Climate change linked to quakes

European research claiming global warming might spark earthquakes and tsunamis is being treated cautiously by New Zealand scientists.

Vulcanologists, seismologists, glaciologists, climatologists and landslide experts met in London this month to discuss geological hazards related to climate upheaval.

Professor Bill McGuire, of University College London, the organiser of the three-day conference, said when land-based ice shelves melted, the Earth's crust bounced back up, triggering earthquakes which sparked submarine landslides and tsunamis.

"Climate change doesn't just affect the atmosphere and the oceans but the Earth's crust as well. The whole Earth is an interactive system," he told Reuters.

Victoria University professor Martha Savage, a seismology expert, said she had seen one published paper on the topic.

Global warming might cause a small increase in earthquakes, she said.

"I think it's really tiny – it [global warming] has a much stronger effect on creating more tornadoes and hurricanes than creating more earthquakes."

National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research principal climate scientist James Renwick said the theory was reasonable because major ice sheets put huge weight on the Earth's crust. The processes of ice sheet melting and the geological response happened slowly.

"I wouldn't see it as terrifically relevant day-by-day or year-by-year to what's happening here right now."

The Press