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Study: Big Earthquakes Doubled This Year

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The first quarter of 2014 saw more big earthquakes than the average of every quarter since 1979. (Getty Images)

The first quarter of 2014 saw more big earthquakes than the average of every quarter since 1979. (Getty Images)

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SACRAMENTO (CBS Sacramento) – There’s been a whole lot of shakin’ going on: 2014 is shaping up to be a big year for big earthquakes.

Geologists say there were more than twice as many big quakes, those larger than magnitude 7,  in the first quarter of the year than the average for all the quarters since 1979, reports Live Science.

“We have recently experienced a period that has had one of the highest rates of great earthquakes ever recorded,” said lead study author Tom Parsons, a research geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey.

The average rate of big quakes has been 10 per year since 1979, the study reports. That rate rose to 12.5 per year starting in 1992, and then jumped to 16.7 per year starting in 2010, a 65 percent increase. This increase accelerated in the first three months of 2014, according to a new report.

Scientists had hoped to find a relationship between big earthquakes, but so far the evidence does not support it.

“As our group has been interested in the ability of an earthquake to affect others at a global scale, we wondered if we were seeing it happening. I really expected we would see evidence of something we couldn’t explain by randomness,” Parsons told Live Science.

Earthquakes smaller than magnitude 5.6 do cluster on a global scale, the researchers found. This suggests less-powerful quakes are more likely to be influenced by others.

“It’s possible that global-level communications happen so infrequently that we haven’t seen enough to find it among the larger, rarer events,” Parsons said.

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