As Earth's rotation slows down, scientists predict more intense earthquakes


And in 2018, the Earth's rotation speed is set to slow down leading to a jump on the six magnitude seven or higher quakes we have had this year. According to experts, the earth's rotation is slowing down, which will cause intense seismic activity, especially in tropical areas which are heavily populated.

Changes in the Earth's rotation are small, measuring in milliseconds, reports the Guardian, but enough to release vast amounts of underground energy.

In a study published in August in Geophysical Research Letters, geophysicists Rebecca Bendick of the University of Montana and Roger Bilham of the University of Colorado claim to have found a correlation between changes in the Earth's rotation and seismic activity.

The researchers searched to find correlations between these periods of intense seismic activity and other factors and discovered that when Earth's rotation decreased slightly it was followed by periods of increased numbers of intense earthquakes.

A damaged building in Kermanshah, Iran after last week's magnitude 7.3 quake that killed hundreds of people.

Scientists have warned if the rotation slows it could lead to more major earthquakes. Using this data, they identified five periods that registered higher large earthquakes when compared with other periods.

"The rest of the time the average figure was around 15 major earthquakes a year".

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But while scientists may have found a pattern that will allow them to predict periods of significant seismic activity, there's still no way to predict when or where an natural disaster will happen. The team found that when the Earth's rotation slowed down over the last century it was followed by periods of massive earthquakes.

For context, seasonal changes like El Niño have been shown to affect the Earth's rotation, while massive earthquakes can cause shifts in the planet's axial tilt, according to NASA.

But Bendick and Bilham also found a correlation between these periods of increased large earthquakes and the Earth's rotation.

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

"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", Roger Bilham of the University of Colorado told The Observer.

"We see it as yet another example of a fortuitous correlation between natural disaster occurrence and an unrelated phenomenon". Mexico, Iraq and Iran were all rocked by devastating earthquakes in recent months but they may pale in comparison to what we can expect next year. But from 2018 we could easily have 20 years.

Crucially, the paper notes that one such period of increase earthquakes is due next year, in 2018.