Could the northeast earthquake on April 5th be a result of climate change?

Christa Avampato
3 min readApr 6, 2024
USGS Shake Map for April 5, 2024 New Jersey earthquake https://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eventpage/us7000ma74/shakemap/intensity

Yesterday while the northeast coast of the U.S. was reeling from a 4.8-magnitude earthquake and aftershocks, I was wondering if climate change could be playing any role in it. In a word, yes it can. Because of climate change, we may be at the beginning of a wave of increased seismic activity. Here’s the short of it from the World Economic Forum and The Conversation:

  • Climate change could cause more earthquakes and volcanic eruptions by increasing the weight of water on the Earth’s crust from increased precipitation and glacial melt.
  • When glaciers melt, the water can seep into cracks in the Earth’s crust, causing them to widen and weaken.
  • This can lead to earthquakes, especially in areas that are already seismically active.
  • Climate change can also cause more volcanic eruptions by increasing the amount of magma in the Earth’s mantle.

The tristate area has been caught in a seemingly endless cycle of storms and torrential rain so far in 2024. In March, New York City had double the amount of rain it usually has and April’s pattern is predicted to be similar. Geologists have previously explored the relationship between heavy rainfall and tremors in the Earth’s crust. Heavy downpours have triggered a pattern of seismic activity in some parts of the world such as the Himalayas but exactly how much rain is needed and what the full causal impact is still requires more research. Some climate models show more precipitation related to climate change is likely to trigger earthquakes and volcanoes in areas prone to them.

The impact on seismic activity isn’t limited to precipitation. Remember, the determining factor is the change in the weight of water in the Earth’s crust. We must also account for the impact of climate change on the melting of glaciers as well. As the glaciers melt not only does that water seep into the Earth’s crust, but the melting glaciers also reduce the weight and pressure on the land that was under the glaciers. This release causes the land to rise, similar to a spring that was compressed and then releases once that compression is removed. When the last ice age ended ~10,000 years ago, the receding of the glaciers caused some of the land in Scotland to rise 45 meters above sea level! This kind of release can cause a spike in earthquakes, and historically some of these spikes have been severe in areas such as Scandinavia.

In short, climate change may deliver a triple threat for earthquake activity: increasing the weight of water in the Earth’s crust from both an increased amount of rainfall and rapidly melting glaciers, and the added risk to the rising of land once the weight of those glaciers lightens or disappears altogether. The interconnections between all of the Earth’s systems and features is a delicate balance. Life on Earth has benefitted from a long stretch of stability and harmony. Our exploitation of nature, particularly our addiction to the drilling for and burning of fossil fuels, has put that stability and balance in jeopardy on numerous levels, many of which we’re only just beginning to understand.

Nature is talking to us. Nature is warning us. Her voice and warnings will grow louder if we don’t listen and take action. Our artificial systems and incentives that we’ve invented in our economy and society will be no match for the wrath of nature. No amount of money nor ingenuity nor technology will protect us nor immunize us from the impacts of destroying the balance of natural systems on which we all depend.

Every action we take now to reduce warming matters. The impacts of climate change are not for some distant generation. They are happening to us right now, and they will continue to happen and increase in intensity until we realize harmony with nature is the surest path to prosperity, health, wealth, and wellbeing for all beings.

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Christa Avampato

Award-winning author & writer—Product Dev — Biomimicry scientist — Podcaster. Runs on curiosity & joy. twitter.com/christanyc / instagram.com/christarosenyc