CBS Local — Geologists have unveiled an ominous forecast for the planet in 2018 as the number of devastating earthquakes is predicted to rise. Scientists are blaming the spike in seismic activity on Earth’s slowing rotation.

At a meeting of the Geological Society of America in October, two researchers warned that the world will likely see a 30-percent increase in the number of Magnitude-7 quakes next year. The planet normally suffers through an average of 15 major earthquakes annually.

Geophysicists Roger Bilham and Rebecca Bendick claim that the new surge is tied to the planet slowing down over the last few years. The occasional fluctuation in the Earth’s velocity has been charted by scientists for decades. The changes result in the planet losing or gaining a millisecond each day from time to time, however, the researchers theorize that massive amounts of energy are being released underground and it will create more large quakes.

Bilham and Bendick found five periods in the last 100 years where a slowdown preceded a spike in earthquakes.

“In these periods, there were between 25 to 30 intense earthquakes a year,” Bilham said, via The Guardian. The scientists added that the effect will likely be felt more in tropical areas closer to the equator.

The geophysicists are following a pattern that seems to show that it takes about five years for the seismic activity to surface after the planet slows. The last slowdown reportedly began in 2011. In 2017, three Magnitude-7 earthquakes shook the planet within a three-month period. Two of the quakes, one in the Middle East and one in New Caledonia, occurred just seven days apart.

“We have had it easy this year. So far we have only had about six severe earthquakes. We could easily have 20 a year starting in 2018,” Bilham added.

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