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Scientists Predict Catastrophic Earthquake Spike in 2018

21 November 2017, 12:28 | Brenda Erickson

Sloshing of Earth's core may spike major earthquakes

There may be a significant increase in the numbers of devastating earthquakes around the world in 2018 warn scientists who have found that variations in the speed of the Earth's rotation may trigger intense seismic activity. Reuters file

USA geoscientists consider it very likely that in 2018, or perhaps in the next few years, there will be a significant increase in the number of strong earthquakes around the world. The team behind the study believes that variations on the world's rotation speed could result in the release of massive amounts of underground energy that will trigger the earthquakes.

The joint-research from Rebecca Bemdirk at the University of Montana and Roger Bilham at the University of Colorado was presented at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America.

The pair pored over a century's worth of a data on earthquakes and detected a pattern: When the Earth's rotation slows, as it does periodically, the slowdown is followed by an increase in quakes with a magnitude of 7 or greater, reports the Guardian.

"In these periods, there were between 25 to 30 intense earthquakes a year", said Bilham.

Two geologists may have spotted a surprisingly simple correlation that can help predict earthquakes-and if they're correct, the Earth is on track for an uptick in major quakes next year.

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The slowdown in rotation would start five to six years before the increase in the number of big earthquakes.

Next year there could be at least 20 serious earthquakes, and the most intense ones are expected to occur in tropical regions, home to around one billion people. "We could easily have 20 a year starting in 2018", Biham added.

Each time the rotation slowed, Earthquakes increased. The delayed global seismic productivity is most pronounced at equatorial latitudes 10°N-30°S, said the research paper, attributing it to decreased oblateness that attends a slowing of Earth's rotation and lithospheric overshoot, the way a loose cannon slides upon the deck of a moving ship.

Bilham said that there have been only six major earthquakes in 2017.

"The inference is clear".

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As with many new findings in science, this story began with the data that supports the cyclical slowdown then speed up of Earth's rotation.

Along with a day, these tiny fluctuations in the Earth's rotation speed could also impact earthquakes.

They further suggested that these slight changes in the Earth's core may be responsible for this effect.

They say the Earth is offering a five-year heads-up on future earthquakes.

Since 1900, more than 80% of all 7M earthquakes on the eastern Caribbean plate have occurred in 5 years following a maximum deceleration, with the 2010 Haiti natural disaster notable among them.

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Bilham said, "We have had it easy this year". These earthquakes are hard to predict and the two researchers aren't totally clear as to why they occur.

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