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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Hello Folks:

I've got a Christmas present for all of my readers. To anyone who subscribes or re-subscribes by December 31, 1997 (postmark date), I will add an extra TWO months to your subscription. This applies even if your current subscription doesn t expire until 1998 or 1999. The reason is not completely altruistic. I am trying to increase my cash flow because following my retirement and my recent move to the Valley of the Moon, expenses have mounted and, for the first time in many years, I have been unable to pay off my credit accounts on a monthly basis. Just like everyone else, I hate those non-deductible interest charges.
Let me suggest also that this would be a good opportunity for you to make a gift to some friend or relative living in a seismically active area and give them SYZYGY for 14 months, rather than 12 months for the old cost of $40.

In the last issue my predictions for a quake of 3.5+M scored in Washington with the strongest quake since my June window, when a 3.9M event hit south of Yakima on November 17th. In the Los Angeles area there was a 3.6M near Lake Isabella on the second day of the November 12-19th Seismic Window. This makes my 1997 record for Southern California 11 out of 12 (92%) and the only miss was by 0.2 magnitude. In the San Francisco Bay Area there was a 3.4M near San Juan Bautista on November 16th and a sharp 3.2M on the Hayward Fault, near Union City on November 19th. These qualify as the next ring out from a bullseye. World wide, through November 22nd, there have been 14 major quakes, of which 11 were in a seismic window (78%), although chance would allow 50 per cent.

Next year we are in for some unusually strong gravitational periods, and because of water-loading from El Nino, the probabilities for strong earthquakes are enhanced. (See the El Nino section on my website: ) I believe that the baby should already be called El Hombre because of the early severe storms in North America (and flood devastated areas, such as in Somalia.)

Although some of my critics have called me a fear-monger and I nearly lost my job as Santa Clara County Geologist for predicting the World Series Quake and supposedly ..causing panic in the public... , I don t consider my work as mongering fear, unless you consider a meteorologist in the same light. I maintain that the most important aspect is an individual s record, and secondarily, the means and the motivation. Last month I spoke to a junior high school science class in Sebastopol and it was very enjoyable to see the bright young faces of the future and to hear their well-considered questions. I advised them that in science, as well as in most fields of study, there were three outstanding characteristics shown by those on the path to success: (1) Curiosity, (2) Perseverance, and (3) Skepticism.

As a current example I am extremely skeptical about Global Warming, as there are highly conflicting data. If it is real, I am skeptical about its supposed causes. Too often people in power use that power simply because they can and a sufficient number of believers will allow them to retain that power (and the money that goes along with it.) I never became a geologist for the money.
After I had presented an early paper about Plate Tectonics at the International Geological Congress (Montreal, 1972), I met outside the meeting hall, James Gilully, former Chief Geologist of the U.S. Geological Survey. He said, Berkland, that was a good talk....a damned good talk. You know, you could be right! I understand that, coming from Jim Gilluly, this was mighty high praise, and I treasure his words to this day. That is the kind of reward I seek. At that same Congress I attended a symposium which dealt with world climate and projections for the future.
There were desk-pounding emotions expressed by eminent experts about whether we were heading into another Ice Age or still leaving the last one. Often the same data were called upon to prove opposing arguments.
I came away with a completely open mind on the subject, and 25 years later, I still am unconvinced about global cooling or global warming.
One factor is that the last glacial stage, the Wisconsinan, lasted essentially from about 70,000 years BP (Before Present) to about 11,000 years BP. However, it was broken by an interstadial period from 40,000 to 30,000 years BP during which time conditions were warmer than those of today.
The post-glacial climate of the past 11,000 years has been marked by extremes such as the warm interval of Scandinavian exploration from about 950-1250 AD that yielded to the Little Ice Age from about 1300-1650 AD, when many glaciers expanded. This contrasted strongly with the warm Climatic Optimum of 8200 to 5300 BP, when there was very little ice left across the northern hemisphere.
Other variations in world climate have been identified with much more clarity than the current one of Global Warming. There was increasingly mild temperatures from 1880 to 1940, but then what caused the obvious cooling from 1940 to 1965?
Probably similar variations in the Antarctica Ozone Hole could have been identified if we had been able to measure it over the last 11,000 years. I am skeptical.

Also for a quick skepticism list, do you associate past official and unofficial scams like, Remember the Maine , Understated death toll from the 1906 earthquake, Fall-out shelters, the U-2 incident, Warren Commission Report, the Bay of Tonkin attack, the Far-East Domino effect, Agent Orange, Project Blue Book, Roswell weather balloons and parachute dummies, the Attack on the Liberty , the Jupiter Effect, Swine Flu shots, Watergate, White Water, The Man Who Saw Tomorrow , Radon gas and chrysotile asbestos scares, Alar, New Math, look-say reading, the gasoline shortage, Gulf War Syndrome, Ruby Ridge, Waco, Vince Foster suicide , Ron Brown Plane Crash, TWA Flight 800, Smog Check II and reformulated gas, pole shift, May 5, 2000?
These are some of the scams and cover-ups that I am familiar with, most of which have had personal ramifications. I am sure that I have included some that you would not agree belong on the list; also, I may have overlooked some that are important to you; however, this is just intended to illustrate past justifications for being skeptical.
And the same applies to some of what you read in SYZYGY. I try to separate fact from hypothesis and give probabilities for predictions that, by definition, are rarely beyond question. Whenever you hear predictions from anyone, you must use your personal filter of skepticism, created by your own experiences and knowledge. From my standpoint, I ask you to remember, The proof of the pudding is in the shaking, and not in criticizing the recipe.

Recent headlines have brought to my mind an item I submitted to the S.F. Chronicle's late columnist, Herb Caen, during the build-up to Desert Storm. He liked it enough to include it in his column (one of 5 items he used from me over the years).

The Tigris-Euphrates rivers..... Eden......Home of the first man, Adam ..... And the worst man, Saddam.

It works best using ex-President Bush's pronunciation, Sad am, which he deliberately chose because, as I recall, it means Son of a shoemaker, and he wanted to dis the Iraqi leader.

For a more up-to-date bit of humor, just today I saw a ragged hedge which had been crudely shaped into the form of a dog? a pig? or maybe a bear. I hope that the erstwhile lawnmower man was Irish, because he might better appreciate my comment:

Your hedge work is interesting, but it's a long way to topiary.

Ow!.....Please put down those clippers.

For this month's quotation I call upon Dr. Frank Press and a citation by Henry Spall, USGS geophysicist, and former editor of the now defunct publication of the Department of the Interior, EARTHQUAKES AND VOLCANOES, (V. 2, No. 5, 1990.)
Dr. Press, as President of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, had urged a United Nations designation of the 1990 s as The Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction.

Part of his closing remarks follow: ".......Hazard prediction and warnings are also crucial to hazard reduction, with a great potential for reducing the loss of life.
Progress in the science and technology of hazard reduction offers us a unique opportunity to break the cycle of mounting losses at the hands of nature. Important advances in coping with natural hazards are within the grasp of every nation if a global effort is mounted. The issue is not primarily money; rather, it a willingness to face up to the risk, to apply knowledge in hand, and to pioneer further advances in hazard reduction.

Dr. Press expressed the hope for progress during the 1990 s. How far have we come?
Severe cutbacks in personnel and project funding for the USGS have emasculated the once promising programs for hazard reduction. Even with the threat of the greatest El Nino in history we have cut down weather satellite launches, eliminated Pacific buoy stations, consolidated weather stations, and threatened to dismantle the West coast headquarters of the USGS at Menlo Park. Where can we point to break-through successes in this decade? However, I still take pleasure in the most im-Press-ive quote from Dr. Press, as it essentially captures the purpose of SYZYGY.

There is no higher calling for a scientist than to use his or her technical knowledge to improve the public welfare.

This section is intended mainly for my many subscribers around Puget Sound, but the general principles apply to any area of active seismicity (or volcanism.) Currently my area of chief concern is that near Mammoth Lakes, on the central California/Nevada border,
where there has been an unprecedented series of 1000's of swarm earthquakes since July 1997. This activity reached a crescendo during the third week of November, with more than 500 small quakes being recorded in 24 hours on several occasions. The magnitudes remained below 4.0 until November 22nd, when there were four of 4.5-4.8M and thirty of more than 3.0M. Also the gradual swelling of the surface of the Long Valley Caldera had amounted to about two inches in three months, when suddenly the elevation rate increased on November 22nd to a level that completed the loop and the U.S. Geological Survey reported to the Associate Press (later denied) that the level of concern was increased from "green" to "Yellow Watch, Intense Unrest". (This is considered to happen only once per decade.) It is possible that continuing phenomena will required a further increase to "Orange Warning, Eruption Likely," (which is expected to happen every few hundred years.) 'The Red Alert' is only reached when an eruption is underway, (again expected at Mammoth only once every few hundred years.)
Without intensified activity, each official notification of volcanic unrest is kept in effect for 14 days and then drops back to the preceding plateau.
Each increasing condition requires higher levels of monitoring, higher levels of official response and higher degrees of urgency communicated to public. This is a logical approach and should minimize unnecessary panic and economic consequences to volcanic areas, which are typically very scenic and often depend upon tourism and recreation for economic survival.

Clearly, levels of volcanic unrest should be coordinated with, but not exceeded by, social unrest. Prompt and effective communication is the key to achieving this co-ordination. Politics, egos, individual goals and pedantry can never be eliminated, but must be minimized during these periods of crises or the best of hazard planning can be negated.

Days prior to the reported U.S.G.S. announcement of a Yellow Watch , I had predicted on Los Angeles radio station KPFK (Kathy Gori Show) that I felt there was a 50% chance that by the end of the year there would be a 6+M quake at Mammoth and a 10% chance of a volcanic eruption of some type (at least a phreatic, or steam, eruption.) With subsequent developments of the next few days, and knowledge of extreme tidal conditions coming next February, March and April, I expanded my prediction to:
By the end of April 1998 I predict for Mammoth Lakes that there is an 80% chance for a 6+M quake, and/or a 20% chance for some type of volcanic eruption,( subject to upgrading as events develop.)

This may seem too conservative by some, but there has been no 6M earthquake at Mammoth in eleven years, and there has been no volcanic activity in the region for at least 250 years. The cataclysmic blast which created the Long Valley Caldera dates back 760,000 years, and that monstrous event is not likely to be repeated.

Back in March 1980 a PBS television crew was interviewing me for a segment of THE INVISIBLE----EARTHQUAKES AND VOLCANOES. I was asked what I thought of Mt. Saint Helens, which one week earlier had been shaken first by a 4.3M quake, and then a couple of smaller ones. "I said, I think that volcano means business. I would give it a 50% chance to erupt this year, and become the first active cone in the 48 conterminous states since Mt. Lassen erupted between 1914-17."

When we came down from the mountains that afternoon of March 27, 1980, we learned that Mt. Saint Helens had just erupted for the first time since 1857.

As George Santayana said so many years ago: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Past events play a very important role in all of my predictions, as things that have happened before are likely to happen again. (Just when is the main issue.) Let me thank volcanic hazard planner, Janet Tanaka for sending me some data from the recent past. She writes her own newsletter, Volcanic Quarterly, which is extremely readable, current, and informative. For subscription information, contact her at P.O. Box 405, Issaquah, WA 98027-0405 {FAX (425) 391-7980}

Janet sent me her copy of the Quarterly Network Report 97-B of the Pacific Northwest Seismograph Network, Geophysics Program, Box 351650, Univ. of Wash., Seattle, WA 98195-1650. This report summarizes Washington/Oregon earthquakes during the second quarter of 1997. I found it so useful gon earthquakes during the second quarter of 1997. I found it so useful that I will have to subscribe myself, especially since it is free. On Table 4 are listed all of the sixteen earthquakes that were felt in the Northwest between April 1 through June 30, 1997. If the past is the key to the present (and the future), let us see how my Seismic Window Theory fits the facts.

The first Northwest quake of 1997 to reach 3.5M occurred near Seattle on February 9th during my Feb 6-13th window. At that time I told reporters that the next critical period would be about June 22nd, during my June 20-27th Seismic Window. No quakes reached 3.5M in Washington during March, April or May, but on May 3rd there was a 3.1M near Concrete, WA during my May 3-10th window. Also there was a secondary window associated with the May 22nd Full Moon. On that day there were two felt quakes measuring 2.3 and 2.6M near Eugene. The three strongest Northwest quakes of the year (through November) occurred on June 23-24 during my June 20-27th window, as shown on the following table showing all of the 14 quakes listed by PNSN Quarterly Rept. 97-B:

Northwest Felt Earthquakes, April 1-June 30, 1997




Full Moon+


New Moon+

May 3 3.1 Concrete, WA
May 18 3.2 Bellingham    
May 22 2.3 Eugene, OR
May 22 2.6 Eugene, OR
June 13 3.1 Vancouver, B.C.    
June 14 2.6 Darrington    
June 23 4.9 Bremerton
June 23 3.6 Bremerton
June 24 4.6 Okanogan
June 24 4.6 Vancouver, B.C.
June 24 2.6 Bremerton
June 26 1.2 Bremerton
June 27 3.1 Bremerton
June 27 3.9 Bremerton

Bold: 64% in predicted Seismic Window + Italics: 14% in secondary window= 78% fit.
Only five of these quakes exceeded the 3.5M minimum of my predictions and ALL five were in the specified June window. The next Washington quake to exceed 3.5M was in the window of November 12-19, 1997, when a 3.9M hit south of Yakima on Nov. 17th.

These kinds of data do not prove the validity of my Seismic Window Theory, but they do demonstrate favorable evidence. I have been accumulating such evidence for 24 years and many other researchers long before me have provided abundant additional evidence for the correlation between maximum tidal forces and the maximum probabilities for quakes.

Not only do I thank Janet Tanaka for the impetus to present this table, but I also thank her for the following excellent, but untitled, poem about human limitations. I might suggest for a title, BLIND PROGRESS.

Man is a fool, who thinks himself wise.
Man is an ant, who gropes for the skies,
Building his cities in pride and conceit,
Forgetting the earth moving under his feet.

Chorus: Saint Andrew, pray for the people,
for the mercy of the Lord. (repeat)

He raises his cities and covers the land.
Valleys and hillsides are at his command.
He thinks himself master and knows no defeat,
But he can t stop the earth moving under his feet.

The past is forgotten, the future s not yet.
The fears of the present he tries to forget.
He lives for the moment as each day goes by,
Not caring his cities are waiting to die.

Janet Tanaka

(Reprinted by permission)

SEISMIC SENTRIES (Pet of the Month)
The winner of this months blue ribbon award as a Seismic Sentry is presented posthumously to Brownie, a friendly mix of Lab and German Shepard owned for some 15 years by Ken and Eleanor Santos of San Jose. Brownie would hold a point toward the epicenter of an impending quake. On other occasions she would be noticeably uneasy a few days before an event, such as the 6.2M Morgan Hill earthquake of April 24, 1984 on the Calaveras Fault. During that time, the Santos couple had heard deep booming noises similar to those caused by blasting in an Idaho mining camp where they had lived at one time. Their Santa Clara County home is within 1/2 mile of the Calaveras Fault, and within 10 miles of the epicenter of the so-called Morgan Hill quake on that fault.
On another occasion Brownie disappeared from their home most of a day, which was very unusual. They split up and drove north and south in a search for their beloved Brownie. Ken said about two miles away after one of his whistles, he heard a faint response from far up a canyon. Brownie came reluctantly to him but seemed very apprehensive. That night a 3.8M quake on the Calaveras Fault shook their home.
An interesting sidelight is that Brownie lost her sensitivity to seismic phenomena after an attack of heartworm. Her reaction to the drastic medication was very severe, but she did survive for a few more years, during which time earthquakes no longer seemed to affect her. We all have our priorities.

For December the quake of record occurred near Kansu, China on December 16, 1920, not far from where a 7.7M quake hit on November 12, 1997 in Tibet. The Great 1920 earthquake was one of history s worst disasters, rated at 8.6 magnitude, and resulting in more than 180,000 deaths. It caused destruction over 15,000 square miles, and was felt over one-and-one-half million square miles. The major characteristic of this earthquake lf million square miles. The major characteristic of this earthquake was overwhelming landslides, Hills that walked , that covered villages. Ten cities with mainly stone buildings were destroyed by shaking. Cave-dwellers were crushed or smothered and many roads were obliterated. At least 20,000 additional deaths resulted from earthquake survivors with no shelter who soon froze to death in the harsh winter of the mountains. It was on the last day of a Seismic Window, 6 days after the new Moon.

The Seismic Window of November 12-19, 1997 was quite successful, especially for the Washington and Southern California predictions. South of Yakima a 3.9M quake hit on November 18th. This was the strongest in Washington since the June window, when there were three quakes of 4.6 to 4.9M in the north state. In Southern California there was a 3.6 on Nov. 15th, marking my tenth hit in eleven tries for that area this year. In the S.F. Bay Area, also on Nov. 15th, my prediction came very close with a 3.4M shaker at San Juan Bautista. In addition there was a 3.2M surprise near Union City on Nov. 19th that was sharply felt along the Hayward Fault and as far away as Pleasanton and San Francisco. A significant quake hit beyond the 140 mile radius east of San Jose on November 14th. It measured 5.3M and was centered near Deep Springs, about 60 miles S.E. of Mammoth Lakes. There were no major quakes anywhere during the November window, but one of 6.6M hit the Vanuatu Islands in the Ring of Fire on November 15th. The fifteenth major quake this year hit Indonesia (also in the Ring of Fire,) well after my window closed, with a 7.1M event on Suluwesi Island on November 24th.

The Seismic Window for December 13-20, 1997 is based upon the Full Moon of December 13-14th and the highest tides since last February on December 13th, when the Golden Gate tidal range will reach 8.0 feet. By comparison, at that time the tides at Puget Sound will be twice as high, and the range at Anchorage, Alaska, will be an amazing 35.9 feet. This window is bracketed by two other tide-raising forces, the lunar perigee on December 9th and the winter solstice on December 21st. As pointed out by oceanographer/geophysicist Fergus Wood: "An increase in the combined lunisolar diurnal forces by about 33 percent at the syzygies near the solstices results in tides of greater diurnal inequality, amplitude, and range known as solstitial tides." (Tidal Dynamics, D. Reidel Publ. Co., 1985, p. 149) In his foreword to that book, Gordon Lill, the Deputy Director of the National Ocean Survey wrote: "But curious and open-minded geophysicists are beginning to examine the connections, if any, between earth tides and earth movements, especially microseismic swarms." I might add that "curious and open-minded" geologists are doing the same.

For the Window of December 13-20, 1997, I am predicting an 80% chance for an earthquake of 3.5-5.5M to hit: (1) within 140 miles (two degrees) of San Jose, CA; (2) within 140 miles of Los Angeles; and (3) within 140 miles of Seattle, WA. In addition, with equal confidence, expect a major event of 7+M within the Pacific Ring of Fire, where more than three out of four major quakes occur.


Now that you have finished the 96th issue of SYZYGY don't forget to keep it coming. As stated on page one there is a bonus of two issues for everyone who renews during December 1997, no matter what year or month your subscription expires. To qualify, your response and check for $40. must be postmarked by December 31, 1997. If you fail to subscribe you may never know what you are missing. It's not the same thing but my little Seismic Sentry, in training, 5-month old Mintu, will never know what he is missing after his last trip to the vet. That morning I was being interviewed by Star 101.5 in Seattle following the Yakima Quake. The interviewers, Kent & Allen, could hear Mintu in the background. I told them that "he" was going to become an "it" within a couple of hours. The interviewer quickly responded, "After this morning it might be more appropriate to call him, Minus 2." (See what valuable information you can find in SYZYGY?) Stay with me as we learn together.

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