Increased Caribbean seismicity and volcanism during minima in Earth’s rotation rate: Search for a physical mechanism and a 2030 forecast

Roger Bilham, Walter Szeliga, David Mencin, Rebecca Bendick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Three quarters of all Mw ≥ 6.6 earthquakes and volcanic eruptions surrounding the Caribbean plate occur preferentially during periods of decadal minima in Earth’s angular spin velocity. This correlation is revealed most clearly as a 4–6 years phase lag following the first derivative of the length of the day (LOD), Earth’s angular deceleration. We show that local strains and displacements resulting from oblateness changes, or plate boundary stresses associated with changes in tropical rotation rates are orders of magnitude lower than those typically associated with earthquake or volcano triggering. Notwithstanding the absence of a satisfactory causal physical mechanism, the relationship permits decadal trends in Caribbean tectonic hazards to be anticipated many years before their occurrence. The next period of increased tectonic activity in the Caribbean, corresponding to a probable slowing in Earth’s spin rate, will occur in the decade starting on or about 2030.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1041311
JournalFrontiers in Earth Science
Volume10
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 20 2022

Keywords

  • LOD
  • angular deceleration
  • earthquake forecast
  • oblateness
  • polflucht
  • rotation and seismicity
  • rotational velocity

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