Scientists have warned there could be a big increase in numbers of devastating earthquakes around the world next year. They believe variations in the speed of Earth’s rotation could trigger intense seismic activity, particularly in heavily populated tropical regions. And this every five years!
Although such fluctuations in rotation are small – changing the length of the day by a millisecond – they could still be implicated in the release of vast amounts of underground energy.
The link between Earth’s rotation and seismic activity was highlighted last month in a paper presented at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America: “The correlation between Earth’s rotation and earthquake activity is strong and suggests there is going to be an increase in numbers of intense earthquakes next year.”
The new study is based on earthquakes of magnitude 7 and greater that had occurred since 1900. Results show five periods when there had been significantly higher numbers of large earthquakes (25 to 30) compared with other times (15). During all these anomalous periods, Earth’s rotation decreased slightly.
The Earth is offering us a five-year heads-up on future earthquakes
This link is particularly important because Earth’s rotation began one of its periodic slowdowns more than four years ago. The inference is clear. Next year we should see a significant increase in numbers 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 a year starting in 2018.
It is however unclear where these extra BIG earthquakes will occur. But the new study shows that most of the intense earthquakes that responded to changes in day length seemed to occur near the equator, where about one billion people live. Get ready for the next BIG ONE!