Are Glacier Earthquakes Shaking Greenland? Scientists, WaPo Seeing Only What They Want To See

By Ed Caryl

The Washington Post just published an alarmist article titled: Giant earthquakes are shaking Greenland — and scientists just figured out the disturbing reason why. The article claimed that earthquakes were caused by icebergs calving off the Helheim Glacier, and that these were increasing because of increased outflow from this glacier. Here is the glacier in question, on the East side of Greenland opposite Iceland.

Helheim Glacier

 Figure 1 is the location of Helheim Glacier. Source: Apple maps.

Here is a map of all the earthquakes that have occurred in this region since January 1st, 1980.

Greenland Earthquakes

 Figure 2 is a map of the earthquakes that have occurred in this region since 1980. Source link.

Earthquakes vs Years

Figure 3 is a date versus magnitude plot of all those earthquakes.

Only one of these 15 earthquakes is directly associated with Helheim Glacier, the last one. All the others were scattered all over the region, a few under or at the edge of the ice, most at sea or on land away from the ice.

They also occurred in two clusters, four in the early 1990s, then an eight year pause, then the rest in the eight years between 2002 and 2010. None have occurred since. There is nothing unusual to be seen here. Move along…

This is an example of scientists seeing what they wish to see. Instead of a full investigation, they just assumed that any earthquakes in the region were originating at Helheim Glacier, and because they stopped looking in 2010, they assumed that the earthquakes were continuing.

Instead of investigating a longer time period, they assumed that the period of their study was significant. None of their assumptions were true.

6 responses to “Are Glacier Earthquakes Shaking Greenland? Scientists, WaPo Seeing Only What They Want To See”

  1. DirkH

    Well we call these people scientists and the employees of the WaPO journalists… meaning that both terms have become synonyms for scoundrel.

  2. John F. Hultquist

    “Giant earthquakes” ??
    The largest seems to be 4.8.

    Note here, under Magnitude:
    http://earthquake.usgs.gov/learn/topics/measure.php

    The small table shows # of “large earthquakes” by year by size –
    down to 210 for 6.0-6.4

    I guess “giant” is smaller than “large” –
    They just make stuff up.

  3. Brian G Valentine

    Any event on the Earth, in the sky, or in the water, can be linked by some pseudo-scientific argument to Man Made Global Warming.

    The response to critics has been to label them “deniers,” which is quite satisfactory for a lot of people.

  4. Mikky

    “We derive monthly mass balance rates and cumulative balance from discharge and surface mass balance (SMB) rates for these glaciers from 2000 through 2010. Despite the dramatic changes observed at Helheim, the glacier gained mass over the period, due primarily to the short-duration of acceleration and a likely longer-term positive balance.”

    From this paper: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2011GL047565/full

    Glaciers constantly create icebergs, and snow constantly falls on them, all that matters is the NET mass balance, which looks good for this particular glacier.

  5. oeman50

    Did these “scientists” bother to look at Antarctica, where most of the world’s calving from glaciers occurs. Are there any earthquakes there? I have no idea if there are or aren’t, it just seems is a big hole in their data.

    1. Ed Caryl

      I looked a Thwaites Glacier. It’s 50 km wide so should show something. No quakes in 35 years. All the quakes are associated with mountain ranges or are offshore associated with rifts. There is one ice shelf that shows 4 quakes under it in 35 years, but it is difficult to say if that was ice breaking or something else.