For what might have been the first (and last) time in history, geologists with opposing views enlisted retired loggers to support their respective beliefs about glaciers in the Southern Appalachians during the Pleistocene Ice Age.
But the story doesn’t end there.
Throughout the 1970s, several researchers continued looking for evidence of glaciation in Western North Carolina. A 1979 conference featured several papers on the subject, and while most scholars put the glacier theory to rest, at least one geologist left the door open with the reminder that "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence."
By 1979, though, one of those Appalachian State University professors who believed Grandfather Mountain had contained a glacier long ago had moved to California and the next chapter in his career. He would grab headlines, but not for his interest in glaciers.
James Berkland took a job as the first County Geologist for Santa Clara County, California and helped to create municipal ordinances to address the various concerns of earthquake-prone areas. He also began studying the possibility that certain astronomical phenomena (syzygy) coincided with an increased occurrence of quakes.
Over time, he also took note of changes in animal behavior as indicators of impending earthquakes. He even correlated the number of missing pet ads in the newspapers with increased seismic activity.
In October 1989, during an interview with a reporter for the Gilroy Dispatch, Berkland predicted that a major earthquake would soon occur in the San Francisco Bay area. Four days after that article appeared under the headline “Is World Series Quake Coming?” the Loma Prieta earthquake did interrupt the baseball championship.
Out of fear that he would create undue panic, government officials ordered Berkland to refrain from making any more predictions, and he was suspended from his job for a couple of months.
This old television news story features Jim Berkland and an obligatory skeptic.
Apparently, Berkland is still at it. Listen carefully to the details of his prediction in this video.
"Between June 1 and June 8, 2008. Bay Area. Magnitude 3.5 or higher."
Out of curiosity, I consulted the US Geological Survey database, and guess what I found:
A listing for a 3.5 magnitude quake in the Bay area on June 6, 2008.
For more on this geologist who jumped from glacier hunting to earthquake prognostication:
Berkland’s own website
An interview with Berkland
In 2010, the radio show Coast to Coast AM featured an interview with Berkland http://www.coasttocoastam.com/show/2010/02/28
And Cal Orey has written a book on Jim Berkland, The Man Who Predicts Earthquakes
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