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No. 116: Mar-Apr 1998

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Earthquake Weather

Folklore reserves the term "earthquake weather" for the sultry, ominously uneasy period said to precede large earthquakes. Scientists have generally belittled suggestions that weather could have anything to do with the ponderous forces unleashed during a quake. Despite such authoritative pronouncements, many Californians, who have ample experience with seismic events, insist that quakes and weather are somehow connected.

They may be right -- at least some of the time. In the five years following the 7.3 Landers earthquake of June 28, 1992, the frequency of smaller quakes has peaked reliably every September. However, before the Landers event, no such pattern is evident.

One thought is that the average atmospheric pressure, which is lower in the summer months, reduces the downward pressure on the earth's crust enough to allow easier slippage along fault lines. This sounds reasonable, but why did this effect not occur before the Landers quake? The answer given is that perhaps the Landers event "sensitized" nearby faults!

(Monastersky, R.; "California Shakes Most Often in September," Science News, 152:373, 1997.)

Earthquakes following an annual cycle Since the Landers event, Earthquakes in the weestern U.S. have been following an annual cycle.

From Science Frontiers #116, MAR-APR 1998. 1998-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987