US scientists predicted that there would be an increase in the number of large earthquakes in 2018 due to a slowing of the Earth's rotation. 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.
"The Earth offers us a five-years heads up on future earthquakes, which is remarkable", Roger Bilham, one of the study's lead authors, said in Science Magazine. Crucially, these periods were followed by periods when the numbers of intense earthquakes increased.
Exactly why decreases in day length should be linked to earthquakes is unclear although scientists suspect that slight changes in the behaviour of Earth's core could be causing both effects. This is why the research team believes we can expect more earthquakes in 2018, it is the last of a 5-year slowdown in Earth's rotation.
Experts warn we "had it easy this year" with just six severe earthquakes.
Scientists say the average number of big earthquakes is 15 a year.
None of this says that 2018 will definitely be a more geologically unstable year, and it certainly doesn't pinpoint where any possible quaking will occur. They finally concluded that when the earth's rotation slows down, it triggers more earthquakes of higher intensity. So far we have only had about six severe earthquakes.
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"It is straightforward", said Bilham. What they found is that roughly every 32 years there was an uptick in the number of significant earthquakes worldwide. But from 2018 we could easily have 20 years.
To add an interesting twist to the story, 2017 was the 4th consecutive year that Earth's rotation has slowed.
The planet's rotation is slowing down because of tidal forces between Earth and the moon. Their prediction is based on the periodic slowdown in Earth's speed of rotation around its axis, which minimizes daylight. Often times, geologists are limited to historical trends in data to predict the likelihood an natural disaster will occur.
Bilham and Bendick predict the impact may be greater in equatorial regions, home to earth's greatest population concentration-about a billion people.
Specifically, mantle in the Earth's core might stick to the crust during these slow period. According to the scientists, although the exact location of the earthquakes can not be exactly predicted, still it is expected that the regions near the equator are more prone to high-magnitude earthquakes.