How Global Warming Shakes the Earth

waves sea ocean

The intensification of heatwaves, disruption of precipitation patterns, and melting of ice—these are well-known examples of the consequences of anthropogenic climate change. However, there is one consequence that may seem somewhat surprising. Researchers confirm this today: global warming is shaking our Earth.

Seismograph networks record various tremors on our planet, caused by movements of tectonic plates or volcanic eruptions, as well as those resulting from human activity. During the COVID-19-related lockdown measures, these instruments witnessed a remarkable global reduction in the Earth’s overall agitation.

When Waves Shake the Earth

 intensification of oceanic waves since the late 1980s.
The graphics depict the intensification of oceanic waves since the late 1980s. Each circle represents a seismic station, with size proportional to the vertical acceleration of the Earth at that station, smoothed over a three-year period. Red circles denote periods during which ground movements exceed the historical median, while blue indicates periods of lesser magnitude. Image: Rick Aster, Colorado State University.

In a way, the seismographs’ background signal, which is both the most prevalent and possibly the least well-known to the general public, is the echo of the wave rumble. It translates the movements that waves induce on the ocean floor, especially in regions where the water depth is less than about 300 meters. A constant hum with a period ranging from 14 to 20 seconds is referred to by researchers as global microseism.

52 Sites Surveyed

Researchers from Colorado State University (United States) have examined data collected since the late 1980s from 52 sites worldwide. They report in the journal Nature Communications that the average wave energy has increased by 0.27% per year since the end of the 20th century. Moreover, it has risen by 0.35% per year since 2000, with waves in the North Atlantic experiencing the most rapid intensification.

More and More Energy in the Waves With Global Warming

These results confirm that storms and waves are intensifying as the climate warms. The researchers explain that the oceans have absorbed about 90% of the excess heat associated with our greenhouse gas emissions over the past decades. This surplus energy can manifest as more devastating waves and more powerful storms. The effects further exacerbated by the rise in average sea level are also attributable to climate change. A new warning for coastal populations.