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

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

In studying every natural disaster to shake the Earth with a magnitude of 7.0 or greater since 1900, Bendick and Bilham found there were five different periods where the Earth experienced a noticeably higher number of these large quakes.

Scientists have warned of an increase in the numbers of devastating earthquakes around the world next year.

Roger Bildham of the University of Colorado and Rebecca Bennic of the University of Montana, who made a statement to the annual conference of the Geological Society of America, argue that there is a clear correlation between the speed of rotation of our planet and global natural disaster activity.

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 quake will happen.

According to the two scientists, during the past one and a half centuries there have been periods of about five years each, during which the earth's rotation was slower by a few milliseconds a day.

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

The research examined historic records of severe earthquakes dating back to 1900, and found five periods where the number of severe earthquakes was significantly higher than usual.

In the study, the researchers found that the number of seismic activities had drastically increased when Earth's rotation gets slow down.

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.

He has written a paper with Rebecca Bendick of the University of Montana, and the pair discovered five periods when the world experienced "25 to 30 earthquakes a year", compared to the average of 15. Crucially, these periods were followed by periods when the numbers of intense earthquakes increased. "We have had it easy this year", the Guardian reported he said. 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. This year we made it clean.

Mr Bilham told Newshub from the United States the new data could be "of value for quake engineers who could in principle do a great deal in a year to retrofit weak structures".

New Zealand quake scientists have been critical of a theory from two American scientists that the frequency of earthquakes is linked to a slowing in Earth's rotation, one saying "I tend to think of them in the context of [Moon Man] Ken Ring".

"The inference is clear". Until now, we only had six powerful earthquakes.

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