Does global warming cause volcanoes to erupt?

Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull has everyone discussing what causes volcanic eruptions. One controversial hypothesis suggests climate change may play a role

What causes a volcanic eruption?
(Image credit: Corbis)

With the economic costs of Iceland's volcanic eruption now tallying in the billions of dollars, scientists and reporters are revisiting basic questions of what triggers these disruptive geological events. Research recently published by Britain's Royal Society, for instance, warns that global warming may lead to higher levels of volcanic activity. Should we begin attributing the steep costs of volcanic events like Eyjafjallajokull to climate change? (Watch a Fox report about the volcano's impact on U.S. cap and trade efforts)

Melting ice could provoke large eruptions: Eyjafjallajokull wasn't linked to global warming, reports Alister Doyle at Reuters. But scientists suspect that higher temperatures could "trigger more volcanic eruptions" in the future. If Iceland's ice caps thaw, their weight diminishes, "freeing magma from deep below ground." Heavily ice-capped volcanoes like those in the Aleutian islands of Alaska or Patagonia in South America could be most at risk.

"Ice cap thaw may awaken Icelandic volcanoes"

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This doom-mongering is predictable: Of course, the hard-core environmentalists want to add "volcanic eruptions" to their long list of the "planet killing consequences" of climate change, says Wesley J Smith at First Things. But, even on the off chance they're right, eruptions actually "cause global cooling" by clouding the upper atmosphere. Even greens can't complain about "Gaia engaging in a little self healing," can they?

"Global warming hysteria: melting could cause volcanos to erupt"

The science of this doesn't add up: Volcanic activity is caused by "magma rising to the surface, not glaciers melting," says Steven Goddard at Watts Up With That. In fact, if the ice did disappear, it would "reduce the size of the steam/ash cloud" and "make the volcanoes less destructive," not more.

"Reply to: Ice cap thaw may awaken Icelandic volcanoes"

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