Seismic soothsayer causes folk to quake in their boots


EVERY seismologist on the planet might disagree with Ken Ring, but he’s got the people of Christchurch talking — and he has some of them worrying.
Mr Ring, a long-range weather forecaster in Auckland, New Zealand, believes he can predict when there is an increased likelihood of earthquakes. On February 13, he tweeted: “Potential earthquake time for the planet between 15th-25th, especially 18th for Christchurch, +/- about 3 days.”
The quake that has devastated the city occurred on February 22, one day after the period he named.
Mr Ring believes the moon’s magnetic pull can help trigger quakes when the moon is in particular phases and is close to the Earth.
Christchurch residents call him “the moon man”, and some are concerned that he now appears to have had at least two accurate predictions.
Last September, he warned on radio to expect increased earthquake activity in the South Island over the following week. The next day, Christchurch had a 7.1 quake. The day after that, he predicted another one in six months.
He has now tipped the potential for another big one on or near March 20. “The wild card is how deep these things might be,” he told The Age.
Mr Ring is neither a geologist nor seismologist but says he has decades of practical experience connecting patterns with weather from writing almanacs for farmers in Australia and New Zealand. “It’s not voodoo or anything. It’s solid science. It’s astronomy.”
He said earthquakes were associated with king tides and “perigee” — the point each month when the moon is closest to Earth. This is because the moon’s gravitational pull affects not just the movement of oceans but of land. Solar influences such as sunspots could be a factor, too, he said.
He predicts that the jolts on the South Island will ease from April, “because the moon will be moving away from the Earth”.
Bill Fry, a seismologist with GNS Science New Zealand, dismissed the claims: “I believe his so-called predictions have no scientific credibility. In New Zealand, if I predict every single day of the year that there will be an earthquake, I will be correct. If I predict a magnitude-5 event every day of the year, I will be correct about 40 times a year. If you predict every day that it’s going to be Sunday, you’ll be right one day out of seven.”
Mr Fry said many claims to earthquake prediction had been investigated and proven false in recent decades, including theories that they were linked to atmospheric discharges, or that they could be detected early by animals including cows and dogs. “We can’t predict earthquakes,” he said. “I can tell you unequivocally that no one can systematically predict them.”
If seismologists could, they would. “We certainly don’t want to see 150 people die,” he said.