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New Study: Earthquakes Contributing to Global Climate Change

New Study: Earthquakes Contributing to Global Climate Change

Apr 11, 2015

Yes, it’s true.  Humans are destroying the planet and contributing to global climate change with our cars, aerosol cans, and our massive industries.  While we are the main reason for the latest change in our global climate, a new study suggests that the earth is also contributing to ozone loss via earthquakes.

A study done by the National Institute for Environmental Studies in Tsukuba, Japan examined the 9.0 magnitude 2011 Tohoku earthquake which not only took 18,000 lives and caused miles of total demolition, not to mention the worldwide effects the large quake created, but it also released 6, 600 metric tons (that’s 7, 275 US tons) of carbon gases into the atmosphere.  These gases are called halocarbons and are stored in insulation, appliances, and other various equipment.  This is the first study done to look at emissions caused by a natural disaster and as this study revealed critical information, there will be many more to follow.  

Some of the gases that were released during the 2011 Tohoku earthquake include gases that are no longer used due to their harmful effects on the atmosphere.  Some of these gases include CFC-11 which is a powerful ozone-depleting foam used until 1996 when it was banned.  Another halocarbon HCFC-22, a refrigerant that is another strong greenhouse gas and is being phased out although it is used in many refrigerators and air conditioners.  About 50 percent of the emissions caused by the earthquake were due to this common refrigerant.  Emissions of the gas were found to be 38 percent higher than the years before and after the earthquake, the study shows.  Emissions of CFC-11 were 72 percent higher following the massive earthquake.

Overall, the effects of the halocarbon releasing due to the earthquake increased ozone depletion by 38 percent.  It also increased the amount of heat trapped in Japan’s atmosphere by 36 percent.  However the overall impact of one such disaster is relatively small as Takuya Saito, senior researcher on the project, calculated with his team. The total impact the earthquake had on the overall greenhouse emissions for the year was just under 4%.  That may seem small, but it definitely was enough for the calculations to remain important and will be important for others to conduct similar studies of greenhouse gases released by earthquakes and other natural disasters, Saito feels.

What is also important to take away from this study is that we humans need to stop using atmosphere-damaging chemicals in our industries and home products.  I may have jokingly blamed the earth, but if it wasn’t for us storing these harmful chemicals, they would have never been released in the tremor and poisoned our already bruised atmosphere.  This study will help policymakers regulate the use and storage of these chemicals in the future.  For as we know bloody well in California, nothing on earth is safe during an earthquake.

For more reading, check out:

Science Daily

Andrea Kuipers - I am a well versed, interdisciplinary scientist with a background in marketing, media, & journalism. I am currently finishing up degree number five at Cal State University Fullerton & working in a biochemical/biotechnology lab engineering proteins. Linkedin

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