Jim Berkland

Earthquake Predictions

An Interview with
Jim Berkland

By Connie Johnston
January 2005

Jim's Biography

Jim Berkland is a geologist with impressive credentials. He holds a master degree in Geology and worked on his doctorate degree at the University of California at Davis.  He has developed a system for earthquake predictions and maintains a remarkable record. He continues to his work despite the lack of support of mainstream scientists. His website, Syzygy, started in 1997, continues to inform and educate the public regarding earthquake and their predictions. In December 2005 a book called The Man Who Predicts Earthquakes, by Cal Orey, will be released.


CJ: Mr. Berkland, you have impressive credentials as geologist and yet some consider you a maverick in the scientific circles, how do you respond to their rationale?

JOB: Only "some"? I think if a poll were taken, few would NOT consider me a maverick (or worse.)

However, I can handle it as I subscribe to "If you conform, you can't create." I have long noted that scientific progress is seldom achieved by majority vote.

However, I believe my "maverickness" has been over-rated. The idea of correlating tides and quakes go back hundreds of years. Even the Bible has the sequence in the Book of Matthew of the sky darkening in the afternoon as Christ dies on the Cross. The ground then shakes violently, and then, three days later, an aftershock rolls the stone away.

If you go to a computer search engine and plug in "Tides and Earthquakes" you will find dozens of references in the world literature. The same thing goes for "Animal behavior and Earthquakes". It is quite true that such topics are controversial, but no one can honestly claim that no one has presented positive evidence for such correlations.

As to successfully using Lost and Found ads in the Classified Sections, I have been monitoring them daily for 25 years and find them to be a fine objective measure of unusual behavior. I have no doubt that some animals can predict some earthquakes, and it is probably based on electromagnetic energy produced by phenomena that precede quakes.

Here, too, I did not originate the concept. I give complete credit for the "Pet ad: earthquake connection " to Silicon Valley physicist, Antonio Nafarrate. He first convinced me that this was a valid tool in September 1979 following the 5.9M Coyote Lake Quake of August 6, 1979; (at that time it was the strongest S.F. Bay Area quake since July 1, 1911.)Incidentally, both the 1911 and 1979 quakes were in classic Seismic Windows that followed the second-strongest tidal forces for those years. The World Series quake of October 17, 1989 followed the strongest tidal forces in three years and a record number of missing pet ads. For a "maverick geologist" the clues for the upcoming major quake were unmistakable.

CJ: We are all still reeling from the earthquake between Aceh, Indonesia and Sri Lanka.  Do you consider the possibility on another earthquake of this magnitude occurring in 2005-2006?

JOB: Well, the December 26, 2004 Sumatra 9.0M quake and tsunami occurred on the day of a full Moon tide, as did the previous +9M quake on March 27, 1964. The odds against both such events occurring on the day of syzygy are 225:1.

As I wrote immediately following the recent awful disaster, I expected to hear many reports of unusual precursors, including abnormal animal behavior. They were not long in coming, and I have received messages from many skeptics who have suddenly experienced open minds.

Just based upon statistics the chances for another 9M quake within two years are quite low. However, I cannot ignore the concerns of noted geologist, Kerry Sieh, who spent the last several years trying to convince scientists and citizens alike about the threat of a great quake and tsunami in Indonesia. Following the realization of those events, he now warns of a similar occurrence along the subduction zone south of the previous epicenter.

Then, of course, there is the long-standing concern by scientists about a repeat of the 9M and great tsunami of January 26, 1700 in the Cascadia Subduction zone off Washington and Oregon. It should be preceded by many natural precursory signals.

During 2004 I was interviewed many times and when asked when the next Big One would occur, I pointed to the near-record tides coming in December, and said, "If it happens this year, December is the most likely time." Similarly, I would now say, "If a great quake occurs this year, it would be most likely in July; and if there is one in 2006, it would be most likely in February or March." Scientific prediction cannot avoid probability, and those are the times of the next maxima of tidal forces, when the odds go up for seismicity.

CJ: Many know the moon plays a dominate role in all our lives. As the moon is a major factor in your research, would you explain to our readers, some of the equations you use in formulating your predictions?

JOB: The sixteenth century astronomer, Kepler, went to his mentor, Galileo and suggested that the tides in the sea had something to do with the phases of the Moon. Galileo dismissed the idea by saying that it was nothing but "astrological nonsense!" Often expert opinion is ill-informed and we should rely more upon our own observations.

On January 8, 1974 I read about a press release from NOAA that warned of the potential for damaging coastal flooding because of "an unusual astronomical alignment." It referred to the first Full Moon of the year only 90 minutes from the closest approach of the Moon in two years, and a few days after the closest yearly approach of the Earth to the Sun. Thus the three major tide-raising forces were almost coincident. It occurred to me that these same tidal forces might deform the Earth slightly and trigger earthquakes.

A quick review of the six most recent earthquakes in the S.F. Bay Area revealed that all six had occurred at the times of the maximum astronomical tidal stresses on the earth. I made my first earthquake prediction on January 8, 1974 and called for a 4.0-5.0M quake locally within a week. Two days later a 4.4M hit south of San Jose and I thought how simple it was. Using similar criteria I was correct for six of eight predictions that year, including the 5.2M Thanksgiving Day Quake.

Twice a month there is an alignment of the centers of the Earth, Sun and Moon at the time of syzygy (New or Full Moon). The second most important tidal effect is the closest approach of the Moon to the Earth at perigee. The effect is dramatically enhanced when syzygy and perigee occur on the same day, but this occurs only from two to five times a year. Such coincidences always create what I call an 8-day Seismic Window.

The tide-raising forces are directly proportional to the mass and to the cube of the distance between the masses. Thus the Moon has 2.2 times the tidal effect that the Sun has on the Earth, despite the much greater mass of the Sun. Based upon the rapid daily rise to peak tides, my Seismic Window may open up to three days before syzygy. Such was the case prior to the strongest known European quake which hit Lisbon, Portugal on Nov. 1, 1755 just three days prior to the highest tidal forces of the year.

During any eight-day window I pay special attention to what I call the "delta value", which is the maximum day-to-day decline in the maximum range in tides.

I also point to the maximum nodal point of the Moon, which attains its most northerly orbit every 19.4 years. This was first brought to my attention by astronomer Steve Kilston and seismologist Leon Knopoff in their July 1983 paper in the journal, NATURE. Their studies indicated that 6+M quakes on the San Andreas Fault system of Southern California tended to occur near dawn or dusk at lunar nodes. The next such occurrence was November 1987 and that is when the next 6M quakes occurred in their predicted area (Nov. 23-24, 1987 near dusk and dawn NW of the Salton Sea.) The next southerly lunar node will be in September 2005.

CJ: Is there any part that intuition plays in your decision making?

JOB: Sometimes the intuition of others plays a part. For several years in my SYZYGY newsletter I tested my own earthquake intuition and I failed. I made some reasonable guesses for a MOSS prediction (Monthly Outright Seismic Speculation). After 44 months I had four correct, for a pitiful percentage of 9%. For example I would forecast a 4+M for the British Isles during the first half of March. My only notable success was calling for a 4.5+ for Egypt during my Feb. 3-15, 1996 tour of Egypt. In the shadow of the pyramids I saw an Egyptian reading the daily "El Arahm" and commented that I was expecting an earthquake. He looked up with alarm and pointed to a front page article in Arabic. A 5.2M quake had struck NE Egypt on the day I had arrived!

CJ: You made a journey with Anthony West to Egypt and have mentioned it was a life changing experience.  Could you elaborate on this?

JOB: As mentioned under question 4, I had successfully predicted a 5.2M quake in Egypt, which hit the day we arrived in Cairo (the day after Ramadan ended in February 1996.) We toured the temples along the Nile all the way to Abu Symbil and Lake Nasser.

On the final day our Mystical Journeys group spent two hours in the King's Chamber in the center of the Great Khufu Pyramid, with one hour in complete darkness. While there I asked mental questions and received concise mental answers (Such as, "Immortality?" ....... {"Immortality is where you find it."}. As I emerged from the Pyramid into the light of Gizeh once more, I suddenly was gripped by a clear realization of the meaning of life:

WE ARE HERE TO SEEK OUR PURPOSE AND STRIVE TO ACHIEVE IT. ANYTHING LESS IS A WASTE OF EXISTENCE. This applies to an individual, a community, a nation and an entire civilization. I felt that I had found my own purpose, to demystify earthquakes, to demonstrate that they are predictable and to inform the public without political influence.

Years ago when my geological career was threatened, I had to decide if I would conform or continue to INFORM. My decision is obvious.

CJ: Understanding that you live and continue to live in California, there are some who predict California fracturing and falling into the Pacific.  As a geologist, how would you respond to these portends of the future?

JOB: Rarely in my hundreds of talks has that question failed to arise. If the public can be made aware that a "continental shelf" is not at all shelf-like, they would not ask about California sliding into the sea. The edge of the continent very gradually descends into the deep sea and there are no fish and submarines to be found under the State. The Pacific Plate is sliding past California as North America drifts westward. The pressures of the plates are more than sufficient to hold us in place. However, I have other standard answers:

1) California will not go under until after the Eastern Seaboard slides into the Atlantic. (That gets a quick response from Easterners.)

2) Have you seen all those big windmills at Pacheco Pass, Altamont Pass and near Palm Springs? Well, the minute we start to slide, they will turn on all of those propellers and pull us back.

3) Californians are aware of all of the rumors about ocean-front property in Arizona and how Phoenix will be a seaport. That wouldn't really bother us except we know that history declares that Phoenicians are great sea-farers.

CJ: Are you familiar with Stan Deyo¹s earthquake predictions based on sea surface temperature fluctuations?  Does any of this come into play when you are making your predictions?

JOB: I admire the work of Stan Deyo and his wife. Few know that he was the first to predict the major El Nino event we experienced several years ago. I think it was for 1997-98 when we had a record rainfall here in the Valley of the Moon. More and more scientists are recognizing how the temperatures of the sea affect ocean currents and atmospheric currents and global warming. This work comprises some of the major contributions that Stan has made.

As to the effects of ocean temperatures on earthquakes, I have not seen the data. I am in a similar position that I found myself before I saw the correlations between solar flares and earthquakes. I have no doubt that such a correlation is real, but the mechanisms are obscure.

CJ: Your website is very popular and informative.  Would you care to elaborate on this, especially during these times of accelerating earth changes and the need to be well-informed?

JOB: I started my website syzygyjob.com in March of 1997 on the very day of my first appearance on COAST TO COAST with Art Bell. It got me off to a rousing start, and at the end of 2004 I had received more than 114 million hits on my Message Board.

I am pleased that earthquake sensitives and other predictors can find kindred spirits on my website, and some have made lasting friendships. I marveled in August 1999 when victims of the disastrous Turkey quake and a major quake in Formosa were able to compare notes and commiserate with each other. The chief fear of natural hazards is not derived from "fear itself" but from misinformation and ignorance. To overcome these, my life's work involves investigation and education. I will not accept apathy when it comes to natural hazards. Don't be scared; be prepared!

CJ: Are there any predictions that you would care to share with our readers at this time?

JOB: My monthly predictions appear in my newsletter and I include a list of the Top Windows for the year in my February mailing. My website contains a condensation of these predictions after my newsletter has been mailed. (I am troubled by this delay but if I did not delay the website report, my subscriber list would drop below the 250 needed to pay for supplies, printing and mailing. When I started my Website in 1997 I had 550 subscribers to my hard copies, but that number fell dramatically.)

I will state that one of the top seismic windows for this year will be February 6-13, 2005. The new Moon of Feb. 8th is only 24 hours after a close perigee of the Moon and the Golden Gate tidal range of 8.5 feet on Feb. 7-8, 2005 will be almost twice normal. I am expecting earthquakes of 3.5-6.0M near Los Angeles, near San Francisco, and in Washington or Oregon. My confidence level is 80%. Also there should be a major quake of 7+M globally, probably in the Pacific Ring of Fire, where 80% of major earthquakes occur at the rate of about 15 per year.

CJ: Your average in accurate earthquake predictions is remarkable.  Has anyone in the ³scientific² community rethought the possibilities that predictions are possible?

JOB: Yes. It appears that in the last year that a number of scientists around the world are taking a renewed interest in earthquake prediction. I was surprised to see U.S. scientists joining in this endeavor, as the phrase, "Earthquake Prediction" has been an anathema in this country over the past decade.

I attended an important meeting in Oakland last summer, entitled: "Have We Turned a Corner in Earthquake Prediction? I spoke up and said that I was pleased about the meeting but I did not need to turn a corner, as I had been on a straight-of-way since 1974. My colleagues were not amused.

I had brought with me 20 copies of my predictions in my newsletter of the 8.1M Quake in Hokkaido in September 2003 and the killer San Simeon quake of December 22, 2003. These were the two quakes claimed to have been predicted by UCLA scientist Dr. Vladimir Keilos-Borok, whose Southern California quake prediction was being discussed at the meeting.

I offered the proof of my predictions to the group, but no one approached me. When I went to individuals, several shied away as if I was offering them some hemlock.

Of course when I named and predicted the major World Series Earthquake in the newspaper (October 13, 1989) four days before it happened. Federal scientists were outraged and wanted me fired as Santa Clara County Geologist. I actually was suspended for more than two months and allowed to return to my duties only if I promised I would not predict any more quakes "on County time." That is when I started my newsletter.

On the other had when the I had publicly predicted a moderate Bay Area quake in December 1986, at the time of the previous record tidal forces, I received a congratulatory card from the President of the Peninsula Geological Society, where I had presented my data two weeks earlier. I was surprised that this geologist would risk his 35 year career with the USGS by praising me until I discovered that he had officially retired before mailing me the letter.

A Lockheed Engineer similarly informed me after he had retired that I had saved his company several hundred thousand dollars. Despite his boss pooh-poohing my prediction for a World Series Quake, this engineer had carefully stored delicate rocket parts during final inspection on the afternoon of October 17, 1989.

Had he not done so the parts would have been scattered over the laboratory and the rocket shot would have been indefinitely delayed. I was delighted to hear about it two years later and then realized why my wife and I had been invited to the Lockheed picnic following the World Series quake.

Most career scientists are very circumspect in agreeing with my theories. After they had been legally chided for referring to me as a "clown" in the Wall Street Journal, USGS scientists have limited their printed discussions about me to "We don't discuss Berkland and his theories; we have our own theory about Berkland." And I have my own theory about many Government scientists.

CJ: We thank you, Mr. Berkland for taking time and sharing your knowledge with us.  I know our readers have a better understanding of your invaluable work and suggest they visit your site at: http://www.syzygyjob.org/index.shtml.

JOB: You're welcome, Connie.