Moon and quakes, fish and snakes
JIM BERKLAND looks at tides, which are controlled by the moon, in making predictions.
With the massive Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami of 2004, the 8.8 magnitude Chilean quake a year ago, February's 6.3 quake that hammered Christchurch, New Zealand, and now the March 11 catastrophe in Japan, Californians can be pardoned for a certain paranoia regarding their seismic future and their shaky presence on the ring of fire.
Most prominent among Northern California concerns on prognosticators earthquake horizons is the Hayward Fault which runs along the East Bay and directly under UC Berkeley's Memorial Stadium. Earthquake frequency on that fault has been measured at an approximate average of every 140 years or so, a duration that has already elapsed. In 1868, a quake estimated at between 6.8 and 7 shook the relatively undeveloped East Bay, killing at least 30 people.
Closer to home, the Healdsburg-Rogers Creek fault runs up the west side of the Valley of the Moon, terminates in Santa Rosa and, in 1969, set the stage for a major redevelopment of that city's downtown district with a 5.7 event that shook the central city to its core. The maximum credible quake on the Healdsburg Fault, which is a continuation - or "step-over" - of the Rogers Creek Fault, is 7.5, which could produce catastrophic damage.
The USGS has predicted a 20 percent chance of a magnitude 6.7 or greater temblor on the fault system by 2030.
Living close enough to the Rogers Creek fault extension in Glen Ellen to call it his "home" fault, noted geologist Jim Berkland is less concerned about pending movement there than he is about some quaking he expects to hit Southern California very soon.
Berkland's quake predictions are legend and they are based in part on tidal influences, which correlate directly or indirectly with phases of the moon.
But what really alerts Berkland to the likelihood of the next quake is the behavior of animals.
"East of San Diego, a gal found a rattlesnake and a scorpion on her back porch, at a time they're supposed to be well-bedded." Referring to the popular book by Helmut Tributsch, "When the Snakes Awake," Berkland said unusual snake behavior is one indicator something is coming from deep in the Earth.
But that's just one sign. "Then there was the giant panda biting a keeper at the San Diego Zoo. It's the first time that's ever happened."
Want more? How about the Redondo Beach fish kill? "There was maybe a million fish there. They try to say that's normal, but it's not. There was just a similar mass of fish (on March 14) in Acapulco, hundreds of thousands of them. They didn't die, but it was very unusual behavior."
Then Berkland notes an unusual pod of sperm whales off San Diego, and the discovery of an oarfish - sometimes called a "quake" fish - that washed up on a Southern California beach. The rare, immensely long and solitary fish have been associated for years with earthquake activity.
From these, and numerous other animal-related signs, along with tides a d moon phases, Berkland says he anticipates a 5.5 quake in the Southland very soon.
Berkland's prediction are the subject of endless controversy, but he famously nailed the 1989 "World Series" quake and his legend has only grown.
Hang on to something solid while we await his next revelation.