Scientists have warned that there will be an increase in seismic activity next year caused by a slowing in the rotation of the Earth by a thousandth of a second.
Teams from the Universities of Colorado and Montana have studied seismic activity since 1900 and found five instances of a substantial increases in earthquakes measuring over seven on the moment magnitude scale, which they believe were linked to a slowing of the Earth’s rotation.
They claim this slowing occurs every 32 years and is associated with an increase in the number of severe earthquakes.
Roger Bilham from the University of Colorado, said: "Major earthquakes have been well recorded for more than a century and that gives us a good record to study.
"In these periods, there were between 25 to 30 intense earthquakes a year, the rest of the time the average figure was around 15. Next year we should see a significant increase in numbers of severe earthquakes. We’ve had it easy this year. So far we have only had about six. We could easily have 20 a year starting in 2018."
The scientists do not know why changes in the Earth’s rotation cause this effect, if indeed they do. Nor do they know where the seismic activity will occur, although it is more likely to be close to the equator.
Image: Buildings damaged in Nepal after the 2015 earthquake (Krish Dulal/Wikimedia Commons)