Scientists predict surge in high-magnitude earthquakes in 2018 as earth rotation slows

At the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America, a paper presentation by Roger Bilham of the University of Colorado in Boulder and Rebecca Bendick of the University of Montana in Missoula poured some light on the link between earth's rotation and seismic activity.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Updated: November 20, 2017 10:44:17 am
earthquake, study, US scientists, geological society of A,merica A man walks past a damaged building following an earthquake in Darbandikhan in Sulaimaniya Governorate, Iraq, November 13, 2017. REUTERS

The year 2018 is set to witness a burst in seismic activity as scientists warn there could be a rise in the number of high-magnitude earthquakes across the world due to variations in the speed of earth’s rotation.

The devastating quakes are likely to result in loss of life and property in heavily populated tropical regions. It has been observed that even small fluctuations in rotation of the earth would change the length of a day by a millisecond, releasing vast amounts of underground energy.

At the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America, a paper presentation by Roger Bilham of the University of Colorado in Boulder and Rebecca Bendick of the University of Montana in Missoula poured some light on the link between earth’s rotation and seismic activity.

Bilham, in conversation with the Observer last week, said there is a strong correlation between the earth’s rotation and seismic activity. “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,” he said.

Earthquakes of magnitude 7 and greater that had occurred since 1900 were studied by the two scientists. In their research, they found that when earth’s rotation slows down there in an increase in the number of high-magnitude earthquakes.

“The rotation of the Earth does change slightly – by a millisecond a day sometimes – and that can be measured very accurately by atomic clocks,” Bilham was quoted by the Guardian as saying.

“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,” he added.

Bilham said that it is difficult to predict where these quakes will take place but most of these may be triggered near the equator. About one billion people live in the Earth’s tropical regions.

However, experts from New Zealand have countered the views of the two American scientists, with one of them even saying, “I tend to think of them in the context of [Moon Man] Ken Ring”, reports the New Zealand Herald.

Dr Virginia Toy, a professor of Geology at the University of Otago said it is not a new thing that correlations are being made between natural events and other phenomena. “Some of these yield statistically defendable correlations; others don’t,” she said.

Another Kiwi group has commented that the paper has not been peer-reviewed and has no detail to examine.

“I tend to think of them in the context of Ken Ring… the man who writes about apparent statistical correlations between the phase of the moon and the weather.

“[The Americans’ paper] sounds like we will get a jump from six to 20 large earthquakes per year. I don’t think this is likely,” she added.

Another lecturer in tectonic geology from the University of Canterbury,  Dr Tim Stah said it will be too early to reach a conclusion without additional testing carried out by other research groups.

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