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Scientists warn there may be increase in number of large earthquakes next year

There may be an average of 25-30 large earthquakes in 2018 instead of about 15-20.

science Updated: Nov 20, 2017 15:23 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Earthquakes,Number of earthquakes,Geology
Tomasa Mozo, 69, a housewife, looks up at the roof as she poses for a portrait inside the ruins of her house after an earthquake in San Jose Platanar, at the epicentre zone, Mexico, September 28, 2017. (Reuters File Photo)

Scientists have warned that devastating earthquakes may occur more frequently across the world next year, possibly triggered by changes in the Earth’s rotation speed.

It means that there may be an average of 25-30 large earthquakes in 2018 instead of about 15-20, said a report by Quartz.

Robert Bilham, of the University of Colorado, and Rebecca Bendick, of the University of Montana, studied earthquakes of magnitude 7 or more since 1900 and discovered that more number of intense earthquakes were recorded when the Earth’s rotation speed decreased. Their study was published in the Geophysical Research Letters earlier this year.

“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,” Bilhamtold the Observer in October.

The rotation of the Earth can change by a few miliseconds a day.

When a day’s length changes over decades, there can be a slight alteration in the planet’s magnetic field and both of these fluctuations may be due to the flow of molten metal inside the surface of the Earth, the Science Magazine explained.

The study found that nearly every 32 years, there is an increase in the number of large earthquakes and the only correlation is the slight slowdown of Earth’s rotation in a five-year period. It means that slowdown of the planet’s rotation speed is followed by intense seismic activity or large quakes.

“It is straightforward,” said Bilham. “The Earth is offering us a five-year heads-up on future earthquakes.”

Since Earth’s rotation slowdown began four years ago, 2018 would be the fifth year that would witness an increase in number of huge earthquakes.

“Of course that seems sort of crazy,” Bendick, the co-author told the Science. But geologist Peter Molnar believes their findings are “remarkable” and deserve “investigation”.

First Published: Nov 20, 2017 15:22 IST