This story on Newsweek.com was published a month late, it would have been much more appropriate for April 1st rather than the 28th. Sadly it wasn’t meant as a joke the piece in Newsweek claims that the horrific earthquake in Nepal that took at least 5,000 lives was caused by climate change.
The untold – and terrifying – story behind the earthquake that devastated Nepal last Saturday morning begins with something that sounds quite benign. It’s the ebb and flow of rainwater in the great river deltas of India and Bangladesh, and the pressure that puts on the grinding plates that make up the surface of the planet.
Recently discovered, that causal factor is seen by a growing body of scientists as further proof that climate change can affect the underlying structure of the Earth.
Yep, the Earth hasn’t seen warming since December 1996 which means our mother planet waited 18 years and 4 months to geologically complain that it was too hot?
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Because of this understanding, a series of life-threatening “extreme geological events” – earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis – is predicted by a group of eminent geologists and geophysicists including University College London’s Bill McGuire, professor emeritus of Geophysical and Climate Hazards.
“Climate change may play a critical role in triggering certain faults in certain places where they could kill a hell of a lot of people,” says Professor McGuire. Some of his colleagues suspect the process may already have started.
What Newsweek doesn’t explain is why the same thing didn’t happen during the Roman Warming Period (approximately 250 BCE-400 CE) and the Medieval Warming Period (approximately 900 CE-1300 CE) when temperatures were as warm or even warmer than they are today.
An honest scientist would explain that the tragedy in Nepal, indeed the entire Himalayan Mountain chain was caused by two of the Earth’s tectonic plates crashing against each other. A few hundred-million years in the future all of the earth’s plates will have moved together forming a brand new supercontinent.
The 7.8-magnitude earthquake that devastated Nepal at the weekend is a stark reminder that the Earth-moving forces that shape continents are as active today as they were 4.5 billion years ago when our planet was in the throes of being formed.
“We were near the quake’s epicentre the day before it happened – and were near the epicentre of a major aftershock the day after,” says Curtin University geologist Zheng-Xiang Li, speaking from Lhasa. “We were here to study how the India-Eurasian collision had driven the uplift of the Tibetan Plateau and the rise of the Himalayas.”
From the looks of it, the super continent seems like a good thing, at the very least it will cut down flight times and for those who like to go on cruises, Atlantic trips will be much longer.
The evidence is compelling: GPS measurements show that the Atlantic Ocean is widening by a few centimetres a year. The Pacific Ocean, on the other hand, is narrowing at a similar rate.
“If this trend continues, within the next one or two hundred million years, the Pacific will have closed up – resulting in a collision between the American and the Eurasian continents,” Professor Li notes. “Australia, meanwhile, is set to join Amasia – in that we’re slowly but surely shifting by about seven centimetres a year towards Asia.
How ridiculous is the Newsweek claim? Well Steve Goddard who runs the Real Science blog (one of the best Global Warming sites) didn’t even try to argue against it–he just made it the subject of ridicule:
The argument that the horrific Earthquake in Nepal was caused by anything but plate tectonics is not only nonsense but it is fear mongering rather than scientific exploration which should be a search for the truth. It’s a shame that some would exploit the Nepal tragedy to promote additional fear.