Swarms of devastating earthquakes are set to arrive next year due to the slowing of Earth’s rotation, scientists claim.
Experts warn we ‘had it easy this year’ with just six severe earthquakes.
Next year we could have at least 20 serious earthquakes, and the most intense ones are expected to occur in tropical regions, home to around one billion people.
Tiny changes in the speed of our planet’s rotation will trigger huge seismic activity by releasing vast amounts of underground energy, experts claim – although their research has been rejected by some scientists
The planet’s rotation is slowing down because of tidal forces between Earth and the moon.
The side of Earth closest to the moon feels its pull the strongest, while the side farthest from the moon feels its gravity less. That difference in gravitational pull stretches the Earth, which causes tidal bulges.These bulges pull the moon closer or farther away from Earth by around 4cm per year.
The moon exerts the opposite force on them, pulling them back toward it, creating friction and slowing down the planet’s rotation.
The time the Earth takes to make a complete rotation on its axis varies by about a millionth of a second per day. While the rotational rate hasn’t declined evenly, the average day has grown longer by between 15 millionths and 25 millionths of a second every year.
Scientists from the University of Colorado in Boulder and the University of Montana say that even fluctuations of a millisecond could increase 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,’ said Dr Roger Bilham from the University of Colorado.