As March 20 looms, Moon Man backs away from quake prediction

The Skeptics Society is all set for lunch in Christchurch on Sunday with ACC Minister Nick Smith, media spokeswoman Vicki Hyde said today, and has absolutely no worries about Ken Ring’s earthquake prediction on the same day.

Ms Hyde told NBR that while it is likely Christchurch will suffer an aftershock on Sunday, the day Mr Ring predicted an earthquake at noon, there is no scientific credibility to his predictions. 

“If Ken’s predictions are true to form, we shouldn’t even get an aftershock at all.”

The reality is, Ms Hyde said, “we can’t predict earthquakes, bugger it!”

Ms Hyde, a resident of Christchurch for 20 years, said the Skeptics Society thinks it is important to have an understanding of the world not based on bias, assumptions or wishful thinking. 

“In order for his quake prediction to be accurate, we’d have to have an 8.2, at noon, in Canterbury or Marlborough. If it’s not there, it’s not there.  If it comes, we’d be really interested, we’ll want to hear what his next prediction is and test that too.”

However Ms Hyde said Mr Ring had now gone back on his original prediction and had become more vague.  She said Mr Ring was fear mongering and that people should not have to put up with it. The Moon Man is now talking in terms of a 4 to 6 magnitude quake - a commonplace occurance in the aftershocked cit rather than "one for the history books" as Mr Ring originally put it (see below).

Unethical
“I really think he should consider very carefully the ethics of what he’s doing, he is frightening people and frankly we’re frightened enough," Ms Hyde said.

"We shouldn’t have to be frightened by somebody who has taken a belief form and tried to make it sound as if it’s really factual.” 

Some truth
Another person who feels she could do without Mr Ring’s predictions was Janice Thornton, leasee of Sign of the Kiwi, where the Skeptics plan to have lunch on Sunday. 

She said she had noticed a huge drop in customers since the earthquake and felt that a bit of normality was needed in the lives of Christchurch people. 

Ms Thornton told NBR it was business as usual for the Sign of the Kiwi and that while there may be some truth in Mr Ring’s theories, she was very much an optimist. 

“If we lived our lives thinking like that, we’d never do anything.”

Ring: "increased chance of earthquake activity"
Mr Ring said this morning in an email to NBR that his opinion had always been that there would be an increased chance of earthquake activity around the full moon/closest perigee period which spans 19-25 March.

In his original post on the topic, the forecaster said:

Next year, the morning of 20 March 2011 sees the South island again in a big earthquake risk for all the same reasons. This date is the closest fly-past the moon does in all of 2011. The node arrives on the 20th at 9.44am. As that date coincides with lunar equinox this will probably be an east/west faultline event this time, and therefore should be more confined to a narrower band of latitude. The only east/west fault lines in NZ are in Marlborough and N Canterbury. All factors should come together for a moon-shot straight through the centre of the earth and targeting NZ. The time will be just before noon. It could be another for the history books.

On Australian television, Mr Ring told people to avoid New Zealand between the March 19 and March 21.

Today Mr Ring told NBR, “If there is no damaging event in New Zealand then no one will be more pleased and relieved than me.”

He said he was unable to comment further as media had made it impossible for him to have a public opinion on the topic as it had been labelled as “scaremongering”.

The UCLA study
Earlier, on March 15, Mr Ring told NBR that universities around the were working on the lunar link to earthquakes and promised to send a list of studies on the subject (he did foward links to a series of magazine articles; see it here).

One link was to a National Geographic article, Are Earthquakes Encouraged by High Tides?, that describes a 2004 paper by University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) graduate student Elizabeth Cochran.

Howerver, Ms Cochran told Kiwi FM breakfast host Glenn Williams that while the UCLA research drew a link between tides and earthquakes under certain conditions, it could not be used to predict earthquakes (see video clip below).

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