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Jim Berkland, David Nabhan, and Earthquakes Triggered by the Moon

Started by astroguy, September 02, 2012, 07:32:28 PM


I finally did a podcast on what I call "lunatic earthquakes" - whether the moon causes (or triggers) quakes.  It's just over 50 minutes, I discuss a lot of background, a lot of logical fallacies, a few of Berkland's predictions, some of Nabhan's claims, and then give a discussion of statistics.  I also just finished posting a 5-page statistical discussion of the data.

So if you've ever wondered if there's anything to Berkland's claims, come take a look/listen!


Man I'm getting quite a bit of a back-log of stuff to listen to tonight.  I'll check your latest out first since I'm not very enthused about re-listening to the JBW show from last night sans malt liquor.  You and expat are the knights of shinning armor valiantly defending truth and sanity in a sea of pseudo-science scam-artists.

On the subject at hand I recall a certain dam in China that was blamed for creating the pressures that lead to a huge earthquake... no details on location in this brain right now but I'm sure I saw it on Discovery channel so it must be true.  What's your take on possible earthquakes caused by the activities of man?  Could the draining of lake Mead lead to some sort of earth shift due to the relief of pressure?  Sort of like the opposite of the Chinese quake I have no source information for...


Quote from: ziznak on September 02, 2012, 09:32:14 PM
What's your take on possible earthquakes caused by the activities of man?  Could the draining of lake Mead lead to some sort of earth shift due to the relief of pressure?  Sort of like the opposite of the Chinese quake I have no source information for...

Off the top of my head, it could be, but you'd need to get the stats to show it and then, if they do, actually get in there and test it.


Yeah, but do you explain why dogs and cats run away before the earthquake?


Quote from: expat on September 03, 2012, 02:59:39 PM
I thought it was radon gas.
Haven't read/heard of the radon gas theory whats that about?  I know the magnetite is supposed to be the magnetic component in the brains of many animals responsible for migration and the seemingly unexplained navigational skills.  It makes sense to me if there's some sort of seismic activity that such a component would go crazy hence the cat/dog thing... of course this is just my speculation.


I have no actual data regarding missing animals.  I know that's a claim by Berkland and Cal Orey among others, but that's much less astronomy and not something I looked into.  It's also not something that's easily available as an easy, downloadable database.


Oh, you and your data.  You'll never get that guest spot on Coast to Coast if you don't start making shit up.

Eddie Coyle

Quote from: Harmness on September 03, 2012, 09:45:15 PM
Oh, you and your data.  You'll never get that guest spot on Coast to Coast if you don't start making shit up.
Herbert Mullin's theories on earthquakes would be accepted on C2C.

Did you consider pulling earthquake data that is easily available from other countries (especially Japan)?

Also instead of focusing on Southern California/USGS data, did you consider doing a random sampling of available global earthquake data?

Sorry not trying to bog you down from an interesting post, but is there any chance a hidden Markov model would have any worth?


Quote from: ziznak on September 03, 2012, 03:05:42 PM
Haven't read/heard of the radon gas theory whats that about? 
This is a solid, confirmed, scientific fact. Levels of radon in local well water rise in the 24 hours prior to a substantial quake. I'd give you a reference but rigor doesn't seem to be quite in the spirit of this amusing forum. I'm sure my friend Mr Google could provide.


Quote from: Mind Flayer Monk on September 04, 2012, 06:59:47 AM
Did you consider pulling earthquake data that is easily available from other countries (especially Japan)?

Also instead of focusing on Southern California/USGS data, did you consider doing a random sampling of available global earthquake data?

Sorry not trying to bog you down from an interesting post, but is there any chance a hidden Markov model would have any worth?

The data I used were from the Southern California Earthquake Database which has data for CA down to mag. 3 and world down to mag. 6 or so since 1932.  USGS data I also have, but it only goes to the 1970s.

The analysis I did was for CA ≥6 mag, CA ≥3 mag, and world ≥6 mag.


Quote from: astroguy on September 03, 2012, 03:22:29 PM
I have no actual data regarding missing animals.  I know that's a claim by Berkland and Cal Orey among others, but that's much less astronomy and not something I looked into.  It's also not something that's easily available as an easy, downloadable database.
Just do what one of the "experts" says he does - look for missing pet ads in the newspaper classifieds. I guess you could also look in craigslist.  That's scientific rigor, isn't it?

David Nabhan

I was the subject of one of your recent topics:  "Jim Berkland, David Nabhan, and Earthquakes Triggered by the Moon" regarding a piece (podcast) done about me by Mr. Stuart Robbins ("Exposing Pseudo-Astronomy").  I'm the individual directing the enterprise to garner public opinion to impel the honorable governor of California to empanel the California Earthquake Prediction Evaluation Council. A number of things never cease to amaze me regarding the "controversy" surrounding this subject, and I wonder if you'd be kind enough to allow me to point them out?

People like Mr. Robbins never seem to get around to explaining how it is that earthquake prediction is "impossible"...but yet only on this side of the Pacific.  Many Asian nations have organs of their federal governments dedicated to seismic forecasting.  China's Center for Analysis and Prediction, for example, has been in business for the last forty years.  Maybe your members should be kind enough to send their comments to China's State Seismological Bureau in order to help out our confused trading partners--who are slap-happy enough to have wasted almost half a century on a supposed wild goose chase, but are somehow cogent enough to own more about $1.2 trillion in US bills, notes and bonds.  Aside from this head-scratcher, Mr. Robbins pulls another classic hackneyed sleight of hand: pretending that this entire business regarding tidal triggering of earthquakes is something "new" and "fringe."  It is neither.  I realize he is an astronomer and hence must have pretty good eyesight in order to capture the visual minutia from astronomical distances.  I don't realize, however, how he could have missed something that Ray Charles might have been able to make out:  literally dozens of peer-reviewed abstracts, from all over the world, published in the most prestigious scientific journals, from every decade from the 1840s until the present, and all of them pointing an unabashed finger straight at the tides as plausible seismic triggers.  (They're all listed chapter and verse in Forecasting the Catastrophe, or at www.earthquakepredictors.com by clicking the article published in Despierten in Caracas, Venezuela.)

What your membership should be apprised of is quite different from what Mr. Robbins implies.   I have never suggested that I have the be-all answer to how best prepare for the next great seismic event on the West Coast.  To the contrary, I've kept matters clean and simple.  This issue needs to be placed on the desk of California's chief executive, so that he might direct California's Advisory Council to provide him and the public with an official answer regarding the viability or fallibility of what's been written by me...and Jim Berkland...and Cochran, Knopoff,  Edmonds, Perrey, Fuller, Gill, Maxwell, Doglioni, Stetson, Rodes, Sadeh, Kolvankar, Davison, Shimshoni...and hundreds of others from all over the world.   

If the readers of CoastGab don't recognize those names, may I suggest that instead of allowing themselves to be spoon-fed by Mr. Robbins, myself, or anyone else that they do what their rational side would urge:  make an open-minded, unbiased investigation to find out. 

Science that has no room for opposing views isn't science; that's the definition of a cult.

Kind Regards,

David Nabhan, Forecasting the Catastrophe   www.earthquakepredictors.com   davidwrites100@aol.com


First, thanks for posting. I hope you find this a forum to post other ideas. Either way, welcome.

Your argument that the U.S. owes China lots of money doesn't compel me to believe their 40+ years of earthquake study have made their predictions more accurate. Perhaps some evidence to that assertion would have helped.

Make no mistake, though, we are a cult. We meet weekly and... well I can't say more.


I'd also like to welcome you to CoastGab. We need more input from those who are criticized here.

I don't have the scientific chops to determine who's right in this case, but the idea that the Chinese do something differently from us, and therefore must be right, doesn't impress me. The Chinese (among too many others, including, most recently, the new UK Minister of Public Health (!)) also place stock in quackery like acupuncture and homeopathy.

It seems like it wouldn't be all that difficult to create and maintain a database of missing pet ads in quake-prone areas. I wonder why Berkland hasn't done so. His apperances on C2C that I've heard consist mainly of him boasting about the one or two quakes he seems to have predicted and dismissing the ones he called that didn't happen, or quakes he missed. That's classic charlatan behavior, mainly used by psychics, mediums and other frauds.


I'm not going to respond to the details of David's post at the moment, but I will point out that he has not answered the questions posed when he commented on my podcast.  If he would like to continue, we asked him:

- Which specific earthquakes did you use in your analysis?
- Why do you define dawn and dusk as set times and not use the astronomical definition?
- What is your definition of Degree Syzygy? Does it incorporate Right Ascension only or does it include Declination?
- What did you use to determine the Moon's position for your calculations?
- Have you looked at the statistics document I wrote?
- Have you done statistics on what the null hypothesis would be?
- Why do your limit your list of quakes to southern California? Why not the entire world?
- What happens to your claimed pattern after 1994? Before 1933?

- The Moon was 30° from the Sun in RA during the Landers quake. None of the other angular distances from the Sun for the remaining quakes are less than the value of your "Degrees Syzygy", whatever that is. They range from 1.3° up to 17°. And that is just in RA; the angles would often be greater if Declination were included.

Basically, you made a claim, and a fairly pointed one that should be easy to show is valid.  In my own independent analysis, I found the evidence for it lacking.  I have posted my own analysis of the earthquake data, free for anyone to take a look at and analyze themselves -- do you find faults with it, and if so, what are they specifically?  When you criticized my analysis of the information you relayed in your interview, we started to dig deeper into it and came up with the questions above.  Please answer them.


MV, I realise you're very busy these days, but I smell a potential Radio Trainwreck debate special here!

David Nabhan

First, thanks to all for the polite welcome; I really hadn’t expected that (and, yeah, I did chuckle at Onon’s “cult” remark).  Secondly, I want to make two things clear to Dr. Robbins.  My angry tone isn’t due to your opinion, and even though it may not seem like it, I have quite a bit of respect for the position you occupy.  I’m certain you know more about science in your little finger than I do in my whole body.  Unfortunately, what is in contention here is not so much scientific as journalistic and historic.  And, it’s not my intention to vilify you.  I have no doubt that you must be a decent, genuine young man who has already accomplished big things, with an even greater future in front of you.  But that having been said, you screwed this one up, Dr. Robbins.

You did your story without asking me for a comment before you ran it, and worse, didn’t bother with what even the National Enquirer would have done:  inform me that a piece was in the offing.  I don’t like that and I’m sure most Americans would deem it outrageous.   I’m also sorry to say that I can see why your piece turned out, in my view, poorly.   You may be a genius in your field, but from the point of view of someone who has been looking at this particular question for the last sixteen years, it’s painfully obvious that you quickly boned up on what you thought you should know to make your points, and then just let fly.  You aren’t aware that in those sixteen years of arm-wrestling with civic, scientific and governmental authorities, a grudging re-evaluation of what the “party line” isâ€"has already taken place.   It’s ironic that you acquired your data from the Southern California Earthquake Center, but neglected to ask its Director, Dr. Tom Jordan, what AOL News asked him about me in 2010.  The cat’s out of the bag, Dr. Robbins, about tidal triggering of earthquakes.   That’s not even in question at this point.   Dr. Jordan, certainly no friend of mine but an honest guy, has gone on record saying that it’s already established regarding small quakes (see Elizabeth Cochran, et al, Science, 2004), but debatable regarding the bigger ones.
Now, I’m not going to re-write my book and post it here chapter by chapter, or repeat what I’ve said ad nauseum on a couple of hundred media outlets on three continents.  I will, however, answer your questions in a very simple way.  I say that SEVEN of the great killer quakes that struck in Southern California between Long Beach (1933) and Northridge (1994) occurred at dawn or at dusk during new and or full moon dates that were in near-syzygy.  That’s seven out of 23 in total (6.0 or greater).   I say that a third of Southern California’s great quakes striking within these infinitesimally small target windows (3 hours long) is sufficient to warrant this matter being placed on Gov. Brown’s desk.   What I’m asking for is a fair hearing, before an unbiased body to determine right or wrong, fallible or plausible, useful or uselessâ€"and done in public.  Anyone wishing to read the plain English, straight to the facts (2,500 words) data can go to www.earthquakepredictors.com , click on the link to the journal EdgeScience and weigh the evidence for themselves in my article “Courting Disaster.”

And, agree or disagree, I’d appreciate everyone sending an email to Gov. Brown (also linked on my site).  If even some part of this is at most close to the truth, California’s advisory council should be examining it.  And if every single word is completely, abysmally, horrifically dead wrongâ€"well, then I’ll rely on your civic duty as good citizens to send that email in any event, as that would make me a good candidate to have a muzzle publicly placed on my mouth.

Fair enough?             


First, since you've now raised this point twice:  Your outrage that I didn't contact you before I did a podcast that included parts of an interview you gave is, well, let's just say somewhat confusing.  Do you honestly expect anyone who writes something that mentions someone has to contact them first?  Did you contact anyone at USGS before you went on Coast in November and ranted against them for several minutes?  Under your logic, you should have done so to allow them to comment before you went on.  I suggest you harbor your emotional energies.  I also suggest that your ranting against USGS and numerous other blatant logical fallacies (non sequiturs, argument from persecution, argument from authority, argument against authority, argument from personal credulity, misuse of statistics, correlation = causation, remembering the hits while forgetting the misses, data mining) do not help your case.

But now, more to the point: the data.  The data should speak for itself.  Even if someone can point to a hypothesis for why something should happen, if the data don't show it, then it needs to be rejected or significantly modified.

I count 29 earthquakes using your definition of southern California, though since 5 of those occurred within 1 day of another, they could probably be considered duplications or after-shocks or just parts of the same one but with a large epicenter -- I chose the bigger of the two.  That's still 24 earthquakes.

Of those 24, I count 8 that occur during the 6 hours that you define as "dawn" or "dusk" (4:45-7:55 AM or PM).  Considering that you're blocking out 6 of 24 hours, one would expect 25% of the 24 earthquakes to occur during that time by chance, which is 6.0±2.4 earthquakes ... basically a ~1-sigma result, which is well within chance.

I then went through and manually found the closest perigee, new, and full moons to each of the 24 earthquakes.  And absolutely positively ZERO of the earthquakes were within one day of BOTH a perigee AND (new OR full) moon.  I found 3 that happened within a day of a new or full moon.  When you define a "hit" as a 4 of 28-day window (±1 day of a new moon, ±1 day of a full moon), then the chance is 14.3%.  14.3% of 24 is 3.4±2.6 expected, and the result is 3±1.7 ... a 1-sigma result, well within chance.  If you reduce the window to ±0.5 days surrounding a new or full moon, you're talking about 2/28, or 1.7±1.3 earthquakes expected, and the actual data are 2±1.4 ... again, a 1-sigma result, well within chance.

I found that 3 occurred within ±1 day of perigee.  Perigees happen roughly once every 28.5 days, so when you define a ±1 day window, you would expect 3.5% to fall within it, which is 0.84±0.92.  A sample of 3 is a 2-sigma result, which means that there's a ~5% chance of that happening randomly.  However, these earthquakes that occurred near perigee were 2.4, 3.7, and 3.3 days from a new or full moon.

Similarly, only two of these that happened near a new or full or perigee moon were within a month of perihelion, when the tides from the sun would be largest ... shouldn't there be a pattern of more earthquakes when we're closest to the sun?

I also count only one earthquake that occurred within dawn or dusk and a full or new moon, and I count two that occurred within dawn or dusk and a perigee moon.

For ZERO of the earthquakes was there both a perigee and new or full moon within 24 hours of each other and the earthquake.  There was, however, one earthquake that was within 33.6 hours of a new and APOGEE moon, when lunar tides are at their minimum, AND when Earth was farthest from the sun.  It occurred 13 days after a perigee and full moon (within 0.94 days of each other).  There was a time an earthquake occurred 2 days after a perigee and full moon that were within 0.05 days of each other, but the quake was 2 days later.

The data for new and full moons comes from the Lunar Perigee and Apogee Moon Calculator.

So, David, care to share your data?  I've shared mine and my sources (original writeup || California data detailed).  Remember: Scientists share their data, they don't tell people to go buy their book to find it.


P.S.  My point in writing all this is not that I'm out to "get" anyone nor "disprove" or "debunk" something.  I would be very happy if there were an obvious, clear, and easy way to predict earthquakes.  I honestly went into this investigation with no idea of what I would find.

What I do have a problem with is when people attack rather than present data.  In that respect, David, you honestly rubbed me the wrong way during your interview.  There's no kinder way to put it - you were ranting against what you see as "the establishment," or to actually quote you, "eminent professors."  To quote another part, you stated:

Quote"The whole idea that earthquake prediction is impossible, that's gotta be ditched right now.  It's absurd on the face of it.  We've measured the background radiation of the Big Bang from 14 years -- 14 billion years ago, that's possible but lonely little earthquake prediction isn't?!  We've cataloged the whole genome of the human race, 3.5 billion combinations.  That wasn't impossible.  Well, who said earthquake prediction was impossible by the way?  Albert Einstein?  Isaac Newton?  I've looked, I can't find it.  A few goofy people at USGS have said it, and then they've latched onto it from 100 years ago and that's been the orthodoxy, the Byzantine orthodoxy that we're sluggishly dragging along into the 21st century."

That entire 49 seconds of airtime has at least five logical fallacies that have nothing to do with the actual data and in no way help your case to anyone who realizes it.  (Non sequiturs abound in it, argument from persecution is present, along with ad hominems, non-argument from authority, and argument from personal incredulity.)  Because my podcast is also about critical thinking, I chose to point them out.

But again, in the end, it's about the data.  Since the data that I found do NOT support your conclusions and the statements that you made, I have requested your data to see where we differ.  This is exactly the same thing that I do in my day job -- if I find results that differ from someone else's, I dig through their research to find out why, and/or I ask them about it.  We then work together to figure out why I got one thing and they got another.

David Nabhan

Look, Dr. Robbins, this is your baliwick, your province.  I don't want to turn this into the Debate That Couldn't Die.  I'm sure the good people who frequent this site have better things to read than this back and forth.  I'm going to keep this short.  I don't know if this will make any impression on you, but for others reading...you mention "perigee" in your response--SEVEN times above.  I hope readers will go a bit higher and see that I never mentioned it...even once.  You quite appropriately point out some nagging foibles of mine (having to do with my curt references to USGS).   You've got a few of your own, you know.   What's this obsession you have with putting "perigee" in my mouth?  And are you not aware that all people have to do is look up to see that that's not what I said....at all??  About USGS, I'll only say this.   I spent the entire last chapter of "Forecasting the Catastrophe" singing the praises of that agency (calling them "one of the superlative scientific bodies on Earth along with NASA, CERN, and CDC.")   I believe USGS is going to soldier on just fine, even factoring in the well-earned rebukes I've sent their way.  The idea that such a potent, 130 year old, 9,000 person strong, 1.1 billion dollar per year bugeted agency of the most powerful federal government on Earth should require you or anyone to protect them from an ant like me, is...laughable.  They've earned both all the praise and every stinging barb from me, and, in fact, I don't know why I'm explaining because it's really none of your concern at all.  You've made your points, and I've made mine.  I'll repeat that the only opinion that matters is that of the public.  I've already referenced where and how they can get all the information they need to make up their OWN minds, without any help from you or me.  That's where I'd like to leave this, and I'm sure that that might be one of the few things upon which we both can agree.


David, here is a direct quote from you:  "I looked at the history of the great killer quakes that struck in southern California that struck between Long Beach in '33 and North Ridge in '94 and during those 60 year, uh, during that 60-year duration of the 20th century, 23 large magnitude 6.0 earthquakes or greater struck in Southern California.  Now George, one-third, ONE-THIRD of them struck during the astoundingly thin target window represented by the hours between dawn and dusk during new and full moon near syzygy and or perigee.  That is to say, a third of the killer quakes in southern California struck within a time frame that represents about one-half of one percent of the total time during those 60 years, with the other two-thirds spread all over the clock all over the calendar."  (emphasis mine; this is from your C2C interview on Nov. 14, 2011, starting at 16:02 into the hour)

Again, if you want to make a claim, back it up with the data.  I'm not buying your book to get it.

You want to throw out perigee moons?  Fine.  I'm still showing that earthquakes happening during your definition of dawn and dusk are at chance level, and those that happen within a day of a new or full moon are at chance level.  If you want to say that I'm wrong in my analysis that shows you are wrong, then show us your data or where I made a mistake, it's as simple as that.

And I don't think any government should waste its time investigating something that isn't true.  This gets back to the idea that I often hear from people who make various claims:  "Look at the implications, not at the specifics of what I said or the terminology I use.  Look at the broader idea!"  Problem is, that broad idea is made up of individual pieces.  When those pieces fail to be real, the broader claim falls apart and is not worth looking into.

I really have no desire nor interest in debating.  My interest lies in determining what the data show and whether they support a hypothesis.  From my analysis, they don't.  You are claiming they do.  The proper thing would be to then show your data to determine why we reach different conclusions.  I've looked at your website, and either the link is well hidden or the data are not there.  If you have a direct link to your analysis showing when these quakes occur and when the closest new or full moon is that shows your 1/3 number hitting "during the astoundingly thin target window," I'll follow it.

HAL 9000

Quote from: David Nabhan on October 04, 2012, 08:55:49 PMI'm sure the good people who frequent this site have better things to read than this back and forth.

I don't. Keep going.  :o

David Nabhan

I think your post above, Dr. Robbins, puts about the finest point on what the problem is.   It explains why you had no idea that there was an entire chapter (Chapter 20: "USGS Leading the Way") devoted as a homage to USGS in my book, and why you're tripping over your tongue trying to parse the difference between "and/or" to STILL try to beg me to sign on to YOUR version of what I say.  Some parting advice, Dr. Robbins.   You've publicly stated that it's your view that journalists in this country have no ethical or professional duty to contact persons about whom they are "interviewing."  What's more, neither a comment nor a chance to set the record straight prior to your "story" airing is absent from your view of the process also.  Now we see that you  actually have the chutzpah to declare that you don't even have to bother reading books that you review.   I don't know if your show airs in Somalia, or Iran, or Myanmar--but it sure ought to.  The tin-horn dictators that run those backward places also have an affinity for the way you conduct your journalistic business.   Here in THIS country...we don't go for that stuff. 

Good luck to you in all your future enveavors.   


It's amazing how you're still wiggling out of this, David.  You want to be taken seriously yet you refuse to freely share your data.  What I posted in my CA analysis above took me an hour.  Surely, if you honestly believe your work, you'll better explain yourself and show exactly how your data support what you say.

I forgot to add until I was falling asleep last night this P.S. -- If your premise is that stronger tides cause earthquakes (that is your basic premise, right? that higher tides trigger (not "cause") earthquakes?) then even if you claim you don't bring in perigee moons, that would be a fatal flaw in your model:  Lunar tides are nearly 40% stronger when the moon's at perigee, so there should be at least some trend with more earthquakes being triggered when the moon's at perigee.  Similarly, the tides are about 11% stronger from the sun when Earth's at perihelion in late January.

Anyway, I'm not going to respond to you anymore until you actually present your data in a cogent manner.  I did.  I'm tired of people such as yourself trying to side-step it when confronted.  It certainly doesn't do you any favors, and at the very least, it makes those of us who are critical thinkers wonder what you're hiding if you won't comply with a simple request to lay out the data that you think makes a clear and obvious case (something about "probabilities of one out of 50 billion for [the earthquakes] to have happened randomly").

eddie dean

Very interesting discussion gentlemen!

Welcome Mr. Nabhan!

Astroguy, I hope you get access to the data you have requested.

Thanks to both of you!

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