Scientists Predict Catastrophic Earthquake Spike in 2018

Monday, 20 November 2017 - 11:21AM
Science News
Monday, 20 November 2017 - 11:21AM
Scientists Predict Catastrophic Earthquake Spike in 2018
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Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Global warming is speeding up, the Earth's rotation is slowing down, and 2018 may see 20 massive earthquakes a year become the new normal.

We think of the Earth, its relative position in the cosmos, and simple things like gravity, the length of the day, and the position of the ground under our feet, to be constant and immovable. But we're wrong. 

Scientists predict that 2018 may see the Earth's rotation will slow down ever so slightly, as part of periodic fluctuations in its orbit. Think of the Earth as an old and slightly warped vinyl record—as it rotates, there are periodic dips and wobbles that aren't necessarily noticeable as with listen to the music or go about your life.

This is good news for those who always complain that there are never enough hours in the day—at times next year, there'll be an extra millisecond or so every day as a result of the slowed rotation. Try your best to do something productive with it.

The bad news: the planet will shift just a little too much as a result of its lumpy, bumpy journey around the sun. A vinyl may skip or even get scratched as a result of its uneven rotation, and the planet Earth may experience a high amount of unexpected earthquakes as its tectonic plates shift and grind together, according to a new study conducted by Roger Bilham of the University of Colorado in Boulder and Rebecca Bendick of the University of Montana.

Bilham and Bendick looked at the frequency of earthquakes of a magnitude seven of higher over the past hundred years. They noticed that while most years, there were only around fifteen major earthquakes, there had also been five-year periods where the number of earthquakes had dramatically risen, which always occurred following a drop in the rotational speed of the planet.

Essentially, says Bilham, "The Earth is offering us a five-year heads-up on future earthquakes".

According to Bilham:

"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.

Unfortunately, while it's possible to predict how many earthquakes we're likely to endure next year, it's not clear when and where these might occur.

Anyone who lives near a tectonic fault may be at risk, while even those who are traditionally in earthquake-safe areas may experience more ground-shaking than they're used to.

Bilham and Bendick's predictions are going to come in handy as emergency response teams prepare for a difficult year. We may not know where aid will be needed, but knowing that it will definitely be a requirement can help us to plan in advance.

So if you've been considering getting emergency supplies together in case of a catastrophe or natural disaster, now is probably the time to start preparing. It never hurts to have things together in case an earthquake hits at three in the morning while you're in your pajamas.

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Scientists Predict Catastrophic Earthquake Spike in 2018