When the Coastal Post began this series on a possible connection between nuclear underground tests and earthquakes, it was to commemorate the signing of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Within a month, the Chinese resumed testing and the French announced they soon would.
To check the theory of a connection, I made several predictions based on observations made during the eighties.
There would be greater earthquake activity in the five-day period after testing. That activity could extend up to ten days on occasion.
Earthquake activity would be particularly heavy in the Indonesia, Micronesia triangle for two reasons:
First, the most active earthquake zone in the world is where three continental plates collide. Second, it lies half-way between the Chinese and French test sites.
Other activity would be along the plates and accompanying faults, radiating out from the triangle, such as the New Zealand-Australian system, Indo-China, China, Japan and up through the Aleutians.
Also, pressure from the blast pushes out in all directions.Could an internal wave activate the great spine of the Andies, Rockies and Sierras? The atolls are almost as close to the American continents as they are to the Asian. And the entire region makes up the Ring of Fire.
The hypothesis also said there would be a measurable effect on weather conditions, either magnifying current conditions or creating extremes in reverse.
And finally, there was the prediction of increased volcanic activity.
These predictions were made because of my own research. But, more importantly, that done by Dr. Gary Whiteford of the University of New Brunswich, during the barrage of tests conducted in the eighties. Here are some of his findings so that the recent tests can be evaluated.
Responding to the military's claim that test and quakes are coincidence, Dr. Whiteford states, "The geographical patters in the data, with a clustering of earthquakes in specific regions matched to specific test dates and sites, do not support the easy and comforting explanation of 'pure coincidence'."
During the first half of the century, 1900-1950, there was an average of 68 large quakes a year. Between 1950 and 1988, the average almost doubled to 137, coinciding with years when testing was frequent.
Of these, 32 were killer quakes. Twenty came within five days after a nuclear test, 12 within 24-hours. The death count of these 20 quakes was 500,000 to 1,000,000, depending on estimates.
The Dec. 10, 1988 Armenian quake killed up to 50,000 people. The Soviets tested three days before.
A month before that, on Nov. 5, the French tested at the Mururoa Atoll site in the South Pacific. The next day 600 people were killed in quakes ranging from Indo-China to China.
On Nov. 24, the French tested again. A day later, eastern Canada was rocked by an unusual 6.0 quake. The next day a similar quake hit central China.
Exact force sizes are hard to confirm. The National Earthquake Center in Golden Colorado measures ground zero seismic activity.
And quakes don't always shake neatly in accordance with blast size though they generally fall in the area.
To understand the magnitude of the force, the Hiroshima and Nagasaki blasts were 13 and 20 kilotons. Compare that to the 120 kilotons detonated by the French on January 27 and the destructive 6.5 to 7.0 Chinese quake February 3, six days later.
There are three different test sizes: 2-20 kilotons, small; 20-80 kilotons, medium; and the rare 80-150 kilotons, large.
Anti-nuke groups often discuss the danger of the Mururoa test site. In a 1989 documentary, the Costeau Society showed man-made fractures along the sides of the atoll. The island is built, as is the Fangataufa Atoll, on a dormant volcano. Tests take place in the volcano's core.
Costeau warned further testing could cause more fracturing and leakage of radioactivity into the ocean. One prediction was fulfilled. Radioactivity was found after the Dec. 27, 1995 test. Measurements of further fracturing are hampered by the French government.
However, the public was enlightened to the fact a blast vaporizes the stone around it for hundreds of feet then melts about the same amount of the surrounding rock. Minutes later it hardens to a kind of radioactive glass ball.
In 1989 a New Zealand geophysics official stated the fragile Mururoa Atoll had been "knocked into bits and has had all it can take."
The same year, amid intense pressure from Southern Pacific rim governments, the French switched to the less used Fangataufa Atoll. When tests were resumed last year, they returned to the Mururoa Atoll despite world-wide outcry.
French tests are now complete. What are the results.
After the Chinese test of August 17 and the French test of Sept. 5, there was a long series of hurricanes.
It was hurricane season and a hurricane was already in the Caribbean on the day of the Chinese test. Under normal circumstances, this hurricane would have built up, done its damage for a couple of days, and faded away.
But this hurricane stayed around for weeks and on its heels, not only was there a French test, but four more hurricanes stacked up, pushing from the east. This pattern didn't change until early October.
The December 27 test saw the Washington D.C. winter shutdown. After the Jan. 27 test, there was flooding in Seattle and ice flow jams on the East Coast. A combination of rain and freezing weather broke records across the midwest on both occasions. Parts of Oklahoma didn't have rain all winter.
With volcanic activity, a day after the Chinese test of August 17, a dormant volcano erupted on Montserrat in the Caribbean.
After the 100-110 kiloton blast on Fangataufa on Oct. 2, Mt. St. Helena experienced a series of tremors. Within the next two weeks, New Zealand's Mt. Puapehu showed intense activity after spectacularly erupting near a ski resort.
On Oct. 9, Java's Mt. Merapi volcano showed increased activity. Japan's Mt. Hosshu erupted for the first time in 257 years.
On Nov. 21 there was a test at Mururoa, in early December another eruption on Montserrat. Dec. 18, Mt. Hosshu erupted once more, doing so again during the first weeks of January after the Dec. 27 French test.
Not only did the Sulawesi Island near Indonesia have a 7.7 quake on Jan. 1, two volcanos, the Soputan and Vokon erupted Jan. 13 and 14.
In early February, after the Jan. 27, 120 kiloton test, the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii erupted. After weeks of rumbling, the mythical Popocatepetl near Mexico City erupted sending a plume two miles into the air.
Is the force hitting the earth's liquid core causing it to ricochet around inside the earth? The entire Ring of Fire has been activated since tests began.
Examining the quake information, watch ricochets and how often quake size follows ground zero size.
There was the Chinese quake of Feb. 3, six days after the 120 kiloton French test on Jan. 27.
An interesting side note is that for two days there were no 5.5 quakes or over. Then all hell broke loose beginning on the 30th with a 6.2 and 6.7 in New Zealand; a 5.9 and 5.8 in the Kuril Islands and finally the 6.5 to 7.0 quake in China.
May 17, the Chinese test registered 6.1 ground zero, 16 hours later there was a 7.7 quake in the Indonesian triangle. Fourteen hours later there was a 6.5 aftershock.
August 17 saw a 5.4 ground zero Chinese test. Twenty-four hours later, a 5.3 quake hit near Guam, then a 5.8 near the Falkirks in the Atlantic with a 5.7 aftershock.
Oct. 2, Fangataufa Atoll, 6.0 ground zero, 110 kilotons. The next day, a 7.0 Sumatra quake. Oct. 9, a 7.6 Mexican quake. And so on.
These are only a few examples. They all show the same pattern with few deviations.
Can there be a doubt about the connection? That it should be scientifically investigated? And the findings made public? To the contrary, USGS funding has been drastically reduced.
(The Coastal Post thanks the doubtful but kind people at the USGS National Earthquake Center in Golden Colorado for providing information for this article.)