J.O. Berkland

When I first discovered Usenet it wasn’t long before I found that there were groups online some of whom believed that earthquakes were forecastable. I never completely mastered what it was they were saying because I couldn’t make much sense of whatever. One person had created his own internet discussion group that he moderated. His name was Jim Berkland.

He was adamant that there is a correlation between tides and earthquakes in California. There were lots of co-incidents that he chose to claim as correct or close enough. But the mass of expert opinion was and is that his methods were too hit and miss.

His biggest problem was in the size of the earthquakes, because with a 4 or 5 M. there is nothing to worry about. On the other hand a 6 M. might bring a chimney pot or a dangerous old tree down. The trick for 6 M. earthquakes is to get out of the way. It doesn’t take much to be aware of what dangers lurk in your environment. Learn what they are.

A magnitude seven (7M.) is another matter entirely. You have to make sure that you are not in a brick or adobe house when one of them occurs. To do that these days requires your local government to have building codes and regulations. Only a few years ago a comparatively rich earthquake region did not enforce earthquake proof laws.

As far as I can tell Iran an oil rich country still doesn’t have building codes that cater for earthquakes. But maybe I am judging them by the conditions that Kurds live in. I gather nobody in Iran wants to keep any Kurds alive. I may be misjudging a people I know nothing about but I think Iran treats its Christians like the Germans and Russians treated Jews.

That is why you can still read about the Northridge earthquake, Bam and various other ones. Northridge was only a Mag. 6.7. Bam was a 6.6 M. But they did as much damage as most of the torndoes depicted in the film Twister: https://fmovies.is/film/twister.1vqw https://fmovies.is/film/twister.1vqw/1npx2m

(I think that the fake storm that hit Wakita would have been a part of a system that was equal to a Magnitude 7.5 or more and that event would have developed into a volcanic eruption that lifted millions of tons of debris, further down the line.)


Northeidge quake.California

The epicentre is easy to find on Wikipedia but doesn’t carry across to my blog very well. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:1994_Northridge_earthquake.

What Jim Berkland was doing was attempting to analyse animal behavious, looking for anomalous behaviour. This was also something the Chinese Geo-Physicists attempted with the forecast for a quake in Tangshan, during the mid 1970’s. His problem was that he never learned about the full sequence of events that happen with earthquakes. How could he?

You can’t really equate tornadoes with earthquakes especially in regions where people are close knit compared to regions filled with neighbours of racial, colour, religions and political differences; neither of those in regions like China with corrupt governments prone to acts of genocide. In Thibet they used to build with a course of wood every three courses of stone. Then the chines made them build with rubbish concrete and grow rice.

So standards are prone to politics. Now all construction there requires very poor concrete as they have chopped down all the trees and called it Global Warming. So ideas work against learning and culture too.

But people can make quite good guestimates from surveying damage compare for example the mock damage depicted at Wakita in the above film.

They needed debris and lots of it to simulate tornado damage. Wakita had ready-to-destroy structures that could be transformed into debris. “Jeff Foxworthy says you might be a redneck if a twister hits your town and does $100,000 worth of improvements,” Wade said. “And we pretty much think he was talking about us at the time.”


There are sites online where people have tried to compare energy values my guess is that a magnitude 7.5+ earthquake would do that sort of damage but the problem is that some officials like to make comparisons to atom bombs. Until we can accept that they are predicable and know what the cause of earthquakes is, we can never hope to be right.

Jim Berkland was a trained surveyor and worked on earthquake prediction as an hobby. That doesn’t prove he knew what he was talking about. The fact is that geology has set the bar too high for reality to be permitted to make intrusions. OTOH you can’t expect people to sleep out in the rain or cold just to be safe from an event that might not happen.

There was an earthquake that struck California at Reseda, Northridge too. You can’t compare fiction and reality; Loma Prieta with Wakita where no winds blew. There was a dam broke some place called Mullholland, unfortunate occurrence befall us all. But we are free, free to make decisions. We are free too, to forget about it all. We grow, learn, become an happy family. Grow old and die, a place beyond recall. Remember your god in the time of coming manhood, incline your heart to learn about it all.

What was it Mr Berkland missed?

He didn’t learn how rainfall produces anticyclones out of cyclones. He spent too much time talking to and arguing with petty trolls. An old man deserved to be treated with more respect than that. He concentrated on tidal theory without realising that all the planets with the sun and every star in the galaxy can not influence one particle of air or water more than the earth can, no matter how close they get nor how they line up. And he believed, to the exclusion of all alternatives.

Newton was capable of admitting error, or at least lived in an era when he could blame others and thus move on. The degree of understanding was still pretty much that of a belief in magic and dogma. It still is in some places. He died in the era when everyone still believed the mass media’s version of “news“.

So did J.O.B. three centuries later. Today the Internet is bringing down idols. Everything once held as sacrosanct is up for debate. James Berkland never got that chance.



2 thoughts on “J.O. Berkland

  1. Apparently the Kurds live in the northern part of Iran. I was confusing their situation with the ones in Iraq. I wonder which public enemies lived at Bam a few years ago.

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