Major Earthquakes Around World to Increase in 2018: Fact Check


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Picture about Number of Major Earthquakes Around World to Increase in 2018
Number of Major Earthquakes Around World to Increase in 2018

Story:

Major Earthquakes Around World to Increase in 2018.

Other Versions

1. Scientists predict the number of serious earthquakes around the world will increase in 2018.

2. The number of devastating earthquakes in 2018 may increase, study says.

Fact Check:

Certain stories doing rounds online, also reported by various news outlets warn that scientists have predicted there will be increase in the number of devastating earthquakes around the world in 2018. It is linked to the mysterious slowing down of earth’s rotation, but as explained below, the claim is not entirely true.

Origin of Claim

In August 2017, geophysicists R. Bendick from University of Montana and R. Bilham from University of Colorado Boulder published a paper in the journal Geophysical Research Letters titled “Do weak global stresses synchronize earthquakes?“. They studied global earthquake record from 1900 and tried to find if there is any “renewal interval,” i.e the amount of time an earthquake zone needs to build up the potential energy to cause a really big quake.

In the historical record, Bendick and Bilham seemed to find that a certain class of earthquakes with a magnitude of 7.0 or more around the equator occurred in a short renewal interval between 20 and 70 years. And every three decades or so, the planet earth seemed to experience an increase of such devastating earthquakes. To explain the earthquake clusters, they attributed it to the cyclical changes in the speed of the Earth’s rotation – that the planet slows down to a slight extent every 30 years or so, and around five years later, a cluster of these severe, short-interval earthquakes occur. They predicted that in 2018 there can be significant increase in the number of devastating earthquakes around the world. Their statistical research on earthquakes got much attention (and hype) after its presentation during the Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America in Seattle.

Major Earthquakes to Increase in 2018?

Firstly, it is difficult to predict earthquakes accurately, and the Bendick’s and Bilham’s research findings are preliminary; they have not been confirmed in lab or follow up studies. Many critics pointed the correlation is not causation. Earthquake clusters and fluctuations of Earth’s rotation may happen on same time scales. However, it does not mean they are linked.

Following the hype and worry about increase in major earthquakes in 2018, many scientists said they are not convinced with the study in question, adding conclusions from it are not set in stone. Moreover, the kind of earthquakes Bendick and Bilham analyzed happen in earthquake-prone areas, like Japan, New Zealand, and the West Coast of the United States. Also, Bendick cautioned their study is about probabilities, not predictions. He explained Earth’s slowing does not mean a quake will happen in the next year 2018 or so. It only means the likelihood may have gone up.

So it does not necessarily mean year 2018 will be particularly devastating in terms of global earthquakes; such claims are therefore hoaxes.

Hoax or Fact:

Mixture of Hoax and Facts.

References:

The real science behind the unreal predictions of major earthquakes in 2018
Changes in Earth’s rotation


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Prashanth Damarla
Debunker

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