Earthquake signs are in plain sight Contrary to USGS claims, seismic precursors exist.
Americans have been spoon-fed quite a number of falsehoods in our history — only to see each of them stunningly debunked. The Wright Brothers took to the air, the atom was split and Chuck Yeager smashed his way through the supposed sound "barrier," notwithstanding what naysayers had declared previously with as much authority as if it were holy writ.
There has been a nonstop decades-long litany of "impossibility" regarding earthquake prediction that has replaced the mantras of the past. A number of facts say quite the opposite. The most glaring disconnect concerns the discomforting reality that China, Japan and other countries around the world have established organs of their federal governments dedicated to earthquake prediction — operating for the past 40 years.
Contrary to what the United States Geological Survey would have us believe, there are dozens of seismic precursors currently under study worldwide. Regarding the United States' West Coast, one dynamic fairly screams to be seriously studied as a possible first step toward our own seismic forecasting system, one certainly not foolproof but based on higher probability windows. Lunar and solar gravitational tides, acting in tandem during certain new and/or full moon phases during the hours of dawn and dusk, have helped trigger a third of the great quakes that have struck in Southern California during the 20th century. (Interested readers may go to www.earthquakepredictors.com to weigh the evidence.)
What about the New Madrid fault zone? Respected seismologists have pointed unabashed scientific fingers at the tides in connection with increased seismicity in the Heartland, too, though noon and midnight are tabbed as more likely hours in this region. There is, however, one more salient and powerful seismic trigger of which Missourians ought to be apprised: water.
Few dams have been built in seismically active areas that didn't have their inauguration punctuated with seismic fireworks. Hoover Dam set off half a dozen large temblors in the 1930s in an area that had been considered relatively quiescent. When the Vajont Dam in Italy was opened, few could ignore the event; it was accompanied by more than 250 earthquakes. Fairbanks, Alaska's "flood of the century" was a double punch. The city was first drowned and then pummeled by a nonstop swarm of more than 100 quakes in 1967. The most striking evidence, however, comes from China. On May 8, 2008, 80,000 people were killed in the horrific 7.9-magnitude monster that wracked Sichuan province. The Zipingpu Dam had just been completed, built only about 550 yards from the section of the fault line that failed and more than three miles from the quake's exact epicenter.
Russian seismologists long ago discovered that water entering the underground environment of fracturing bedrock can act as the final burden in seismic zones, changing the frictional coefficient of the fault (the less slip-resistant) and perhaps precipitating an earthquake. At the 1971 Moscow Conference, held to celebrate "détente," Russian scientists gifted their U.S. counterparts with this information as a gesture of good faith and scientific collaboration. We Americans, though, capable of ignoring China's Center for Analysis and Prediction and Japan's Tokay Warning System, have filed that snippet of scientific knowledge from Russia with all the other evidence that might cause us to revisit our implacable mindset about the "impossibility" of gleaning any knowledge about earthquake prediction: oblivion.
I am in no way calling for a single minute's delay in moving forward with any and all good-intentioned endeavors to acquire the vital energy required to run this great nation. Vast North American oil sands and natural gas fields are gifts of Providence that simply can't be disregarded — certainly not until some viable alternative is available. This is simply a public answer to emails that have come from readers in states such as Missouri, where seismic concerns aren't generally front and center — and especially in Oklahoma and north Texas, where hydraulic fracking is in high gear.
Thankfully, this will be read in the Show-Me State, where little premium is put on mere words and verifiable results count much more. Those standards are appealing. Missourians should look around their region in the months ahead and see for themselves whether the ground is trembling more than it has in many, many decades. And, when the news arrives in Columbia from the West Coast about the next sizable quake, I hope readers will take a moment to look at their watches and calendars. It will have happened on a new or full moon date — so say the elevated probabilities — at either dawn or dusk Pacific Time.
David Nabhan is the author of "Predicting the Next Great Quake" (1996), "Forecasting the Catastrophe" (2010) and "Pilots of Borealis" (2011). Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.