Scientists have warned dozens of earthquakes could devastate the world next year.

Roger Bilham, from the University of Colorado in Boulder, claims a slight slowdown in the earth's rotation could trigger increased seismic activity.

He has written a paper with Rebecca Bendick of the University of Montana, and the pair discovered five periods when the world experienced "25 to 30 earthquakes a year", compared to the average of 15.

Periods of increased earthquake activity took place five years after the earth's rotation has changed, their research found.

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The slowdown in earth's rotation is small, measuring in milliseconds, but enough to release vast amounts of underground energy.

"It is straightforward. The Earth is offering us a five-year heads-up on future earthquakes," he told The Observer.

"Next year, we should see a significant increase in the numbers of severe earthquakes. 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."