Science in Christian Perspective

Letter to the Editor


Earthquake Information
Kyle M. Cudworth
Yerkes Observatory
University of Chicago
Williams Bay, Wisconsin 53191

From: JASA 33 (March 1981): 63.

Many people in my church, as well as some ASA members at the recent annual meeting, have been asking questions about earthquakes due to an upcoming alignment of the planets. Since ASA members who are not astronomers will undoubtedly be asked similar questions, this letter is intended to provide some useful information to readers of the Journal ASA.

The earthquake predictions were made in the 1974 book The Jupiter Effect by Gribbin and Plagemann. In general terms, an alignment of the planets in 1982 was to raise tides on the sun and thus increase all solar activity such as sunspots and solar flares. The resulting increase in ejected solar particles, some of which reach the earth's atmosphere, would cause shifts in large air masses, thus affecting the earth's rotation, which would trigger earthquakes in California. I have been told that at least one Christian publication quoted this earthquake prediction and drew the connection between earthquakes and the end times, thus encouraging speculation.

A number of astronomers have thoroughly debunked the entire idea (e.g., the article by Meeus in the July/August, 1979, issue of Mercury). First, the planets will be only poorly aligned in 1982 and the tides raised on the sun will be only about I mm high. Furthermore, historical data show that comparable or better planetary alignments have not correlated significantly with increased solar activity or earthquakes. Neither has there been any significant correlation between solar activity and the number or strength of earthquakes in the past. The available scientific data is thus strongly opposed to the entire theory. Recognizing this, Gribbin (one of the authors of The Jupiter Effect) withdrew the entire idea in the June, 1980, issue of Omni.

Although geologists are making significant progress in the area of earthquake predictions, this does not depend on theories similar to that described above. A major earthquake in California is, of course, possible at any time, but the 1982 prediction based on planetary alignments is entirely specious.