General Question

imrainmaker's avatar

Do you live in active seismic zone?

Asked by imrainmaker (8258points) November 20th, 2017

If yes here’s the link where scientists are predicting possibility of big earthquakes next year. Check it out.

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47 Answers

Rarebear's avatar

Article is bullshit. The Earth doesn’t periodically slow down.

marinelife's avatar

Not any more. For years, I lived in Western Washington, which has Earthquakes regularly, and is overdue for a huge one.

elbanditoroso's avatar

No and yes.

Georgia is/was thought to be pretty stable and nowhere near any of the seismic plates that cause so many problems.

BUT – in the last several years, we felt a couple of quakes – a 5.5 in western South Carolina, and a 3.2 in Augusta, GA last June.

These aren’t very large and don’t do any damage, but they’re unusual.

zenvelo's avatar

Yes, I live in a well known seismic zone, the San Francisco Bay Area. I live about 7 miles from the Hayward Fault, which has been considered “overdue” for a major quake for a long time. .

DominicY's avatar

They’ve been predicting a “big one” here in the Bay Area for decades. I’m well aware that it could happen. It could happen five minutes from now or it could happen 30 years from now. I don’t spend much time worrying about it.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

@Rarebear Think again. The Earth’s rotation speed varies. You may be mistaking The Guardian for the tabloids like the Sun and Mail.

Nature – December 2004 Sumatran quake sped up Earth’s rotation – Natural disaster shaved millionths of a second off planet’s day

US Naval Observatory – The Earth is constantly undergoing a deceleration caused by the braking action of the tides. Through the use of ancient observations of eclipses, it is possible to determine the average deceleration of the Earth to be roughly 1.4 milliseconds per day per century.

NASA – Ask the Scientist – Dr. Sten Odenwald – We can detect how the rotation rate of the Earth changes fast and slow by milli seconds per day depending on how the mass distribution of the Earth and its atmosphere change from earthquakes and the movement of water and air.

And finally this the presentation linked in the article, showing a correlation between the Earth’s rotation speed and seismic activity.

Geological Society of America – Geological Society of America
A FIVE YEAR FORECAST FOR INCREASED GLOBAL SEISMIC HAZARD (Invited Presentation) BILHAM, Roger, Geological Sciences and CIRES, University of Colorado at Boulder and BENDICK, Rebecca, Department of Geosciences, University of Montana,
On five occasions in the past century a 25–30% increase in annual numbers of Mw≥7 earthquakes has coincided with a slowing in the mean rotation velocity of the Earth, with a corresponding decrease at times when the length-of-day (LoD) is short. The correlation between Earth’s angular deceleration (d[LoD]/dt) and global seismic productivity is yet more striking, and can be shown to precede seismicity by 5–6 years, permitting societies at risk from earthquakes an unexpected glimpse of future seismic hazard. The cause of Earth’s variable rotation is the exchange of angular momentum between the solid and fluid Earth (atmospheres, oceans and outer core).

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

And regarding the question – the strongest earthquake I have felt was here in Chicago, which is surprising since I lived in Los Angeles full-time for five years and half the year for another four. I’ve also felt a good one in Michigan.

Neither was strong enough to knock over any dishes, but the shaking of the ground was strong.

We could possibly get a big one. The New Madrid fault is around the southern tip of Illinois, by Missouri and Kentucky.

The Illinois State Geological Survey says, “Three great earthquakes, each larger than magnitude 8.0, struck the New Madrid Seismic Zone during the winter of 1811–1812. This is the largest release of seismic energy ever recorded in the continental US. ”

Dutchess_III's avatar

Yes but I shouldn’t. The frakking in Oklahoma has caused earthquakes here for the last 4 years. Never had them before. Some of them are pretty bad, and they hit so fast. One time was sitting at my computer table when suddenly the whole house twisted. It was freaky.

Interesting about Madrid, isn’t it @Call_Me_Jay! I came across that bit about 10 years ago.

Love_my_doggie's avatar

I never thought so, until the D.C. area got hit during 2011.

RocketGuy's avatar

I can’t imagine that microsecond changes in a 86,400 second (24 hour) rotation would have much effect. That’s a 10^-10 multiplication factor.

Here’s a wiki on Earth’s rotation:

Call_Me_Jay's avatar


p = m * v

What’s the mass of a continental plate?

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I lived on Hawaii’s Big Island for 14 years. The volcanoes there made things rock and roll often. I’m now on Oahu. The ground is much quieter.

Aethelwine's avatar

I’m in west central Illinois, not far from the New Madrid. I’ve felt two earthquakes in the past 20 years but there have been many more. Most are under a 5.0 magnitude.

filmfann's avatar

I used to. Now, I live on the side of a volcano.
No worries. It hasn’t exploded for 100 years

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

I have only experienced one that I actually felt and it was just a few months ago. It was like a 3. The area has earthquakes but they are all pretty small. I used to help a sisemologist set up strong motion recorders in my old job. Tiny earthquakes set them off regularly.

Darth_Algar's avatar

I see some other Illinois peeps here. I grew up in the New Madrid fault’s backyard (extreme southern IL). The southern end of the state is cradled between two active seismic zones – New Madrid and the Wabash Valley. This region of the continent sits on rather rigid bedrock that doesn’t dissipate seismic energy as well, so earthquakes in the region tend to be felt far and wide (a 2008 quake near Mt. Carmel, IL was felt as far away as Ontario, Canada).

Rarebear's avatar

@RocketGuy is absolutely correct. The article is saying that a change in the Earth’s rotation will cause earthquakes is absolute bollocks. Because it’s in the Guardian it must be true? Think again.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

@Rarebear I vouched for the Guardian because it’s a reputable paper, not akin to Murdoch papers and other tabloids. I guessed that you were dismissing the story based on ignorance of the source.

Anyway, thanks for your thoroughly documented comment. There’s a lot of detail there, you’ll need to give me some time to wade through it. You gave so many authoritative sources and citations. So generous of you to share your extensive research. You really present a persuasive argument that deserves a lot of respect.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Yet another earthquake prediction hypothesis. I’ll make one of my own: 2018 earthquake activity has a high statistical probability of being average. If a direct cause of earthquakes can be established then there is something but somewhat sensational papers like this pop up all the time and are either intentionally just a hair over the top for publicity or blown completely out of proportion and/or context by the media.

JLeslie's avatar

When I lived in the Memphis area I felt a slight shake a couple of times. The New Madrid fault caused one of the most severe earthquakes ever in the contiguous 48 around 100 years ago. My earthquake insurance there was a fortune! Lol. They expect there will be another very severe earthquake there eventually. They recently worked on reinforcing the I40 bridge across the Mississippi River to resist the next big earthquake, and were working on emergency plans to deal with the aftermath.

About 4 years ago I moved back to FL. FL has near zero risk of earthquakes I think. Although, some francking is done in the state, I’m not sure if it’s done near me? Where I live when the earth moves it’s almost always a sink hole. Many many sink holes where I live.

Rarebear's avatar

@Call_Me_Jay I know the Guardian very well. But I know science even better. The story is sensationalist bullshit.

Darth_Algar's avatar


It was actually a series of quakes along the New Madrid Fault in late 1811 – early 1812, the most severe of which happened early February, 1812.

NomoreY_A's avatar

On top of the Balcones Fault here in Central Texas. Not active that I am aware of. Been here most of my life and I have never felt anything.

Patty_Melt's avatar

Activity where I now live is too light for much to be felt, but I lived in Reno during the quake a thon of 2008. We had a few significant shake ups, but nearly every day felt some sort of movement for several weeks.

There was a single quake, I believe was ‘03 or ‘04 which centered quite some distance away, but still had an impressive jolt in Reno. It was the weirdest I ever experienced. There was no shaking at all. It was a single, hard impact. My refrigerator jumped straight up about an inch and came down loud. I nearly pooped myself, but it was over in a blink. My daughter was a toddler. Her eyes got huge. She looked around her like the house was maybe mad at us.
During the 2008 chain, it was spooky, never knowing when a big one might liquify the ground under us, but most of us behaved real casual about it, “How many of them did you notice today?”

Muad_Dib's avatar

I’m in Florida – Our hazards are sinkholes, hurricanes, and exploding meth labs.

2davidc8's avatar

Back to the OP original question. Yes, I do. Right on top of a fault, as a matter of fact—the Calaveras Fault in Northern California.

JLeslie's avatar

@Darth_Algar Thanks for correcting the time frame. History was never my best subject. I should have googled the dates again to be more accurate.

zenvelo's avatar

There have been 134 earthquakes in Monterey County since last week’s 4.6 magnitude

RocketGuy's avatar

The Moon probably has more influence on earthquakes than the 10^-10 g deceleration due to the Earth’s rotation.

funkdaddy's avatar

@Rarebear – I’m surprised you’re this adamant and haven’t backed off at all. Is it really that far out to think the speed of the earth’s rotation has something to do with earthquakes?

Imagine the same argument for another planet, or for a sphere of water covered in ice. The speed of rotation would certainly make the shape change and that would stress whatever rigid shell was around the gooey center, right?

Is it completely unlikely that even a small change could have an effect, if that’s supported by historical information? Did you read the abstract or summary?

It seems like solid science from a couple of doctors specializing in this area. Ignoring it or labeling it bullshit without proof would seem to ignore what science is all about.

Rarebear's avatar

@funkdaddy “Is it really that far out to think the speed of the earth’s rotation has something to do with earthquakes?”

Yes, of course it is. And anybody who knows a basic modicum of science will know that too, including Bilham. Bilham is merely doing a statistical analysis over the last 100 years and seeing possible statistical anomalies. This is most likely statistical noise and if you apply a Bayesian prior probability filter to it it makes it even less likely. His data was presented as an interesting statistical quirk at a conference and was picked up in the media before the data was even peer reviewed and now poor Bilham is now the Harbinger of Doom.

Even if there is correlation, correlation does not equal causation.

It’s very important not to look at statistics and make conclusions on it without being Bayesian about it. Otherwise you end up making decisions based upon erroneous data and statistical noise when no error actually exists.

RocketGuy's avatar

Speed of rotation affecting a planet – very likely. Milli-microchanges in speed – maybe not. F = ma. If “a” is minuscule, F will be too.

funkdaddy's avatar

@rarebear @rocketguy

There’s a difference between saying “I don’t think there’s an effect at those scales” and calling something “sensationalist bullshit” repeatedly while sharing social media friendly links to prove it.

Yes, of course it is. And anybody who knows a basic modicum of science will know that too

And this line is like someone was called down from the ivory tower and simply isn’t pleased to be bothered. All those steps.

I agree that there’s unlikely to be a direct effect either from the rate of rotation or the resulting flexing of the Earth, which would be a matter of millimeters. But fault creep is also measured in millimeters over years and considered valuable data for predicting the binding and release that causes earthquakes. The paper also seems to more directly discuss interaction between layers that act as liquid beneath the surface and the outer crust. Those movements, combined with some pretty severe temperature gradients would seem to make it plausible that small changes could have larger effects. Especially when those changes oscillate and affect the entire system. It’s a system we (collectively, as a species) do not seem to understand very well, but these people have specialized in for their entire professional career.

Looking at El Niño weather patterns caused by one section of ocean or the banding in Jupiter’s atmosphere gives us a look at complex systems differentiated by relatively minor changes when those changes are repeated and affect an entire closed system.

I guess more importantly to me though, if there’s a basic bit of science that completely disproves a theory being discussed, simply share the knowledge. Spend 15 minutes educating and watch it multiply.

Rarebear's avatar

Okay, fair enough.

My issue isn’t with the science, but the newspaper article. I will summarize what the two authors in the article of the paper said:

The Earth is subject to periodic microsecond increases and slow downs of rotation. There are probably various causes of this, some known, and some unknown. But the change in rotation is on the order of 0.000001 seconds.

What the researchers did was look at statistical clumping of earthquakes to see if there could be a correlation between the periodic changes in revolution and earthquake. What they found was that there may be a correlation, but the earthquake increase did not happen until 5 years after the rotation change. They said, that if the causes are linked that there could possibly be a mechanism by which potential energy gets somehow stored up in the Earth’s crust and is released as earthquakes. They said that this was pure conjecture, and it was just a paper presented at a conference. The paper was neither published nor peer reviewed.

Then, the Guardian and other papers somehow find out about it and write sensationalist headlines implying that we’re all going to die in some massive cataclysmic event. Okay, I jest here but you get the point. The articles were clickbait. Nothing more. And THAT’s where my characterization of “sensationalized bullshit” comes from. It is FAR more likely that this is just a statistical blip, like Derren Brown flipping a coin and hitting heads 10 times in a row. Or as Carl Sagan said, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”.

It is unreasonably hard to find good science reporting nowadays. The more sensational the science, the more likely it will be picked up and misrepresented by the media as this one. Everybody likes a good death and destruction story. We get it in health care all the time, so I’m used to it. The poor geologists, though, were probably unprepared for it.

And this can have bad outcomes too. Several years ago, there was a report out of Italy that had a finding that neutrinos move faster than the speed of light. They were careful to couch their results with a bunch of caveats, i.e. there could be an unrecognized source of error yada yada. But the pop science media glommed onto it and reported all over the place that scientists proved Einstein was WRONG!

Well, it turns out that the result was from a loose cable (yes I realize that link is from the Guardian and the irony of me pointing to it, but I’m too lazy to find another) and once they fixed the hardware the spurious result went away. Later, the principle investigator had to resign.

So when I see headlines like “Upsurge in big earthquakes predicted for 2018 as Earth rotation slows” I eye roll.

Be skeptical.

Dutchess_III's avatar

It’s right up there with The World is Ending in March of 2017! The Mayans predicted it!

Rarebear's avatar

No, actually that’s an unfair comparison (I know you were kidding). The science is real. These are professionals who know what they were doing and were careful to couch their results with a great degree of skepticism. It was the press that blew it up.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I was responding to the headline you posted, “Upsurge in big earthquakes predicted for 2018 as Earth rotation slows.” I haven’t been reading every word of this post, even though it’s interesting. Been campin’ with the grandkids which is even more interesting!

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

“It is unreasonably hard to find good science reporting nowadays. The more sensational the science, the more likely it will be picked up and misrepresented by the media as this one”

Damn right, and the thing that really bothers me is just how many people readily accept the spin the press puts on it. People have an inflated sense of how much they understand science and have generally lost the ability to question what they are being presented. Sad times.

RocketGuy's avatar

If it’s on the Internet it must be true. :(

Dutchess_III's avatar

Not much man. Good to see you here!

RocketGuy's avatar

I’ve been more active on Quora and FB.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Quora is horrible! Now shush! We’re getting off topic!

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