Royal Society Publishing

Response of faults to climate-driven changes in ice and water volumes on Earth’s surface

Andrea Hampel , Ralf Hetzel , Georgios Maniatis

Abstract

Numerical models including one or more faults in a rheologically stratified lithosphere show that climate-induced variations in ice and water volumes on Earth’s surface considerably affect the slip evolution of both thrust and normal faults. In general, the slip rate and hence the seismicity of a fault decreases during loading and increases during unloading. Here, we present several case studies to show that a postglacial slip rate increase occurred on faults worldwide in regions where ice caps and lakes decayed at the end of the last glaciation. Of note is that the postglacial amplification of seismicity was not restricted to the areas beneath the large Laurentide and Fennoscandian ice sheets but also occurred in regions affected by smaller ice caps or lakes, e.g. the Basin-and-Range Province. Our results do not only have important consequences for the interpretation of palaeoseismological records from faults in these regions but also for the evaluation of the future seismicity in regions currently affected by deglaciation like Greenland and Antarctica: shrinkage of the modern ice sheets owing to global warming may ultimately lead to an increase in earthquake frequency in these regions.

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