According to scientists, the number of severe Earthquakes is likely to rise exponentially in 2018, due to a slowing down of Earth’s rotation. Minimal variations in Earth’s rotation speed could trigger intense seismic activity in 2018, especially in densely populated tropical regions, warn experts.
Although such variations in the rotation of our planet are small, changing the length of the day by one millisecond, these changes could set off a release of large amounts of underground energy.
The connection between Earth’s rotation and seismic activity is displayed in a study by Roger Bilham of the University of Colorado at Boulder and Rebecca Bendick of the University of Montana at Missoula, presented in October during the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America.
“The relationship between Earth’s rotation and earthquake activity is strong and suggests there is going to be an increase in numbers of violent earthquakes next year,” Bilham told the Observer in an interview.
In the study presented by Bilham and, the two argue that by looking at earthquakes of magnitude 7 and greater that had occurred since 1900. “Major earthquakes have been well recorded for more than a century, and that gives us a good record to study,” explains Bilham.
The two researchers discovered five periods in which there were a significantly greater number of large earthquakes compared to other times.
“During these periods, there were between 25 and 30 intense earthquakes a year,” adds Bilham.
“The rest of the time, the average number was about 15 large earthquakes per year.”
The researchers sought to find correlations between these periods of intense seismic activity and other factors and discovered that when the Earth’s rotation decreased slightly, it was followed by periods of increase in the number of intense earthquakes.
“The rotation of the Earth changes slightly – in a millisecond per day sometimes – and that can be measured very accurately by atomic clocks.”
Bilham and Bendick discovered that there were periods of about five years when the rotation of the Earth was reduced by that amount several times over the last century and a half.
Fundamentally, these time lapses were followed by periods in which the number of intense earthquakes increased.
“It’s simple,” says Bilham. “The Earth is offering us a five-year warning about future earthquakes.”
This link is particularly important because the rotation of the Earth began one of its periodic decreases more than four years ago.
“The inference is clear,” concludes the researcher.
“Next year we should see a significant increase in the number of severe earthquakes. We have had it easy this year. So far, we have only had about six severe earthquakes. We could easily have 20 per year starting in 2018.”
It is not clear exactly why the decreases in the length of the day should be related to earthquakes, although scientists suspect that small changes in the behavior of the Earth’s core could be causing both effects.
Regrettably, it is difficult to predict where these additional earthquakes will occur, although Bilham said they discovered that most of the intense earthquakes responding to changes in day length seemed to occur near the equator.
Around one billion people live in the tropical regions of the Earth.