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Sea-level change and the stability and activity of coastal and island volcanoes

The correlation between rate of sea level change and frequency of explosive volcanism in the Mediterranean has been studied. Volcanic activity has frequently been linked to Quaternary environmental change, either by driving climate modification, or in response to environmental changes. Although a link has been established between large volcanic eruptions and small (0.5 degrees Celsius), brief (1-2 years) falls in global temperatures, both the evidence and mechanisms responsible for longer periods of eruption-induced planetary cooling remain questionable. In contrast, recent research based on ice-core data suggests that rapid climate changes during the past 110,000 years increased explosive volcanic activity. Statistical analysis of the frequency of explosive activity of Mediterranean volcanoes, shows that there is a strong, positive correlation to the rate of late Quaternary sea level change. The non-linear correlation between the two is tentatively explained in terms of dynamic responses of the volcanoes and the crust on which they sit, to stress-related influences on various spatial scales. The correlation supports a mechanism, or mechanisms, by which the climate-driven growth and decay of large ice sheets can influence the eruptive chronologies of distant volcanic edifices via changes in global sea level. The relationship offers a potential negative feedback effect that might combat the impact of planetary warming, should catastrophic melting of Antarctic land-ice lead to rapid rises in sea level over the next few centuries. At the same time, however, an increase in the hazard posed by the world's 600 active volcanoes can be expected at the same time.

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University College London
Gower Street
WC1E 6BT London
United Kingdom
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