The alert was posted Friday [16 March 2007] online, on a site called Syzygy Job (http://www.syzygyjob.com.) The prediction was nothing new – that the southern end of the San Andreas Fault was going to let loose with a Big One, the inevitable euphemism for a major earthquake. The only difference is that this time around, the prediction is that a moderate-to-large quake could be imminent, occurring sometime within the next couple of weeks.
Been There, Done That
Historically, some of the biggest temblors in Southern California have occurred in the first quarter of the year and in conjunction with a lunar eclipse. That isn't some mysterious bit of wizardry: it's a fact that lunar gravity generates an enormous pull on Earth. This time around, though, the planet is sending off some ominous warnings, generating a whole new set of red flags. The lithosphere (the outer layer of Earth's crust) has exhibited unusual, rapid decompression of late, something Syzygy author Frank Condon, of GeoSeismic Labs, claims could be precursor to a significant quake in the region. In his posting, Condon referred to a 2.7 magnitude earthquake that rumbled beneath the Los Angeles area Friday evening, saying it was just the warm up.
A lunar eclipse is due to arrive on March 19, 2007, in a syzygy, an astronomical event in which the sun, moon and earth line up.
Not Just For California Any More
Canadian scientists issued a similar alert in February, warning west coast residents that undersea shakes signaled a period of heightened earthquake danger. That prediction fizzled, producing no notable quake, though some media outlets mocked the prediction as a sham.
The trouble with earthquake prediction is that it's a very new science and nowhere near perfected. Experts are torn between the damage to their reputations if they predict a quake that never materializes, or the possible human cost if they see signs and don't issue a corresponding alert. They also express concerns about the "cry wolf" syndrome. If experts issue earthquake alerts and no quake results, people could become blasé about the whole process, dismissing an urgent warning prior to major earthquake event.
Syzygy Speaks to Us
In a phone call Saturday, SyzygyJob.com's owner, Jim Berkland, said that this is not a new concept. Peruvian natives accept the quake-eclipse link as simple fact. Meanwhile, Berkland was effectively blackballed for daring to cite the phenomenon in his public capacity.
Berkland comes into this project with an impressive set of credentials. He spent six years on staff with the US Geological Survey and twenty-one years as geologist for Santa Clara County, the first person to hold the post for any California county. Past professional affiliations include the U.S. Bureau or Reclamation, and the University of California at Davis, among many.
Berkland explained that this month's lunar event is a red zone because the syzygy occurs in conjunction with a perigee, the moon's closest approach to Earth. It was just such an astronomical conjunction that hit at the time of the 1989 World Series earthquake, and syzygy-perigee eclipses parallel major temblors throughout history. Berkland expressed frustration with what he feels is obvious data, saying, "It really gripes me that high science has ignored this."
One Plus One Plus One Equals Earthquake
Contributing to the prediction is a relative lull in quake activity across the region over the past few years, coupled with the heavy rains that deluged southern California two winters ago. Berkland said the last time the region saw a 6+ magnitude quake, it followed this same pattern. Seismic pressures built, heavy rainfall soaked into fissures over a period of several months, and the earth performed a seismic rumba. He's convinced that this time around, a heavy temblor is all but inevitable, and that it's going to erupt within a matter of days.
Like any other scientific process, earthquake prediction requires observation of relevant factors, drawing parallels and seeing connections. Berkland told that when he pointed out what he considers obvious links, he was labeled a crackpot and a maverick geologist — even when later studies backed his findings. He declared that his quake predictions are dead-on some seventy-five percent of the time, far too often for coincidence. Berkland told Saturday evening that it's a reality: southern California should brace for an earthquake of 6+ magnitude sometime between now and the end of the month. He labeled the southern San Andreas web of faults "really hot right now," in terms of quake indications.
Berkland's site, syzygy.com, also predicts another 7+ earthquake during the period, "probably in the Pacific Ring of Fire." The Ring of Fire is a region of seismic activity that's been home to all ten of the world's largest recorded quakes, and includes the west coast of the US, the east coast of the former USSR, Japan, Indonesia, and the west coast of South America.
Let's Get Ready to Rumble
There have already been some 6+ magnitude quakes along the western Americas this month. A 6.3 earthquake was reported during this writing, rumbling just off the coast of Panama. On Monday, March 12, a 6.0 temblor hit the Gulf of California. If Berkland's right, the next big shake could be centered in the heavily-populated regions surrounding Los Angeles or San Diego.
Interestingly enough, Berkland pointed to some errors in Condon's forum prediction, though he agreed with its premise. He echoed the need to put more value on anecdotal evidence, such as the fact that animals behave differently in advance of an earthquake. Mankind didn't begin observing earthquakes when it developed the tools to measure them. Tools were invented as a result of centuries of observation.