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Earth Science

Upsurge in Big Earthquakes Predicted for 2018 (theguardian.com) 88

hcs_$reboot writes: "Scientists say the number of severe quakes is likely to rise strongly next year because of a periodic slowing of the Earth's rotation," reports the Guardian. "They believe variations in the speed of Earth's rotation could trigger intense seismic activity, particularly in heavily populated tropical regions. Although such fluctuations in rotation are small -- changing the length of the day by a millisecond -- they could still be implicated in the release of vast amounts of underground energy, it is argued."

The theory goes that the slowdown creates a shift in the shape of the Earth's solid iron and nickel "inner core" which, in turn, impacts the liquid outer core on which the tectonic plates that form the Earth's crust rest. The impact is greater on the tectonic plates near some of the Earth's most populous regions along the Equator, home to about a billion people. Scientists from the University of Colorado looked at all earthquakes registering 7 and up on the Richter scale since the turn of the 20th century. In this timeframe, the researchers discovered five periods of significantly greater seismic activity.

The seismic activity follows a five-year period of slowing in the earth's rotatio, and "This link is particularly important because Earth's rotation began one of its periodic slowdowns more than four years ago," according to the article.

"The Earth is offering us a five-year heads-up on future earthquakes," says one of the researchers, adding "The inference is clear. Next year we should see a significant increase in numbers of severe earthquakes."
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Upsurge in Big Earthquakes Predicted for 2018

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  • .... we start claiming we can predict earthquakes like we claim to be able to predict the weather or the climate?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Since that study, I'd wager.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      They're not predicting specific earthquakes, they're just pointing out that, based on what appears to be a cycle, we'll probably see more of them next year that we have each of the past few years.

    • by hcs_$reboot ( 1536101 ) on Monday November 20, 2017 @01:24AM (#55584969)
      Nope. Please read TFS for once (which has been nicely edited compared to my initial version!)
    • More to the point, since when in the fuck did we start predicting "periodic slowdowns in the Earth's rotation??" I smell unsubstantiated confusion, Guardian-style...
      • by Aighearach ( 97333 ) on Monday November 20, 2017 @05:37AM (#55585643) Homepage

        Since a long time ago, Jr.

        Since a long time ago.

      • More to the point, since when in the fuck did we start predicting "periodic slowdowns in the Earth's rotation??" I smell unsubstantiated confusion, Guardian-style...

        The earth's rotation has been slowing steadily all the time. Would that not mean a steady increase in quake activity?

        • The earth's rotation has been slowing steadily all the time. Would that not mean a steady increase in quake activity?

          It would indeed. Now when you're done begging the question, check the initial statement you made. Has the world really been slowing "steadily"? Hint: The result of deviation against the SI day measurement has an upwards trend, but it also is a very wiggly graph.

      • I'm going to guess that it is due to mag. North moving "a fair bit" right now. And while I'm guessing, I am going to guess that something _slowing down_ would be much less likely to "shake, rattle and roll" than something speeding up.

      • by jafiwam ( 310805 )

        More to the point, since when in the fuck did we start predicting "periodic slowdowns in the Earth's rotation??" I smell unsubstantiated confusion, Guardian-style...

        It's worded poorly.

        The "periodic" part is the frequency at which they adjust the clocks to suit the Earth.

        The Earth always has been, and always will be slowing it's rotation as long as it has a star to orbit and a moon orbiting it. Stuff happening on and inside the Earth can change the rate of rotation slowing.

        I am skeptical that earthquakes have a periodic pattern tied to rotation, perhaps only as a secondary effect of geology changing (both earthquakes and rotation change due to tectonics.)

  • #MAGMA (Score:5, Funny)

    by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Monday November 20, 2017 @01:07AM (#55584921) Journal

    "Scientists say the number of severe quakes is likely to rise strongly next year because of a periodic slowing of the Earth's rotation,"

    Thanks a lot, Trump.

  • "The theory goes that the slowdown creates a shift in the shape of the Earth's solid iron and nickel "inner core"

    There was a really great documentary about the Earth's core not only slowing down, but stopping altogether:
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0298814/combined/ [imdb.com]
  • by HtR ( 240250 ) on Monday November 20, 2017 @01:36AM (#55585027)
    This earth rotation issue was never a problem back when I was a kid. I blame the rise in jogging, specifically those joggers who jog eastward. If the joggers would just get together and only jog westward, the problem would be solved!
    • by hcs_$reboot ( 1536101 ) on Monday November 20, 2017 @02:01AM (#55585115)
      You're joking, but it's a cycle, which reason is not fully understood yet. Earth deceleration is about 1.7 ms a century. That made the recent negative acceleration 15 times 'faster' than usual.
      • That made the recent negative acceleration 15 times 'faster' than usual.

        It could be Three Gorges Dam filling up, moving 40 billion tonnes of water 200m further from the earth's center.

        • Did you do the calculations for that ?

          • by Anonymous Coward

            Did you do the calculations for that ?

            At least NASA has done those, according to Business Insider.

            Effect from the dam filling to the rotation time seems to be just 0,06 microseconds.

            • by rmdingler ( 1955220 ) on Monday November 20, 2017 @07:11AM (#55585923) Journal

              Did you do the calculations for that ?

              At least NASA has done those, according to Business Insider.

              Effect from the dam filling to the rotation time seems to be just 0,06 microseconds.

              We've long suspected that dams could do this, simply because when you shift the weight of the water around the globe, it affects the way the globe spins on its axis. It's the same as how a figure skater can spin faster by holding her arms above her head.

              Natural variations in the earth's rotation occur regularly, due to ice melt patterns and such, but it would be ill-advised to discount anthropogenic additions to a poorly understood planet-wide ecosystem. Only a planet dominated by a species that was science-challenged would make that mistake.

            • Or, they could have it backwards. Earthquakes can change the earth's rotation. Maybe changes leading to an earthquake can as well.

              https://www.space.com/11115-ja... [space.com]
          • https://mersadweb.com/ [mersadweb.com]
      • You're joking, but it's a cycle, which reason is not fully understood yet.

        Obviously there's a gradual, incremental slowdown due to tidal forces... but any speculation about cycles is just that.

        • It seems to be more likely due to the earth core cyclic moves and ... slowdowns.
        • You need to distinguish between the past and the future.

          The earth's rotation speed is precisely measurable (e.g. relative to distant stars/galaxies) and has been measured precisely for many decades. So regular slow-down, speed-up cycles in Earth's rotation speed in the past would not be speculated but rather measured.

          Speculating that such regular cycles will continue into the future would be speculation about cycles, based on either just simple induction or perhaps based on some hypothesis about wobbling ir

    • by TimSSG ( 1068536 )
      It might be the increase in rocket launches; but, it is hard to believe that is the cause. Tim S.
      • About the rocket launches possibly causing it.

        If not, please please please try to get QUANTITATIVE ! Don't demonstrate innumeracy.

        Hint about how to do this:

        Numbers (e.g. about relative masses and movement amounts) do not go like this:

        1
        10
        100
        1,000
        1,000,000
        A shitload
        A metric f@ck-tonne

        • Mass of Earth: 5.972 x 10^24 kg
          Mass of molten mostly-iron core of Earth: 1.97 x 10^24 kg
          Say 1 millionth part of the core represents the net wobble in the core (total wild-ass guess)
          So wobbling core mass: 1.97 x 10^18 kg

          Mass of SpaceX Falcon 9 FT: 549,054 kg

          So number of rocket departures from Earth needed to be roughly, really roughly equivalent to effect on Earth's rotation of wobbly molten core

          2.97 x 10^18 / 549,054 =

          could be on the order of 3.59 x 10^12 (that is 3.59 trillion) rocket departures
          (give or ta

  • by Templer421 ( 4988421 ) on Monday November 20, 2017 @02:26AM (#55585179)

    Just say crap and if it happens you can claim to be "Right."

    If it doesn't people tend to forget.

    No downside either you are either a genius or people forget what you said.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@@@world3...net> on Monday November 20, 2017 @06:20AM (#55585765) Homepage Journal

      I call this the Head Up Arse Effect. While scepticism is generally a good thing, we long ago reached the point where some people dismiss all science out of hand.

      Obviously since you posted such a detailed rebuttal of their claims this doesn't apply to you. I look forward to your paper refuting these jokers'.

    • Just say crap and if it happens you can claim to be "Right."

      I understand the Slashdot history of saying correlation != causation, but at what point did we become anti science enough to say "Yeah correlation but I don't believe you and THIS time it will be different!"

  • by mattr ( 78516 ) <mattr@[ ]ebody.com ['tel' in gap]> on Monday November 20, 2017 @05:35AM (#55585633) Homepage Journal

    This is the kind of prediction you don't really want to be correct about. Would have liked to see some more technical explanation, but from a little googling I see there is a 32 year cycle of slowing which the scientists think might be due to mantle and crust sticking together more, which would also mess up the magnetic field a bit. I had no idea this was a thing. There are various other causes according to wikipedia apparently such as the Indian ocean earthquake which redistributed mass. So I wonder whether there would be any impact from water that melts from arctic ice. People living at the intersection of tectonic plates tend to think about this stuff.
    Two links: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
    https://qz.com/1133304/as-eart... [qz.com]

    • Quakes are common, happen all the time. I live in south California and the last quake I felt was many years ago. There are quakes that cause a lot of damage but many are in areas with low population or where the damage isn't reported. https://earthquake.usgs.gov/ea... [usgs.gov]
    • by koomba ( 2882339 )
      You're right in that isostatic rebound absolutely can cause earthquakes. One prominent example is the New Madrid earthquake that happened in the Memphis area on the US in the early 19th century. It was nowhere near any major fault lines, and is pretty much universally accepted to be a result of glacial rebound from the last ice age.
  • slowing in the earth's rotatio

    Rotation ratio?
    Rotation potato?
    Rotisserie potato?

    A simple typo, and a good 5 minutes of day lost ;-)

  • Good choice of weasel words for non-peer-reviewed bullshit. Is this what /. has come to?
  • Time to buy ocean front property in Idaho!

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