Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Quake Quack: Stand back, I'm about to Science.

Jim Berkland, retired geologist and full time crackpot is calling for a massive earthquake to hit the Los Angeles area today. He has been reprimanded in the past for potentially inciting panic in the populous by doing similar things. Granted, he apparently successfully predicted the "World Series" quake of 1989 where a 6.9 magnitude quake rocked the area surrounding San Fransisco.

Berkland made an appearance two nights back on the least responsible network on the airwaves today, Fox News:

I love how the report is wrapped up with, "He's a pretty good geologist". A ringing endorsement for the only side of the story presented as fact. Is there another side? NOW THAT'S FAIR AND BALANCED (their moto)!!!

I think that the scientists and geologists at the USGS would beg to differ. Geologists world wide have been working on earthquake prediction for decades and have failed to come up with reliable method yet Berkland claims he has the key!

Here is the basis of his claim:

1.) The moon's gravitational pull exerts force on the Earth's plates influencing shifts and creating quakes. Alright, the moon does do this. It exerts forces on the oceans as well causing tides etc. Let's keep in mind that the Earth does the same to the moon only with much more gravitational force (ten million times).

2.) This same magnetic force causes strange animal behavior such as beaching whales, dogs running away from home, homing pigeons getting lost and sardines dieing off. He offers no explanation for the same chance happenings when they occur without being coupled with an earthquake. He continues to cite the large Sardine die off in Redondo beach as evidence of the impending quake as a beaching or suicidal move on the fish's part though Marine Biologists are now saying it is most likely due to an algae bloom 12 miles of the coast of Santa Monica. He also admits to thinking there was no correlation between pets running away from home until in retrospect he noticed his own cat had run away a week prior to the world series quake.

3.)THUS, if the moon is full and your dog runs away, there's probably an earthquake coming.

Feel free to listen to his side of the story here on an interview he did yesterday:

You'll note that he waffles on about the 1933 Long Beach quake and the 1971 San Fernando quake and the fact that there were no major Californian earthquakes between the two. This is complete bullshit. There were three. One actually happened on a full moon which would seem to back up his claim. The others of course did not. All were 6.1 or larger. He conveniently skips over facts and includes others.

After going through a list of dates on which major earthquakes have occurred (I looked at only those measuring 6.0+) and comparing those dates to the lunar phase calendar I noticed the occasional correlation between a full moon and an earthquake. Alright, so from around 30 6.0+ quakes since 2008 only one fell on a full moon. Around 4 fell within 4 days of a full moon. The others were nowhere close to a full moon for their geographic location (northern and southern hemispheres have different moon phases). In regards to a Californian quake, well... we have them several times a day. Naming a date and  saying there's a quake is like saying, "I bet the sun will come up tomorrow." As far as world wide prediction, there's an earthquake of 4-5.0 magnitude on a daily basis. There has been 13 earthquakes of a 6.0 magnitude since January 01 of this year that have happened outside of Japan. That's one every 6 days. A full moon happens about every 30 days. You can see how the odds of earthquakes happening on or around the time of a full moon are pretty good. Berkland also uses some voodoo math to claim accuracy. If the quake happens within 140 miles of where he predicts he is 100% accurate. If he is inaccurate with the prediction of time he docks himself 10% a day. Thus, he can claim to be 50% accurate by predicting a quake for Vancouver or Santa Monica on the full moon but it happens in Merritt or San Diego almost a week later on the half moon. Considering quakes are a daily event in the SoCal region it's not surprising he's able to claim 75% accuracy.

I can only attribute Berkland's claims then to what one sees in the superstitious. The recollection of past correlations coupled with the ignoring or forgetting of past dissonance. This sort of thing is really weak. He's a scientist and furthermore, he's a geologist which has been a personal interest of mine since selecting it as a minor in University. The scientific method denotes that he needs to test and recreate this correlation to prove it yet he hasn't. Only anecdotal evidence of pets running away has been given. Shame on him and shame on Fox news for reporting it at all.

For my friends down here, always be prepared for an earthquake. We live in a seismically active area and therefore it's rather foolhardy not to be prepared. Lots of water on hand and some non-perishable food. $50-$100 cash somewhere safe.

That is all.

Please check the information yourself:

What bullcack the supermoon is:

List of significant earthquakes by year:

Moon phase calculator:

1 comment:

  1. As an epilogue:

    It is Sunday afternoon. There has been no earthquake but it is raining as the weather forecast predicted. I'm sure Jim Berkland considers this weather extreme and wild and certainly caused by the "supermoon". He no doubt continues to see correlations between moon phases and earthquakes, UFOs and the virgin Mary on toast.