Seismic Activity; Earthquakes, Volcanoes, Glaciers, and Drilling

Found some interesting articles about interrelationships regarding geological phenomena after the latest 8.8 earthquake in Chile. I’m posting the links that should present a logical pattern in order to incite some thought. Like I said after reading them, “Hmmmm?”

Did you know that earthquakes are related to volcanoes and caused by pressure, stress, and load build-up? Read:


Upheavals of land result from earthquakes and form mountain ranges or as stated in the previous link, volcanic mountain ranges tend to appear along faults.

Tectonic plates all relate to one another like a giant jigsaw puzzle comprising the earth’s crust. So pressure or a relatively quick release of pressure in one fault affects tectonic plates elsewhere. Huge glaciers that weigh billion of tons are rapidly melting and also affecting pressure on tectonic plates. Alaska’s coastlines are rising as a result of glaciers melting.

The last article stated some of Alaska’s wetlands are drying up because of the rise, think recent Alaskan wildfires.

Whenever tectonic plates move quickly they cause seismic waves that cause smaller tremors. Likewise glacier walls or peninsulas weighing billions that fall off into the sea produce seismic waves.

Seismic waves from melting glaciers may cause increased earthquakes in Alaska and we know there are volcanoes up there too. Notice this article is from 2004.

Small earthquakes caused from seismic waves from melting glaciers in Greenland.

Gathering any insight into tectonic plates worldwide and what affects them? We should consider the plates are a little more active due to accelerated glacier melt in both poles and some pretty big chunks crumbling into the sea. The latest jar in Antarctica came from an iceberg breaking off the size of Luxembourg the day before the big earthquake in Chile. And that was after another mammoth glacier hit the latest to break off earlier in the month. Hmmmm? Did that affect the earthquakes in Haiti or Chile.

So weight on the earth’s lithosphere affects tectonic plates, as well as pressure below. Atmospheric pressure also plays a role in what are called “slow” earthquakes. For instance, typhoons (hurricanes) cause slow earthquakes.

Atmospheric pressure has never been thought to be great enough to affect tectonic plates but now there is evidence that it spurs “slow” earthquakes. Atmospheric pressure may more easily influence seismic activity due to weakened fault lines from massive earthquakes like Indonesia 2004.

If atmospheric pressure can affect tectonic plates when it was long held that it could not, then oil or natural gas drilling may also affect tectonic plates by drilling into continental crust and oceanic crust. Seismic activity for oil drilling is low, but there are 3,000 oilrigs worldwide.

We’ve caused tremors from natural gas drilling already.
Drilling causes quake in U.S.

And geophysical hazards research scientist, Christian Klose, from Columbia University in New York, has done many peer reviewed publications about human activity inducing earthquakes. I shouldn’t be using this website as it is an online encyclopedia but there is a lot of information in the article about earthquakes from coal mining, water extraction, and gas exploration.

In this light, shouldn’t there be more investigation about mining and drilling? We’re ramping up natural gas exploration everywhere that pumps chemicals/water 1000’s of feet into the ground under great pressure. Remember what causes earthquakes—pressure and stress? Ditto for pumping CO2 into the ground.

Congress might learn more about humans affecting seismic activity as they investigate natural gas drilling for other reasons.


16 thoughts on “Seismic Activity; Earthquakes, Volcanoes, Glaciers, and Drilling

  1. Why do you focus on the drilling process (i.e. moving the earth physically, injecting chemicals, etc.) as a cause rather than the after-effect of removing these huge volumes of natural gas and oil?

  2. It was stated that the amount of oil/gas withdrawn was minuscle in the big picture but your reference to the weight of glacies and ice fields on the poles, and subsequent lessening of it as they melt, made me consider that oil also may have the same effect and if the empty canyons left after drilling an oil well dry has no impact, the loss of the weight of the oil against the underlying earth may have a small but important roll in the shifting of tetonic plates/volanic activity.

  3. That’s quite a thought. I wonder how much weight is involved with thousands of gallons of oil? Water weighs 7 lbs. per gallon. Does an empty oil cavern eventually fill with water? Ditto for mines of which the U.S. has more than 100,000 that are empty, that is unless the coal companies didn’t fill them up with coal ash like they are want to do.

    Good question!

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