James O. "Jim" Berkland is an American geologist studying earthquake prediction. He claims to have developed a method for predicting earthquakes, and offers his predictions through media appearances and publications. Before his retirement, Berkland was the County Geologist for Santa Clara County, California for twenty-one years. He previously worked for the United States Bureau of Reclamation and for the United States Geological Survey. He has published over fifty scientific papers.
Jim Berkland studied geology at the University of California, Berkeley earning the Bachelor of Arts degree in 1958. Thereafter he worked for the United States Geological Survey while pursuing graduate study. In 1964, he took a position at the United States Bureau of Reclamation. After further graduate study, he taught for a year at Appalachian State University, 1972–1973, then returned to California to work as County Geologist for Santa Clara County from 1973 until he retired in 1994.
In an interview published on October 13, 1989, one day before the start of baseball's 1989 World Series, Berkland predicted that an earthquake with magnitude between 3.5 and 6.0 would occur in the San Francisco Bay Area between October 14 and October 21. The 6.9-magnitude Loma Prieta earthquake occurred on October 17, just before the start of the third game of the Series. Berkland claims that government officials told him not to make any more predictions, fearing mass panic, and he was suspended for two months from his Santa Clara County geology position in late October, 1989.
In an announcement on his Web site, Berkland predicted an earthquake for January 9–14, 2009. During that week, the largest earthquake on land was in Crete on 13 January with magnitude 5.3, while the largest California-area earthquake had magnitude 3.5.
Interviewed on Fox News in March 2011, Berkland predicted a massive earthquake in California for sometime between March 19 and March 26, 2011. He cited as factors the highest tides in 18 years and the proximity of the Moon, suggesting that the quake will most likely strike on Saturday, March 19, 2011. Although, no major quakes occurred in California above 3.5, the 2011 Tohoku 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami struck Japan just 8 days prior to Berkland's predicted timeline on March 11. Another powerful earthquake that same month occurred in Myanmar on 24 March with magnitude 6.9.
Berkland is a proponent of the Seismic Window Theory. According to Berkland, "Moon proximity", "fish deaths and beachings", disoriented or lost pets, and geyser activity can be used to predict upcoming earthquakes.
Berkland claims to use tidal flooding tables based upon lunar perigee (when the Moon is closest to Earth, which affects gravitational pull) and the twice-monthly alignment of the Sun and Moon, creating a "window" of opportunity or increased probability of an earthquake being triggered. He also considers strange animal behavior, such as the number of notices in newspapers for lost or runaway pets, as well as the mass beaching of whales and dolphins. He attributes the strange behaviors to radical changes in the Earth's magnetic field just prior to earthquakes and in the general area of the quakes. He says that, when these changes occur, they interfere with the sea mammals', and even the migratory birds', ability to navigate, which explains the mass beachings. He says even dogs and cats can sense the disruptions, which explains elevated rates of runaway-pet reports.
Some scientists are critical of his methods and have reviewed and rejected several statistical correlations advocated by Berkland and others in predicting earthquakes, including lost pets and syzygy of the moon. However, the theory has never been officially peer reviewed and continues to be an emerging science.
Berkland has been a guest many times on the late-night radio program Coast to Coast AM, created by Art Bell. On television, he has been seen on Frontline, Sightings, Strange Universe, Town Meeting, and many other programs. He was also the subject of the 2006 book by Cal Orey, The Man Who Predicts Earthquakes: Jim Berkland, Maverick Geologist — How His Quake Warnings Can Save Lives (Sentient Publications) ISBN 1-59181-036-1.
On his Web site and in a monthly newsletter, Berkland details the signs and indicators that he uses for his predictions. He also lists dozens of major earthquakes he claims to have predicted.
Publications and associations
Berkland has issued over 50 publications in geology. He is a member of the Association of Engineering Geologists, the Peninsula Geological Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute. He is a Fellow of the Geological Society of America, and has taught geology at San Jose State University.
- Amanda Fehd (2005-06-28). "Living in earthquake country: Temblor once sent chunks of shoreline into Lake Tahoe". Tahoe Daily Tribune.
- Austin Walsh (1999-10-16). "Loma Prieta predictor Jim Berkland still picking quake dates". Santa Cruz Sentinel.
- Blair Tellers (March 18, 2011). "'Maverick' geologist predicts earthquake this coming week". Gilroy Dispatch (Gilroy, California).
- Gilroy Dispatch (Gilroy, California) "Is 'World Series' Quake Coming?", October 13, 1989
- Jim Berkland (January 2, 2009). "Potent Seismic Window Jan 08-15,2008". syzygyjob (Berkland's blog).
- The United States Geological Survey lists major earthquakes by year. This data was confirmed by searching all seismic events within Berkland's timeframe.
- "USGS Geologist Jim Berkland predicts major California quake". CNN iReport. 16 March 2011. Retrieved 3 July 2013. He also gave predictions on the Fox News Channel
- Cal Orey (2012). "The Man Who Predicts Earthquakes (review)". Sentient Publications. Retrieved 3 July 2013. Review by publisher.
- "An evaluation of the animal-behavior theory for earthquake prediction." Rand B. Schaal, California Geology 1988.
- "Earthquakes and the Moon: Syzygy Predictions Fail the Test." Kennedy, Vidale, and Parker, Seismological Research Letters 2004.
- Hunter, Roger (September 2006), "Can Jim Berkland predict earthquakes?", Skeptical Inquirer 30 (5)
- Deming, David (Spring 2007), "Earthquake Prediction, Kooks, and Syzygy: A Review of The Man Who Predicts Earthquakes", Journal of Scientific Exploration 21 (2): 373–382
- McClellan, Patrick (Spring 2007), "Review Essay: The Man Who Predicts Earthquakes — Jim Berkland, Maverick Geologist: How His Quake Warnings Can Save Lives by Cal Orey", Journal of Scientific Exploration 21 (2): 383–395
- www.SyzygyJOB.com — Berkland's Web site (last updated June 2010)
- Author's description of the book "The Man Who Predicts Earthquakes"
- Raffaele Bendandi (1893–1979), earthquake researcher (in Italian)
- "Can the Moon Cause Earthquakes?" article at nationalgeographic.com