Swarms of devastating earthquakes are set to arrive next year due to the slowing of Earth's rotation, scientists claim. As the Earth rotates on its axis once in a roughly 24 hour period, a slowdown in rotation thus impacts the length of a day. The last slowdown began four years ago. But the slowdown - and the lengthening of days that accompany it - is hardly noticeable.
Roger Bilham of the University of Colorado and Rebecca Bendick of the University of Montana, who presented their research at the annual conference of the Geological Society of America vouched for a clear correlation between the speed of the earth's rotation and global quake activity.
"The correlation between Earth's rotation and natural disaster activity is strong and suggests there is going to be an increase in numbers of intense earthquakes next year", Bilham told Britain's the Observer.
Since 1990, more than 80 per cent of all magnitude 7 earthquakes on the eastern Caribbean plate boundary have occurred in the five years following a maximum deceleration. In the years that follow the addition of a millisecond to the Earth's rotation time, earthquakes of magnitudes larger than 7 exceed 20 around the world, sometimes ramping up to 35 a year. The Earth is offering us a five-year heads-up on future earthquakes'.
"It is important to note that the authors explicitly state in the abstract that the precise locations, times, or magnitudes of earthquakes can not be predicted, even if their observations and interpretations are eventually confirmed by other researchers". If the two geophysicists' research is correct, 2018 should bring a significant increase in the number of major earthquakes. "The rest of the times, the average figure was around 15 major earthquakes a year", Bilham said. But from 2018 we could easily have 20 years.
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"We see it as yet another example of a fortuitous correlation between quake occurrence and an unrelated phenomenon".
Now that 2018 heralds a period of enhanced global seismic productivity with a duration of at least five years, they warn people to be prepared for more earthquakes.
The planet's rotation is slowing down because of tidal forces between Earth and the moon. "The cause of Earth's variable rotation is the exchange of angular momentum between the solid and fluid Earth (atmospheres, oceans and outer core)", they noted in their paper.
While more research needs to be done and the correlation Bendick and Bilham found in their research has yet to be proved, other scientists say it's worth investigating further.
Experts, who presented their findings at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America, do not know exactly why this happens but believe minuscule variations in rotation causes a shift in the shape of the Earth's iron and nickel "inner core".