason, pointing out.

    The Iceland volcano has done more to point out the folly of trying to falsely blame individuals for living their less than perfect ecological lives and not pointing out the larger political agendas that tend to corrupt true science.

    Try to go back to real critical thinking. It is your responsibility to the public and humanity as a whole.

    Thank you.

    John C.

  3. Report this comment

    Martin Jones said:

    How much did Al Gore pay you to write this Warmist-Scare piece?

    I havent read such gibberish science since the last time I read Grimms Tales.

    The politicisation of Science is going to be the death of it.

    And if REAL scientists don’t start standing up for REAL science soon, then they will have no-one to blame but themselves.

    Next week – Global Warming cause the Big Bang!

  4. Report this comment

    Tom in Ottawa said:

    Once again the menace of Dihydrogen Monoxide is seen for what it really is, the scourge (literally) of planet Earth! Yes, this chemical compound is a MONOXIDE, the same as CARBON MONOXIDE — and we all know how deadly CO is to life!

    Please contact your (s)elected representative ASAP and raise the alarm about DIHYDROGEN MONOXIDE.

    Its time to take care of this problem once and for all!!!

  5. Report this comment

    Dr. Richard Welser said:

    Regarding the article: lol.

    now let’s see…. this isn’t spam. It isn’t irrelevant material (such as product advertisements) etc. My comment is brief and to the point. It is not excessively long or offensively phrased….

  6. Report this comment

    Bonnie said:

    Ha,ha,ha. Good one!

    I have a bridge to sell you!

    Really, you obviously, think that We, the Grassroots, are still stupid “peasants” from the Middle Ages, and believe everything our Overlords tell us.

  7. Report this comment

    Nick Fraser said:

    My god, are you guys still around? Have you not gone back into your holes yet? Has the shame and the thought of your future children and grandchildren still not shut you up? Despite the clearance, yeah right, clearance, of the CRU people, the acknowledgement by the British government that the hype about the hacked emails was nothing else but just that? Are you so poor in mind and spirit that you just keep on coming on, yeah?

    Well then… over to you.

    I always thought, how are you going to explain this to your children, but then I look at Germany, and nobody explained nothing to the children… nevermind.

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