SYZYGY...An Earthquake Newsletter
Sizz-a-Jee (Linked by a common need & interest)
Editor: Jim Berkland
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James O. Berkland
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December 1996


Hello Folks, With this December 1996 issue, welcome to the end of our seventh year of SYZYGY. Wow! 84 issues! I am at the point where I am exploring the idea of offering you a book, THE BEST OF SYZYGY, with chapter headings: "Foreshocks", "Seismic Sentries," "Quote of the Month", "Quake of the Month", "Sound Advice/Planning Ploys," "Jest for Fun," "Earthquake Predictions," and "Aftershocks." What do you think? Meanwhile, now is the time to ACT to prevent expiration of your subscription to this newsletter. I don't want to lose you, and most subscriptions end with this issue. (With a postmark before Dec 1, 1996 you get a bonus month, extending you for a baker's dozen issues.)

Meanwhile again, going from future to past publications, in the early days of SYZYGY, I was totally ignored by that "holier than thou" magazine, Skeptical Inquirer, when I sent them a letter to rebut a shallow hit-piece on me. My friend, Stan Friedman, reviewed my letter and said it was a good one, but predicted that they would never publish it. How right he was. It is clear that we should be skeptical about skeptics, because editors with a negative agenda are not likely to include evidence showing that they were positively wrong. Last year, I finally dropped my subscription to Skeptical Inquirer after about 10 years on their rolls, because the irritation level just got too high.

As an example, their science editor, Robert Sheaffer, had earlier tried to debunk the UFO report by fellow Lion, Jimmy Carter (Yes, that Jimmy Carter), by writing that our ex-President, a nuclear engineer, had mistaken the planet, Venus, for a unidentified flying object. Carter had filed a report with Project Bluebook on September 18, 1973 (coincidentally, just two weeks after I had become the first Santa Clara County Geologist.) The sighting was made by members of the Leary Lions Club (Georgia) just after dark, about 7:15 p.m. in October 1969 (coincidentally, the month I resigned from the Department of the Interior in order to study for my PhD at U.C., Davis, eventually completing everything but my dissertation.) Sorry for the convoluted writing, but sometimes SYZYGY is essentially a stream of consciousness, and you know how geologists appreciate the work of streams.

The point is, science writer Robert Sheaffer failed to do his homework (again). Venus had set in the west several hours before sunset in October 1969 and also at the time of the belated Blue Book report in September 1973. There is no way that the 10-12 minute gyrations of the strange, bright object had anything to do with Venus, even though Jimmy may have "lusted in his heart" for her.

My own personal objections to the Sheaffer's work can be seen in the following unacknowledged letter that I mailed to the Skeptical Inquirer in early 1990:

Editor, Skeptical Inquirer:

As a long-time subscriber, I received your Spring 1990 issue with anticipation. However, my pleasure turned to disappointment and annoyance when I got to "Psychic Vibrations" by your science editor, Robert Sheaffer. As a professional scientist with more than thirty years in the field of geology, including teaching at the university level on both coasts, I take strong exception to a number of aspects of Sheaffer's article, where it concerns me.

I have no problem with being labeled "unorthodox," and I expect legitimate criticism regarding one of the most controversial of topics, earthquake prediction. My objections stem from unfounded statements, such as that my predictions were "unfounded", that my predicted Seismic Windows embrace more than one-half of each month, and that the Mercury News pet ads "decreased the closer we drew to October 17." This last quote was from a defamatory article by Mercury News columnist, Pat Dillon (October 26, 1989), who had no more idea about my predictive parameters than does science writer, Sheaffer, who would be well-advised to obtain his information from some source other than a calumnistic columnist.

My rebuttal to Dillon was published by the Mercury (December 6, 1989) but it was conveniently overlooked by Skeptical Inquirer. I would hope that this letter will serve to show that there is another side, a factual one.
First of all, I have daily been monitoring the lost and found ads for missing pets since 1979, when a physicist with Xerox alerted me to the technique. There is absolutely no question that dogs are highly disturbed by natural phenomena, such as thunderstorms, and by unnatural phenomena, such as Fourth of July fireworks. A small proportion of dogs panic and blindly run away from home. Some of them get lost, adopted, run over, or captured by the animal control officers. A small percentage of missing pets begin to show up in the classified section from three to five days after the disturbing stimulus drove them away. Thus, between July 7-12 every year there is an anomalous lengthening of the lost and found column (so that a daily sequence can be arranged that mimics a columnar graph.) Since the 1970's (for the Mercury News) this anomaly has consistently ranged between 200-400 percent. The three highest totals on record are: (1) 88 on July 9, 1980; (2) 85 on July 8, 1982; and (3) 81 0n October 27, 1989. As there was no instance of local fireworks or thunderstorm activity last October, I believe we can safely look to another motivation for the 81 dogs to be missing. Perhaps science editor, Sheaffer, might concede that the events of October 17, 1989 could qualify as a causative factor, especially since a number of the ads stated that the animal "has been lost since the earthquake."
If he will grant that hypothesis, then perhaps he will look as objectively at additional data. The most missing dog ads (52) in four months occurred last year on July 8, 1989, (following Independence Day, of course.) Yet this total was surpassed by 57 missing dogs on September 22nd, three weeks before the World Series Earthquake. Also on September 22nd the missing cat ads attained a phenomenal new record of 27, compared with a normal value of 5 or 6 ads.

The timing of these anomalies is consistent with observations from other scientists around the world that stronger earthquakes exhibit precursory activity farther in advance and to greater distances from the epicenters. The extreme lost and found numbers for September 1989 were not examined by columnist Dillon, who admittedly started his count on October 1st. Although the numbers did decrease from October 1-9th, they rapidly increased again from October 10-13th, prompting me to predict to a local newspaper (Gilroy Dispatch) on Friday the thirteenth that there would be a World Series Earthquake of 6.5-7.0M. My prediction was published that day with a 6M maximum, as I did not want to create panic. This successful prediction was only the fourth occasion since 1974 where I had raised my official forecast above a 5.5M maximum. (In 1980 my predicted 6.5+M for Northern California was followed the next day by the 7.2M Eureka Quake; In 1982 my predicted 4.5-6.0M event for Southern California was followed three days later by a 5.6M shake near Coalinga. In late 1983 (partly because of record seasonal rainfall) I had called for a +6M event for the Bay Area during the following year, "...probably in March, April or October." On April 24, 1984, the 6.2M Morgan Hill earthquake struck, the first +6M shaker in the Bay Area since 1911, also a year of record precipitation. I have abundant documentation for all of these claims and I am ready for any challenge. (Ed: In 1991 Quakeline satisfied the D. A.'s request for proof.)
Finally, I should state that although the anomalous animal behavior is interesting and often very helpful in prediction of the place and magnitude, my main methods for timing earthquakes involve earth tides, ocean tides, and the gravitational stresses from the Moon and Sun. The October 14-21, 1989 Seismic Window was identified on my standard list of 12 predictions for the year. The tidal forces associated with the "Hunter's Moon" of October 14th were the maximum in three years, conditions almost identical to those preceding the previous major Loma Prieta Quake of October 8, 1865. There had already been 1989 warnings about expected tidal flooding along the Atlantic seaboard, and the floods occurred there on October 16, 1989. The last time that tidal forces were higher was December 29, 1986-January 5, 1987. My predicted quake of 4.6M shook the Bay Area on December 29, 1986, on the schedule outlined to several newspapers, radio stations and the Peninsula Geological Society.
More recently, since the World Series Quake, my 8-day Seismic Windows for each month have produced the following results: Nov 11-18, 1989 (3.3M); Dec 10-17, 1989 (3.5M); Jan 9-16, 1990 (4.3M); Feb 7-14, 1990 (4.2, 3.9, 3.7M); and Mar 26-Apr 2, 1990 (3.6M); Only the November shaker failed to meet my minimum of 3.5M, which has a 23 percent chance of occurring during any random 8-day period in the Bay Area, based upon analysis of a 15-year base period of 1963-77 provided to me by the U.S.G.S.
My current record (1990) of more than 320 predictions in 16 years stands at 80 per cent correct. Skeptics should ask to examine the records of "High Science" for evidence of similar success before they launch their attacks on me. I admit that I have only a couple of pieces to the seismic puzzle, but I doubt that the puzzle can be completed without them.

Sincerely, Jim Berkland, MS (Geologist)

The last year of the last century was a bad earthquake year in California, whereas the following year was a seismically mild one. There were at least eight damaging quakes in the state during 1899, but none in 1900. (Seismicity of the United States, 1568-1989 (Revised): U.S.G.S. Geological survey Prof. Paper 1527.) The worst of the shakers in 1899 had an energy of about Richter M6.8 and a damage intensity of IX (Modified Mercalli.) It was centered at Lat. 34.3N; Long. 117.0W near San Jacinto in Riverside County and hit before dawn on Christmas Day, December 25, 1899 (04:25 a.m.). A few miles east of San Jacinto, collapsing adobe walls killed six people and injured eight in the small town of Saboba. The estimated property loss from the quake was given as $50,000; however, P.P. 1527 advised that the amount "..appears to be low." That is putting it mildly, as nearly every brick building in San Jacinto and Hemet were badly damaged and chimneys fell in Riverside. The quake was felt strongly in San Diego and at Seligman, Arizona, and it probably was According to Charles Richter's book, Elementary Seismology (1958, p. 184)

"At least a dozen hot-spring localities are scattered along the San Jacinto fault in southern California; most of them have been developed as resorts. There is no doubt that the water reaches the surface through the crushed material of the fault zone, but the high temperatures are not readily explained except on the supposition of residual heat from otherwise extinct volcanism or other igneous sources. However, relative movement at depth must liberate great quantities of heat, so that the cause of the high temperatures may after all be tectonic."

In regard to the downplaying of the damage from the San Jacinto earthquake of 1899, history has shown us that, all too frequently, the death and damage from disasters are minimized. For example the "official" estimate for earthquake damage in the 1906 San Francisco catastrophe, was reported by John R. Freeman as amounting to $20 million in the City and $4 million elsewhere in the region. The original 1906 death toll in the City was reported "officially" as ranging from 250 to 503. When my research uncovered in 1979 that there was a enormous discrepancy and that clearly some 5,000-10,000 had perished, I found that there was a wall of official skepticism, and my manuscript was rejected by the California State Geologist's office, with the advice that I "should consider submitting it to a tabloid.") In 1989 the San Francisco City Historian, Gladys Hanson, co-authored a landmark book, Denial of Disaster in which she reported at least 3300 death certificates had been prepared in San Francisco, following the 1906 quake. Now, at long last, the USGS has finally come around in Prof. Paper 1527 (p.114) to report that: "The earthquake and resulting fires caused an estimated 3,000 deaths and $524 million in property loss." For 17 years I have been gathering data for my own book about this long-lived cover-up of deaths. Perhaps, now my information will be considered as more than tabloid material.)

I generally offer you a quote that catches my eye from some scientific paper or from some philosophical discussion, but this month let me present a friendly short letter from one of my Washington subscribers without any meaning behind the meaning, but which is simply, for me, a heart-warming bit of correspondence:

Mr. Berkland,
Sorry that this subscription payment is so late! But you know, it was WORTH forgetting to pay, since I got to talk to you personally on the phone! And when I went back to school and told all my "earthquake watch" friends about the call.......well, they all considered me a celebrity for having talked to you. Imagine that! (I carried around a pen, just in case they asked for my autograph .....HA, HA, HA.)
And your window was right again---even tho it was only a 3.2M, instead of the 3.5M you predicted. Looking forward to each newsletter!!

Sincerely, Debbi Cooper, Bremerton, WA (July 18, 1996)

Every time I receive a subscription renewal, it is really gratifying, because it reassures me that I am on the right track toward providing you the kind of earthquake discussion you are looking for. I have been troubled by the prolonged interruption of Charles Watson's newsletter, SEISMOWATCH, and now by receipt of the final, final (this time for real) issue of GEOMONITOR by Vince Migliore. Both of these periodicals started after mine and both provided valuable information on earthquakes and earthquake prediction; however, neither actually volunteered predictions, in contrast to the monthly SYZYGY. Because of your support I intend to continue publication of this labor of love for many years, but I do depend upon your continued support.

SEISMIC SENTRIES (Pet of the Month)
In response to my repeated requests for information about your own "Seismic Sentries," some of you have submitted excellent examples. This month's entry is the first one I have received with a first person (or first pooch) viewpoint. It is a unique description.

It was a pleasure to meet you last month at the Lions Zone meeting in San Martin. We briefly spoke about our experiences with earthquakes and I mentioned my dog, Pepper, and her reaction to the "big one" in 1989. Here is her story:

"My name is Pepper and I live on a ranch in San Martin, CA. I am now 13 years old and have lived a great dog's life with my owner, Barbara. I am an Australian Shepherd Mix.
I must tell you of my experience in 1989 (Oct. 17th). About three weeks before the earthquake I was feeling very nervous and excited. No matter how hard I tried to tell Barbara something big was going to happen, she would not listen to me. I would ask to go outside and ask to get in, not quietly, I may add. In addition, I felt that I must be near Barbara all the time to protect her. She began to protest. "Pepper, what is wrong with you?" Barbara knew something was amiss but had no idea what. Yet, I knew. Somehow I could sense that something unsettling was near............and I was right!
On the afternoon of the big one, I was especially uncomfortable because Barbara's brother brought his gun out for hunting and my excitement seemed to be increasing. Then, around 5:04 p.m., the shaking began. Barbara was peeling a potato and threw it into the sink and dashed under the kitchen table. I was close behind. Then I understood what had been making me so nervous and excitable for the last three weeks. It was an earthquake!
Eventually Barbara made the connection between what I was trying to tell her and the big event. I hope she listens to me next time."

Sincerely, Barbara R. Groen, San Martin, CA

P.S. Also, thank you for the copy of your newsletter. It was very informative. Keep up the good work.

This section has an eye on Puget Sound but much of the information applies to any seismically active region. One of my Norsky subscribers in the area, Gunnar Brokhaug, CPA, phoned me on November 20th to tell me about the following pattern of missing pets in the SEATTLE TIMES classified section: Nov. 11th (18); 12th (21); 13th (23); 14th (23); 15th (23); 16th (23); 17th (24); 18th (24); 19th (37!!); 20th (35). That is an incredible overnight increase in missing pet ads, exceeding the percentage rise often seen following the 4th of July, a strong thunderstorm, or a strong earthquake. Obviously, the stimulus occurs well before the jump in ads (typically 6-10 days in advance of the newspaper evidence), and 1-4 days before the earthquake, itself. Based upon my personal recording of newspaper data over the past 17 years, I would guess that there was a electromagnetic signal about November 13th, and that, (with 70% probability) a 4-6M quake will strike within 140 miles of Seattle by Thanksgiving (November 28, 1996.) One caution as to the timing is that the peak in missing pet ads occurred in local papers three weeks in advance of the Loma Prieta and Northridge earthquakes.
The tidal effects should also contribute to the probabilities, as the Full Moon syzygy on November 24th will promote the highest Puget Sound tides of this cycle (13.7 ft. on November 26th.)

For my more technically inclined readers there is a longer-range and more scientifically acceptable analysis of structural conditions in coastal Washington, within an October 1996 paper by Patricia McCrory, geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. Her work is titled: Tectonic model explaining divergent contraction directions along the Cascadia subduction margin, Washington: (Geology, V. 24, No. 10, pp. 929-932). Essentially she describes a mechanism of transverse compression above the subducting Juan de Fuca Plate as it wedges down beneath the North America Plate. This complicates the picture of folding and faulting in the area and makes it more difficult to predict where the maximum tectonic stresses will accumulate. In McCrory's words: ".....the (older) pre-Cenozoic terrane composing southern British Columbia acts as a buttress against which the relatively weak accretionary rocks of coastal Washington deform."
This is another case where Canada holds firm against U.S. encroachment.

There are many scales involving earthquakes and much confusion about what they mean. For many years Charles Richter was pestered by newsmen wanting to see his special scale, and for a time I was asked by visitors if they could look through my "Seismic Window", as if they were expecting that I used something like a crystal ball.
The Richter Scale was developed by in 1935 for use mainly in Southern California. It enabled seismologists to compare directly the energy of one earthquake versus another, so long as they were both recorded on a standard Woods-Anderson seismograph. It was called the "local magnitude" (Ml) and was based upon the maximum amplitude recorded on a seismogram. The body wave magnitude (mb), is based upon the faster P-waves, and the surface wave magnitude (ms), is based upon various shallow wave motions (such as Rayleigh, and Love waves.) Since the death of Richter in 1982, there seems to be a concerted effort to do away with his very useful magnitude scale. I would hate to see it eliminated, as it is amazing how close to the official rating that experienced lay persons can estimate the Richter magnitude of a local earthquake. My policy has always been, "If it works, use it." One small tremor of 1.9M was centered about two miles from me one night. It woke me and I put a notice in the newspaper to learn how many others felt it. Five people responded and all lived within five miles of the epicenter. A "nominal" atomic bomb of 20 kilotons creates an earthquake equivalent to about Richter 5.0M.
No Richter measurement has ever exceeded 8.9M, and there have only been a few that high, such as Colombia-Ecuador (Jan. 31, 1906), Sanriku, Japan (Mar. 2, 1933), and as estimated for Lisbon (Nov. 1, 1755.) In contrast to the energy scales the most useful measurement is for earthquake intensity; that is, what happens to people and things at various places. Whereas, there is only one absolute energy level at the hypocenter, there is a wide variation in intensity, depending mainly upon distance, local geology, type of building, or characteristics of the faulting. There is no universal agreement on which intensity scale to use, but the most widespread is he Modified Mercalli scale, which ranges in Roman numerals from I to XII. Intensities I or II are seldom felt. Intensities III and IV are usually recognized as earthquakes, and dishes are rattled. Intensity V is at the verge of real damage and plaster is cracked and small objects fall from shelves. (as in the 5.5M Duvall earthquake of May 2, 1996.) Intensity VI and VII are often felt while driving automobiles, and difficult steering may lead motorists to believe they have flat tires. Modified Mercalli VII is often based upon "Everybody runs outdoors." Intensities VIII and IX involve very serious damage, and often loss of life {such as in the Puget Sound quakes of April 13, 1949 (7.1M) and April 29, 1965 (6.5M.)}, with chimneys collapsing, and destruction to bridges and weaker buildings. Maximum Intensities X and XI place the quake in the category of the 1906 San Francisco 8.3M disaster, and Modified Mercalli XII, we don't want to talk about here. (Generally the rating can be summarized as "total destruction.")

The Seismic Window of Nov. 10-17, 1996 was interesting, to say the least. The "Ring of Fire" prediction for a major quake was a bullseye. Less than two days after the New Moon, the coast of Peru was pounded on November 12th by the second strongest quake in the world this year, killing dozens of people and measuring 7.8M, according the U.C. Berkeley reading. This was followed a week later on November 19th by another major quake (7.3M, Kashmir, India) These were the first major events since one on the island of Kyushu, Japan 7.0M, two days after the solar eclipse of October 17th.

In Southern California, Borrego Springs was shaken by a jolt of 3.7M on November 13th, for a second bullseye. Another widely-felt shaker of 3.0M woke sleepers in San Fernando Valley at 03:27 a.m. on November 16th. The strongest Northern California quake during the window was one of 4.1M near Cobb on November 17th. It was correct for magnitude and timing, but the epicenter was about 70 miles too far north. Within the predicted 70 miles radius from San Jose, we had quakes near San Juan Bautista (2.6M, Nov. 10th and 3.0M on Nov. 17th.) Near my own home in the foothills of East San Jose there was a tremor of 3.1M on November 19th. It was two days late, but there have been none stronger in the immediate vicinity of San Francisco Bay since my June window, when one of 3.5M shook the Golden Gate area.
It is obvious that tides don't control magnitudes of quakes, but they surely increase the probabilities of occurrence.. Witness the only two felt earthquakes listed for the Northwest during the past two months. Aftershocks hit Duvall, WA in the October Window on Oct. 27th (2.6M) and during the November Window on Nov. 13th (2.3M). I don't feel too badly about them falling below the magic 3.5M level, as they were the only felt quakes centered in Washington since July 3, 1996.

My Monthly Outright Seismic Speculation (MOSS) was another miss as Nevada failed to produce a 4.5 during the Window. The closest candidate was the 3.3M shaker south of Carson City on Nov. 13th. That was certainly not strong enough to ring Art's Bell in Pahrump.

The Seismic Window of Dec. 10-17, 1996 is predicated upon the New Moon of December 10, the perigee of Dec 12, and the highest Golden Gate tides since July (reaching 8.1 feet on December 11th.) The synchroneity between syzygy and perigee is now decreasing month to month, with the time difference of 59 hours being the closest since September. Also this Window is opening within three weeks of perihelion (the yearly closest Earth-Sun approach), and within two weeks of the solstice tidal effects.
With all of these factors being considered, I am 80% confident that in the Dec. 10-17, 1996 Seismic Window there will be: (1) A magnitude 3.5-5.5 quake within 70 miles of San Jose; (2) a similar event within 140 miles of Los Angeles; (3) a similar event within 140 miles of Seattle; and (4) a major quake of at least 7M within the Pacific Ring of Fire. For MOSS, I expect another miss for a New York quake of at least 3.0M.

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