Global warming increases Earthquakes in California

Global warming increases Earthquakes in California

1. Purpose statement

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            Enhancing state’s security forms the basic platform for growth and development.  This is possibly due to the created inherent social economic stability which is very essential for sustainable progress.  This study will seek to establish the relationship between the rising global warming levels and continued increase of earthquakes in California State.  It will also seek to establish the relationship between the massive thawing of the ice sheet and earthquakes occurrences.

2. Statement of the problem / Research questions

            Earthquakes form one of the major threats to California State’s security.  This is possibly due to its location on San Andreas Fault zone which harbors San Andreas Fault that form the main boundary between the pacific tectonic plate and North American Plate (see figure ii).  This makes the region highly prone to shocks of major isostatic adjustments involving the two plates.  Besides, other numerous faults originate from the main San Andreas Fault and spread well to the interior of the state and its neighbors (see figure 1).

            Notably, over the last two decades the states has suffered two major earthquakes and dozen minor ones which make it extremely dangerous for investment and survival by the people (MacCracken, Moore, and Topping, 2008).

It is from this notion that the study will seek to answer the following questions.

(1)    As the climate changes, does it play a factor to increase earthquakes in California?

(2)    Is there any correlation between the ice sheet breaking off in the ocean and earthquakes?

(3)    Will it be an increase in California and how long?

(4)    What regions are likely to be affected much by the earthquakes in the state?

3. Theoretical framework

a) Plate tectonic theory

            Vaclav (2008) indicates that according to the plate tectonics theory, the earth is made up of the lithosphere which consists of the crust and the rigid uppermost section of the mantle towards the outside.  Towards the inside, it is made of athenosphere which is semi liquid but with very low viscosity.  The deeper mantle according to the theory is however completely rigid due to the external pressure which prevent it from movement.

            According to Oreskes (2003), lithosphere section of the earth is broken into eight major and minor tectonic plates that ride on asthenosphere depending on the relative forces acting on each plate.  These plates may collide or diverge at the point of interception.  The tectonic plates may also slide past each other forming transform faults like San Andreas in California (see figure iii).  Most of the earth quakes take place along the transformational plates globally.

            The movement of these plates is usually characterized by massive friction forces between the plates that are felt as earthquakes in the regions located on or near the faults.  It is worth noting that these different plates are subjected to different forces that dictate their motion and quantity of force they exert as they interact with each other (Eric and Frederick, 2008).

b) Global warming and isostatic balance

            Though controversies over the direct link of the global warming on earthquakes has persisted for long due to the claims that internal self adjustment mechanisms are still eminent, it has been agreed that excess thawing of the ice sheet may increase the force of the oceanic plates against the continental blocks (Turcotte and Schubert, 2002). With the current great emissions of greenhouse gases and the fast rising global temperatures, this adjustment has been projected to rise thereby increasing the transformational movement in major boundaries between oceanic and continental boundaries like San Andreas Fault. It is believed that due to the fast rising use of fossil fuels, global warming will continue rising in the next 50-100 years (Rapp, 2008).

4. Hypotheses

 Global warming is related to earthquakes and will lead to their increase in California
Global warming is not related to earth quakes and will not affect earthquakes in California.
Hypothesis statement

            Following the current upward shifting trends, the levels of isostatic plate’s instability will increase and consequently increase transformational movement in San Andreas Fault resulting to major earth shake tremors.  The level of earthquakes experienced along major continental and oceanic plates will continue rising with increasing thawing of the ice sheets due to the rising global temperatures.

6. Significance of the study

            With earthquakes being a major security threat in California, the results of this study will be of great essence in establishing the best possible disaster preparedness measures in the state. Besides, it will form a major platform for assessing the current policies and measures that are in use by the California Earthquake Authority in addressing the problems related to earthquakes in the state.  With many of the scholars holding to the view that tectonic movements are fully self adjusting, understanding the study results may open a new avenue of this unexplored field for further research.  Globally, it will aid in anchoring necessary emphasis for greenhouse gases emission reductions to levels lower than the Kyoto Protocol demands.

7. Research design and methods

            The study will focus on global warming trends, recurrence of earthquakes in California, and thawing of the global ice sheet.  Global warming will be viewed from an expanded global point of view due to the atmospheric dynamics of the atmosphere while thawing of the ice sheet will mainly be evaluated from the Polar Regions as they hold the most significant water quantities to cause major adjustments.

            Though the study will focus on California’s San Andreas Fault region, the scope will assume a global connotation for the different climatic change and ice sheet thawing variables.  Primary data collection methods will include observation, field measurements, strategic sampling, and seismic graphs interpretation to determine tectonic movement changes as well as climatic and ice sheet quantity variations during the period of study.  Besides satellite infrared imagery interpretation will be heavily relied on due to its capacity to simultaneously give regional and precise data for most of the variables (OECD, 2008).

            To add to that, the research will also heavily rely on the secondary data in relation to the past trends of climate, ice sheets water quantities change and occurrence of earth quakes in California and other regions along the pacific tectonic plate and North American Plate.

8. Data analysis and presentation

            Due to the combination and diversity of primary and secondary information, the research will employ quantitative and qualitative data analysis systems to derive the necessary correlations between the main variables.  Particularly, the analysis will employ INSAT computer data analytical software in analyzing the photographic information and climatic data collected during the study period and from the secondary literature.  Finally, the results will be presented in form of graphs, polygons and charts for the main variables being assessed.

List of references

Eric, C. & Frederick, B. (2008). Coastal geomorphology: an introduction. New York: John Wiley         and Sons.

MacCracken, M., Moore, F. & Topping, C. (2008). Sudden and disruptive climate change:          exploring the real risks and how we can avoid them. Geneva: Earthscan.

OECD, (2008). OECD Science, Technology and Industry Outlook 2008. London: OECD           Publishing Press.

Oreskes, N. (2003). Plate Tectonics: An Insider’s History of the Modern Theory of the Earth.       Westview.

Rapp, D. (2008). Assessing climate change: temperatures, solar radiation, and heat balance.                  Washington: Springer

Turcotte, DL, Schubert, G. (2002), Geodynamics. Second Edition. New York: John Wiley & Sons

Vaclav, S. (2008). Global Catastrophes and Trends: The Next Fifty Years. Los Angeles:  MIT      Press.


Figure I. Seismicity of California

Depth is in kilometers.
Purple Triangles: Cities
Purple Star: Capital City
Circles: Earthquakes (color represents depth range)

Figure ii. Aerial photo of the San Andreas Fault in the Carrizo Plain

Figure iii. Map of the San Andreas Fault, showing relative motion.


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