9.8 Earthquake Prediction Is a Joke

A planetary alignment of Venus and Mercury will not cause a 9.8 earthquake on the West Coast of North America at 4 p.m. Thursday.

The prediction comes from a conspiracy theorist in the Netherlands, who posted a video (below) that lays out his argument that a historic temblor will strike our part of the world. He cites Nostradamus — so, yeah.

"There would be a very very large earthquake or some kind of major event with very much energy release," the video's narrator says.

California's most-potent fault can't even produce a 9.8, earth scientists say. And "planetary alignment" has little effect on the behavior of Earth.

"The idea that planetary alignments might cause earthquakes is bunk," says a representative at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. "The gravitational forces involved are not of a magnitude great enough to trigger geologic activity on Earth."

On top of that, we've had our best scientists working on earthquake prediction for years. It's just not happening yet.

California does have a prototype warning system that can sound an alarm before a shaker in progress reaches big cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco. But it only offers seconds worth of warning.

"We've been trying for years," says Egill Hauksson, a seismologist at Pasadena's Caltech. "We can't predict time place and magnitude for individual earthquakes."

Plus, as far science knows, California can't do a magnitude 9.8.

"The biggest we could have is an 8.3 that would rupture the whole length of the San Andreas fault," Hauksson said. "More likely is a 7.9."

That's reassuring.

By the way, the earthquake disaster movie San Andreas is scheduled to shake up theaters Friday. Any self-respecting conspiracy theorist would focus on the beneficial timing of this outlandish prediction rather than on the prediction itself.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow L.A. Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.

Upcoming Events

Sponsor Content


All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >