The new year could bring an increase in massive and devastating earthquakes, research from October suggested. But as our prediction of earthquakes becomes better, so does our ability to prepare for these natural disasters.
About four years ago, the Earth’s rotation slowed slightly. Although the decrease was not enough to notice, the Earth’s slower rotation may spark an increase in severe earthquakes for 2018, researchers from University of Colorado Boulder predicted in the fall.
According to the team’s research, which they presented at the Geological Society of America annual meeting in Seattle this October, there may be a trend between slower Earth rotations and more global earthquakes. Over the past 100 years, there was a 25 to 30 percent increase in the number of significant earthquakes associated with a slowdown in the Earth’s rotation.
According to Science Mag, Earth’s rotation began to slow nearly five years ago, which means that if this theory is true, 2018 could bring two to five more magnitude 7 earthquakes than usual. While this theory may predict how many earthquakes we can expect in 2018, it can’t help us identify where on the globe these earthquakes may occur, Newsweek reported.
Earthquakes are measured on the Richter scale, which categorizes the natural event on a scale of one to 10. The Richter scale measures the vibrations caused by the earthquake using a tool called a seismometer. While smaller earthquakes are very common, larger ones are less frequent, and significantly more devastating. There has never been a category 10 earthquake in recorded history, but those of 7 or 8 can cause significant damage and loss of life, BBC reported.
This news may sound grim, but in an October interview, study first author Roger Bilham, a geologist at the University of Colorado Boulder, told Newsweek that if there is an increase in earthquakes in 2018, it may feel more dramatic since 2017 was a light year for seismic activity. In reality, the increase would be small, upping the amount of international earthquakes of five to 10 quakes.
This year may not only bring more earthquakes than usual, it may also bring bigger quakes. We are also soon due for “The Really Big One,” where the Juan de Fuca oceanic plate might collide under the North American plate, causing a severe quake that would affect coastal Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Northern California. A new study published this October created 50 possible simulations for how the natural disaster may unfold.
According to calculations, these plates collide every 500 years or so. With the last big earthquake occurring in 1700, the area is due for a repeat any year now, The New Yorker reported in 2015.
Although there may be nothing we can do to prevent these earthquakes, increases in geological technology increased our ability to predict where and when they will happen. As a result, people have more time to prepare and evacuate, thus minimizing the quake’s possible devastation.