Spot The Quakes

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

Over in the Twitterverse, where I appear as @WEschenbach, in a discussion someone made the following comment:

Solar minimum affects periodicity of volcanic activity.

Year ‘without a summer’, 1816,  and several other big volcanos occurred during solar minimum cycles.

I said that wasn’t true, and pointed him to my analysis of volcanoes and sunspots.

Someone else commented:

But interestingly, it is true for earthquakes, for which we have more occurrences. They are less likely at low sunspot numbers, because of less EM tidal force on plates. As spots clime up above ~90, their EM force evidently rises enough to help nudge the plates like moon does.

I thought … “electromagnetic tidal force”?!?

So I decided to take a look. I started by going to the US Geological Survey website to get all of the earthquake records. As is my habit, I first wanted an overview of all of the data. I’ve found through bitter experience that omitting this step can lead to bad outcomes. So I began by plotting up the number of earthquakes per year, shown in Figure 1 below:

Figure 1. Earthquake counts by year, 1900 – 2007 

Yikes! You can see why I take an overview of the whole dataset before doing any analysis. Starting in 1964 they got a lot more quakes. I figured that this was an artifact of the detection and recording process, and that there would be many more small quakes in the more recent data. As seen in Figure 2, that turned out to be true.

Figure 2. Annual average earthquake magnitude, 1900 – 2007

Again … yikes.

To get around this, I decided to just look at strong earthquakes, those with a magnitude over 6.5. These were spread out relatively evenly over the whole period, while including smaller magnitude quakes biased the record to more recent times.

To compare these larger earthquakes with sunspots, I first made a “histogram” showing the percentage of days with 1-20 sunspots, 20-40 sunspots, 40-60 sunspots, and so on. This is my baseline. If the earthquakes fall at random with no effect from the sunspots, then the percentage of earthquake days in the histogram “bins” containing e.g. 0-20, 20-40, or 40-60 sunspots should be very close to the baseline histogram of sunspot numbers from all days in the same bins in the period of record. Figure 3 shows that graph.

Figure 3. A histogram of the percentage of daily sunspot numbers on the days when the 3,604 largest earthquakes from 1900 to 2007 occurred (red), compared to the histogram of the percentage of all daily sunspot levels from 1900 to 2007 (blue). The vertical axis shows the percentage of the total number of trials in each bin.

As you can see, the histogram of the sunspots on days when there are earthquakes (vertical red rectangles with red hatching) is very close to the histogram of the sunspots on all days (vertical blue rectangles). 

How close are they? Well, we can determine that with a “binomial test”. It gives the 95% confidence interval (95%CI) for the percentage of quakes in each bin. The black/white vertical “whiskers” at the top of each earthquake percentage (red rectangle) show the range that 95% of random trials would fall inside if the earthquake days actually occurred at random.

And as long as the 95%CI overlaps the blue rectangles showing the expected percentage from all the days, we can say that we have no statistically significant evidence that the earthquakes actually are not falling at random. It’s worth noting that some 5% of random earthquakes will fall outside that range … and in fact, in the bin from 120 to 140 sunspots per day, the 95% CI doesn’t quite include the top of the blue rectangle. Finding one or two results like that in a sample this size is not a surprise, as we expect some 5% of random occurrences to be outside the 95% CI.

So there you have it … sunspots do NOT affect earthquakes in any statistically significant fashion. One more interesting conclusion from this—every ten days or so there’s an earthquake stronger than 6.5 somewhere on the planet. Standin’ on shaky ground …

Now in the past I’ve posted up a number of my studies of the purported effects of sunspots on surface weather variables like rainfall, river flows, clouds, sea levels, tides, and the like. There is a list of my investigations here.

And when I began my search, I was a true believer in the solar-weather connections. I’d heard the claim from the British astronomer William Herschel in 1801 that sunspots affected the wheat harvests in the UK. I thought it would be easy to find evidence that sunspots, or some other sunspot-related phenomenon like solar wind or cosmic rays or heliomagnetism or the like, would be affecting some surface weather phenomenon.

But I couldn’t even replicate Hershel’s claims … and neither have other people been able to do so. See here and here for a couple of examples.

Nor, to my great surprise, I have ever been able to find one single surface weather phenomenon which shows the slightest effect from some sunspot-related phenomenon. And today’s study just adds to a long list of failures to find such a correlation.

Now, let’s be clear—it’s very hard to disprove a negative. Finding one black sheep will disprove a positive statement that all sheep are white. But not finding a black sheep doesn’t disprove a negative statement that no sheep are black … maybe you just haven’t looked in the right place.

As a result, I haven’t shown that sunspot-related phenomenon are not affecting some surface weather phenomenon. Maybe I just haven’t looked in the right place. I’d love to actually find something. At this point, it would be a surprise and a coup. All I can say is, I’ve looked at a whole heap of claimed correlations and found nothing.

So to continue my search, let me make the offer that I’ve made several times before. I invite people to send me two links—one to the one very best study that you know of showing a correlation between a sunspot related phenomenon and surface weather of some kind, and a second link to the data used in that study. If you send me those two links I’ll see what I can find, and as my mom used to say, “God willing and the creeks don’t rise”, I’ll report back the results good or bad. A few caveats:

 • NO REANALYSIS “DATA”! It’s not data as we commonly understand the term. Instead it’s the output of a computer model … and computer models tend to be linear, with whatever you put in as input coming out as output. Might be lagged and transformed, but what goes in comes out. See my post here for an example. This means that since total solar irradiation is used as an input, it will very likely appear in the output … and that will mean absolutely nothing. So no reanalysis “data”, please.

I’m asking for two links, one to the study you think is best, and the other to the data used in the study. Without the second link, I cannot even attempt to replicate the study.

Surface weather-related datasets only, please, no atmospheric datasets. I’m a ham radio operator, H44WE, and I’ve long been aware that changes in sunspot levels are mirrored in changes in the ionosphere. But that’s from about 60 km (37 mi) to 1,000 km (620 mi) altitude, far above us, and those changes don’t seem to make it to the surface.

Finally, please first check all the posts at the link I gave above to my previous work on sunspots. No good you go to all the trouble of digging out a link to your best study and another one to the data, only to find out that I’ve analyzed it already.

I make this request for links for just the one single best study you know of because the number of bad studies, and in some cases ludicrously bad studies, on this question is huge. So please, don’t send me some laundry list of “27 NEW REALLY AWESOME STUDIES SHOWING IT’S THE SUN, STUPID!” My life is too short to dig through piles of trash looking for a diamond. Send me two links to your best study and data, and time permitting, I’ll take a look.

My very best to everyone on this rainy slow day,


PS: Misunderstandings are the bane of the intarwebs. So I politely request that when you comment you quote the exact words that you are discussing. That way, we can all be clear on exactly what and who you are referring to.

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January 25, 2020 6:14 pm


Love your work… If I can ask though… does this same relationship hold true when you look at all earthquakes or all earthquakes less than 6.5? Ie perhaps sunspot numbers affect only the smaller quakes and the larger ones are driven by an entirely different phenomena.

I don’t know if that is the case, and it may be the same trend, but it was a thought I had while reading your article.


Reply to  Chris
January 25, 2020 9:31 pm

There is no way to know even if Willis had found it passed a “binomial test” it is meaningless because correlation does not equal causation, you need to apply the look elsewhere factor. The sharp kick in his first graph would equally support the view the tectonic plates are now going thru a period of jostling and there are probably dozens of other equally likely explanations.

Don K
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
January 26, 2020 6:01 am

Willis — I didn’t check, but I’d bet a six pack or two that the jump in earthquake detection in 1964 or so was a side effect of instrumentation put into place to detect underground nuclear tests. FWIW, Atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons was banned in 1963.

Captain Climate
Reply to  LdB
January 25, 2020 11:28 pm

Some of the best discoveries started as statistical analyses that only later found physical explanations.

The “kick” you are referring to, as mentioned in the article, was from better instrumentation, which is why large earthquakes were looked at. There’s nothing stopping looking at earthquakes over 4.5, or looking at the data since 1960 for small quakes (2.5 and above).

January 25, 2020 6:41 pm
Mike Bryant
January 25, 2020 6:41 pm

Mr. Eschenbach your diligence is much appreciated.

Jean Parisot
Reply to  Mike Bryant
January 25, 2020 10:37 pm

It seems that only the most powerful, short term effects can be pulled out of chaotic climate datasets. That doesn’t bode well for long term predictions of the effects of human behavior, economic activity, and land use on our Earth’s climate.

michael hart
Reply to  Jean Parisot
January 26, 2020 1:34 pm

There are some things that will simply never be predictable.

Ed Lorenz, in a valedictory address, cautioned those in climatology to only work with tractable problems. Money and hubris seems to led to his advice being ignored. Today, many a climatologist would overcome Willis’ problem by finding a way to adjust the sunspot count until some method produced what they wanted to find.

Reply to  Jean Parisot
January 28, 2020 6:06 am

There are certain things that it would be helpful to know beforehand, and when young I put considerable effort into developing my abilities to be a prophet. I studied economics (to get rich quick) and meteorology (to know when to bring a bumbershoot) and psychology [especially biorhythms] (to know when to ask women out) and what I discovered is that it is best to expect the unexpected. Nothing in life is certain, which is likely a good thing, for otherwise we’d get bored.

January 25, 2020 6:58 pm

Excellent analysis, Willis!

Reminds me of the number cruncher who reported to the CEO that 40% or employee sick days were taken on Monday and Friday…

Only to realize later that Monday and Friday are 40% of a work week.

Gerald Machnee
Reply to  ATheoK
January 25, 2020 7:51 pm

When payday was on Thursday. there was a surge in Friday sick leave.

Carbon Bigfoot
Reply to  Gerald Machnee
January 26, 2020 5:26 am

To be a plumber you need to know schist runs downhill and payday is on Thursday.
To be a Master Plumber you need to know schist runs downhill, payday is on Thursday and hot on the left cold on the right.

Reply to  Carbon Bigfoot
January 26, 2020 6:08 am

And don’t chew your fingernails.

Reply to  Gerald Machnee
January 26, 2020 5:38 pm

“Gerald Machnee January 25, 2020 at 7:51 pm
When payday was on Thursday. there was a surge in Friday sick leave.”


Reply to  ATheoK
January 25, 2020 8:36 pm

Scott Adams ran this joke in the 4/17/96 and 4/18/96 ‘Dilbert’ comic, with the Pointy-Haired Boss as the victim.

Reply to  Sean
January 26, 2020 6:17 pm

And I laughed at the Dilbert joke then. I believe I also pinned that one to my wall, along with the “what color do you want that database” one.
I had read the number cruncher example and joke long before then.

It is one of the tales Controllers and Business Analysts tell as an example of jumping to conclusions without fully understanding the problem.

Around the same time that I was originally given that example, I attended a Budget Manager’s meeting where a Data Center Manager told us about recent research regarding travel forms.
The research analysed several years worth of travel voucher verifications that cost over $130,000 and managed to identify just over $2,000 of errors in the travel vouchers. That $2,000 dollars was to the employee’s benefit.
The DCM’s data center was responsible for processing finished travel vouchers and issuing reimbursements.

When Data Center Manager asked the assembled Controllers about cancelling or reducing the travel voucher verification work, the majority of the Controllers wanted the verification processes to continue.

The CFO to whom the Data Center Manager worked for, cancelled the National travel verification program and told the Controllers, they could spend their own dimes verifying travel vouchers.
My Controller instituted his version of travel voucher verification. He assigned the task to his secretary.
She took a one page travel voucher and turned it into a three page interrogation, massively delayed travel vouchers and denied reimbursements to many employees. Corrections to incorrect reimbursements required explanations, revised travel vouchers at additional cost.

When that CFO or ours was released and a new CFO took duty, that travel voucher verification process didn’t last the day. Seems the ex-Data Center Manager was our new CFO.

There are other examples taught along with these. All based on real data.
As another example, the Federal Department I worked for had conducted work/movement/cost for filling, approving, submitting and subsequent processing of various forms.
One ubiquitous form is a ‘Purchase‘ form.

‘Purchase’ forms cost the Department anywhere from $5,800 to tens of thousands, depending upon complexity and length of time to complete.
The ‘official’ advice given to the Department was to cancel use of purchase orders for anything small. Use a ‘buck slip’, petty cash, and central distribution centers to supply people with inexpensive things like pens, pencils, papers, etc. etc.

That Federal Department utterly ignored such sage advice and required purchase forms, even for items distributed from central inventory.
As with the CFOs who wanted to keep a pervasive intrusive travel voucher verification process, it isn’t about cost control; it is all about control and power. As is a boss who looks at simple sums, ignores details and assumes the worst.

January 25, 2020 7:03 pm

Looking at your figure 1 says to me the data before 1964 for earthquakes might be just a little unreliable and possibly a little untrustworthy. And go to, look at the sunspot number for today and the size of the actual sunspot and tell me if it would have even been seen in say 1920 and counted?

I’m not saying what you say is necessarily wrong but with the shaky early data I don’t think your confidence level can be as you calculate. Like our temperature records, a lot of the early sunspot numbers are best guesses and are adjusted to accommodate this discrepancy in measurement (in theory anyway).

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  rbabcock
January 25, 2020 7:45 pm

I asked our resident solar expert, Dr. Leif Svalgaard, about that exact point one time, here on a thread about revisions to the historical sunspot numbers.
It does seem logical, given how much instrumentation has improved in recent decades and especially the most recent years, that we would be able to see much smaller spots nowadays.
I also asked about counting small spots vs counting larger one. Do they get counted the same? Sometimes we see periods where the spots are occasional, and mostly or completely all tiny little ones. Other times they come in clumps with many small and larger ones in a grouping.
IIRC, he said that the official numbers are obtained using the same instrumentation that has been in use for (some long period of time that I cannot recall exactly), and that even hundreds of years ago it was easy to see small spots with even a low power instrument.
And also, again assuming IIRC (which who knows maybe not), that the methodology of determining what spots count and when a clump is not one spot but many…that it is being done the same way as always.
Another question relates to our ability to see the far side of the Sun in recent times, and so should we be calling days spotless when we know there is one on the far side that faded before it rotated into view.
These spots, as I understand it, are still NOT being counted.

As a final note, recall that Herschel lived from 1738 to 1822. And he was able to see Uranus all the way from his house. Even way back in 1781. So, careful what you do in front of unshaded windows.

* OK, I lied. Final note is…are they ever going to do something about the name he gave to the 7th planet? Did he really do it as perhaps the best and most classic all-time funniest cosmic joke? In fact the ORIGINAL cosmic joke? I have heard that a new name has been all picked out to put an ended to silly school boy sniggering, and embarrassed astronomy teachers and common school marms inventing all sorts of lame and incorrect pronunciations for the planet. And really…it did not help a bit when NASA discovered those brown rings which encircle it, although reports that there are Klingons hiding in the rings has, AFAIK, been wiped from the record.

John Tillman
Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
January 25, 2020 8:09 pm

Planet Herschel, as it was long called, wasn’t officially named Uranus until 1850. Herschel himself wanted to name it in honor of his patron King George III, as George’s Star” in Latin. This name never caught on outside Britain.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  John Tillman
January 25, 2020 8:54 pm

True, but less funny.

Alan Reed
Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
January 26, 2020 1:29 am


John Tillman
Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
January 26, 2020 3:07 am

I think Planet Herschel is kind of funny.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
January 26, 2020 8:17 am


Robert of Texas
January 25, 2020 7:11 pm

An Electromagnetic Tide…causing earthquakes. Hmm… Guess I sleep that day in Physics Class. The force would be so weak I do not see how the Sun’s electric field could do that.

I also heard that nuclear decay (Beta specifically) is affected by the number of neutrinos passing through the Earth and varies with the Sun’s cycle. I actually find that one more credible – if mysterious. I doubt it’s true, but keep an open mind.

Reply to  Robert of Texas
January 25, 2020 9:37 pm

Unfortunately like a lot of that sort of junk you can eliminate it by real in crust measurements

Thomas Edwardson
Reply to  LdB
January 26, 2020 6:34 am

Page 12 of the slide deck shows that Earth Tide (the daily rise and fall underneath your feet) runs 300mm daily, while the up/down of passing weather systems moves the crust by as much as 5mm per day. Hmm. Makes you wonder about those Sea Level rise measurements of ~3.4mm per year.

Thomas Dobson
Reply to  Robert of Texas
January 26, 2020 8:14 pm

I studied electromagnetic stability for the Canadian Airforce for years in the early nineties. We established the connection between sunspots and magnetic instability at 54 degrees North. We needed stability to calibrate test equipment used to calibrate guidance systems initial magnetic reference. I had computer access to the remote magnetic sensing system. I did this for years and eventually made the connection to the activitiy of the aurora borealis by direct observation, I realized I could predict the stability of the next days magnetic environment by observing the aurora, which led us to the sunspot cycle. This was for a report to the Canadian Research Council, and was confirmed by Energy Mines and Resources. I have had an interest in the effects on climate ever since, thank you for the research.

Thomas Dobson
Reply to  Robert of Texas
January 26, 2020 8:17 pm

I studied electromagnetic stability for the Canadian Airforce for years in the early nineties. We established the connection between sunspots and magnetic instability at 54 degrees North. We needed stability to calibrate test equipment used to calibrate guidance systems initial magnetic reference. I had computer access to the remote magnetic sensing system. I did this for years and eventually made the connection to the activitiy of the aurora borealis by direct observation, I realized I could predict the stability of the next days magnetic environment by observing the aurora, which led us to the sunspot cycle. This was for a report to the Canadian Research Council, and was confirmed by Energy Mines and Resources. I have had an interest in the effects on climate ever since, thank you for the research. This seems obvious now but documenting it was years of work.

January 25, 2020 7:15 pm

I always look forward to reading your posts, Willis. They are usually both educational/illuminating and entertaining. The same is true for this one. Just one minor nit to pick – I think you are conflating intensity with magnitude in your chart titles and text. I have studied earthquakes a bit in various guises and there are a lot of misunderstanding about them that can be exacerbated by imprecise language – a common problem with the modern press.

The data I found at closely matches what you report (minor differences in time, I think) But that site reports earthquake in Richter Magnitude, not intensity. They are two different things, though often confused. Magnitude is a measure of the total energy released in an earthquake. Intensity is a measure of how strong the ground shaking is at a specific point. It varies depending on where you are, generally decreasing with distance from the epicenter – though solid conditions can have a major effect on that.

There are millions of earthquakes each year. The vast majority are less than RM 2.5 (the default minimum at the USGS search site). The maximum intensity associated with most of those earthquakes is effectively zero – only very sensitive instrumentation can detect the ground accelerations. That means additional qualifications for the descriptions of Figures 1 and 2 would be appropriate.

Thanks for the wonderful posts and I am looking forward to reading many more in the future.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  ChasMac
January 25, 2020 7:49 pm

My understanding is that when they came up with the new intensity scale to replace the Richter scale, they purposely sized it to be a close match so as not to cause too much confusion with older records, which commonly used the Richter scale exclusively.

John Tillman
January 25, 2020 7:19 pm

Israelí scientists Recently reconfirmed Herschel’s results:

Not surprising that their previous analysis of Medieval grain prices supported Herschel’s hypothesis, but remarkably so too did their subsequent look at specific varieties of modern American wheat.

John Tillman
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
January 26, 2020 3:56 am

The price of bread in Byzantium is pretty well known for a millenium. But bread price contains a lot besides its grain content, and is often set by government rather than the market. It didn’t change much in that period.

Grain prices in Medieval and Early Modern England have been intensively studied for over 150 years. There is a vast scholarly historic literature on the subject, with economic and scientific papers relying thereupon. CUC is but one compilation. I refer you to Joan Thirsk’s edited multivolume “The Agrarian History of England and Wales”. Each volume contains a paper on statistics for the period covered.

It’s dismissive of great scholars to reject their work out of hand. Sun spot reconstructions from before telescopic observations are not without problems, despite the isotopic data.

The USDA figures upon which they based their analysis of US wheat varieties are readily available on line.

Pustilnik and Yom Din’s 2004 paper has 17 citations in scientific journals, according to Google Scholar. How does that compare with the two you mentioned? I didn’t check their more recent studies.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
January 26, 2020 8:02 am

H44WE DH7FB gl es –… …– fm DL – ..-
I’m on 144 EME qrv only!

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  frankclimate
January 26, 2020 8:58 am

You might want to see a doctor about that.

Reply to  Jeff Alberts
January 27, 2020 10:50 am

No, it’s “hamish” 🙂

Robert of Texas
January 25, 2020 7:30 pm

Ah!…from Wikipedia – “…The World-Wide Standardized Seismograph Network (WWSSN)…was a global network of about 120 seismograph stations built in the 1960s that generated an unprecedented collection of high quality seismic data.”

It appears they completed the U.S. installations in 1963. I would guess there was some bit of time getting the devices all working and calibrated, and data collection started soon after.

Reply to  Robert of Texas
January 25, 2020 9:49 pm

There should also be upticks after each of the world VLBI networks come online from 1980 onwards.

Jean Parisot
Reply to  LdB
January 26, 2020 12:39 pm

The new technique of out processing seismic data from buried fiber optic networks should result in an other order of magnitude shift in the amount of data.

January 25, 2020 7:47 pm

Willis, BEING A SAILOR, What about neap tides. The land is deformed. I understand Taal blew first in this cycle at a moon tide. Cheers

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
January 26, 2020 2:53 am

I think your figure for the earth’s circumference is a few orders of magnitude off.
A quarter of equatorial circumference would be 10,019 km. Or 1.0019e+7 metres.
Have you slipped a Pi and a factor of a million in there somehow?

John Tillman
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
January 26, 2020 4:08 am

According to the World Geodetic System, one fourth of Earth’s equatorial circumference is 10,018,754 meters (to use the US spelling), rounded to nearest meter.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  John Tillman
January 26, 2020 8:56 am

When the metric system was first devised, each of the units of measure was based on something physical and objectively obtained…unlike for example the Fahrenheit scale, which used what was determined by the guy to be the highest and lowest measured temperatures to set the 0.0° and 100° points, and then subdivided into 100ths.
For the temperature scale, they used the melting point of ice and the boiling point of water, at sea level pressure.
For length, they decided to make a unit called the meter, which would be 1/10,000,000th of the distance from the north pole to the equator as measured along the meridian which passed through Paris. The unit was originally standardized to be equal to a certain bar of platinum (I think it is platinum) kept stored in a vault somewhere.
For volume, they subdivided the meter and used a cube one tenth of a meter (one decimeter) on a side to equal a liter.
And for weight, they used the weight of a cube of fresh deionized water at the point of maximum density, ~4°C (3.98°) which is one centimeter on a side, and called it the gram.

All from dim distant memory, but I think those are accurate descriptions of the way the units were derived.

Because the earth is not spherical but oblate, the circumference at the equator, even if the original measurement was exact (which IIRC it was not, but it was close), was not the same as 1/4 of the distance from pole to equator.
Of course since then it has been found out that the Earth is not an oblate sphere at all, but very lumpy. But it is approximately so.
So for way back when they first measured the distance…they did a pretty good job of it, considering they only had wooden ships, sail power, and no one had ever been to the North Pole yet. I think they even knew they had to account for a certain amount of flattening of the globe.

John Tillman
Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
January 26, 2020 10:15 am

That gravitational attraction varies at Earth’s surface at essentially the same elevation was discovered by pendulum clocks which kept time in the Netherlands not working in America.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
January 26, 2020 2:42 pm

Yes, indeed.
I think they even had at one time considered using the motion of a pendulum to define the meter, but it was found to be too variable for purposes of objective measurement of a unit of length.

Clyde Spencer
January 25, 2020 7:48 pm

Something to consider is that there might be some effect hidden in the smaller earthquakes that only the post-1964 seismometers can detect. Also, since the magnitudes are logarithmic, you might want to convert the small earthquakes to actual energy released.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
January 26, 2020 1:58 am

Hi Willis

Your sentence “would be more likely to snap with a bit of additional force” reminded me of an idea I had long ago.

Snap it will anyway, but when? Maybe with an additional trigger it would snap sooner.

And I believe there is a big trigger really close – the moon. Moving around the world about once a day (from our point of view), building up and releasing tension.
The tension would be higher if the sun and the moon pull either in the same or in opposite directions.

Regards, Lorenz

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
January 26, 2020 2:59 am
William Stewart
January 25, 2020 8:36 pm

Willis, in your statement “the creeks don’t rise”, “Creeks” should be capitalized as it refers to an Indian tribe.

Mark L Gilbert
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
January 27, 2020 6:43 am

Not to mention I’m from bayou country, and we always said “river” not creek

Ian L. McQueen
Reply to  William Stewart
January 28, 2020 11:34 am

And here I thought it was “crick”…..

Ian McQ

Peter Morris
January 25, 2020 9:46 pm

I always find these fascinating. I also found the idea of a teleconnection between the solar wind and Earth’s weather plausible, especially the cloud-formation aspect with incoming cosmic rays.

But every time you trot out one of these studies I’m just amazed that it’s all basically static. Nothing in the noise. I tend to think of these long period datasets ad a car driving down the road. If you graphed the response of the suspension system, it would look like temperature data, or rainfall data, or earthquake data or what have you.

Large events are like driving over a pothole at 60 mph. They show up. If you saw pothole data every 100 feet, you might surmise that some factor was causing the potholes outside the normal wear and tear of the road.

And that’s what I keep waiting to see – periodic potholes. But you keep finding nothing. It’s very interesting.

Julian Flood
Reply to  Peter Morris
January 26, 2020 10:27 am

“And that’s what I keep waiting to see – periodic potholes.”

Move to Suffolk — the original one. You will find lots.


January 25, 2020 10:16 pm

I am not remotely in your league. With that caveat, I submit these. The idea seems to be that it is not the sunspots or, rather ,the lack thereof, that triggers seismic activity but the increase in cosmic rays from the lack of sunspots. I find these to be an intriguing concept.

Whatever, I look forward to your comment on these if you choose to respond.

Seismic and Volcanic activity has been correlated to changes in our sun.
The recent global uptick in earthquakes and volcanic eruptions is likely attributed to the drop-off in solar activity, coronal holes, a waning magnetosphere, and the influx of Cosmic Rays penetrating silica-rich magma.
Check out these link for more info:

Explosive volcanic eruptions triggered by cosmic rays: Volcano as a bubble chamber

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  KcTaz
January 26, 2020 9:01 am

I think you meant Willis, not Eric.

Reply to  KcTaz
January 26, 2020 11:53 am

I’m all for Svensmark…
However, Theodore Landscheidt and his solar baricenter tickled my fancy.

Seems like one cannot leave our magnetic flux levels…

January 26, 2020 12:48 am

here is a theory to check on and it seems to be new. Somewhere on the page it claimed, that this has a real effect on the climate an weather:

January 26, 2020 1:02 am

Lawsuits Ramp Up As Science AGAIN Determines Fracking Causes Earthquakes

Curious George
Reply to  jmorpuss
January 26, 2020 9:18 am

That’s a great idea: sunspots influence fracking 🙂

January 26, 2020 2:34 am

Earthquakes are caused by a number of causes, of which if there is a solar activity factor it must be a very minor one.
With high degree of certainty it can be said that the sunspot count has no effect whatsoever, but if there is a solar link it has to be via geomagnetic storms. In the early years of the last decade (2010 onwards) a number of geomagnetic storms hours later were followed by strong earthquakes. I got interested in the subject and followed statistically on daily basis and for a while I thought it is worth spending some time looking into it.
Quakes would happen anyway, maybe few days or a week later but I thought that a GM storm may just about trigger a quake off prematurely. Subsequently I found that the USGS and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center looked into it and published papers on the subject.
Dr. Svalgaard at the time did his own analysis using longer term GM-storms and quakes M>6 and found no link. Subsequently to our voluminous exchanges after being labelled as a ‘quack’ I put a cautious warning on the WUWT some 8 hours before Fukushima quake.
Links to USGS and NASA papers, my own hypothesis, survey and some coincidental graphics etc can be found here:
Eventually, correlation gradually diminished and I lost interest and abandoned the subject in order to wastefully search for another known unknown in no need of my scientific ‘expertise’.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Vuk
January 26, 2020 9:06 am

Do you have a link to the WUWT post in which you gave this cautious warning?

Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
January 26, 2020 11:07 am

vukcevic March 10, 2011 at 12:02 pm
Currently geomagnetic field is getting seriously shaken

By that time I was seriously ridiculed by Dr. Svalgaaard and co. so policy was to keep low profile on the subject, on that particular thread there was an extensive discussion about another matter, so not to get involved in yet another controversy I simply stated
vukcevic March 11, 2011 at 12:16 am
Latest geomagnetic storm is still going on 23 hours after it started.
Japan earthquake just a coincidence?

(then on ‘’ server, since moved to
the web-page “…… /gms.htm” was active before the N.Z’s and the Japan’s earthquakes
Here is quote from Jennifer Marohasy website 8 days before Fukushima
March 2, 2011 at 11:34 am
What do geomagnetic storms have to do with earthquakes?

January 26, 2020 2:50 am

As others have mentioned there is a correlation between low sunspot numbers and increased cosmic radiation There are low sunspot numbers at the moment and seem to be rather a lot of earthquakes lately the most recent being in Turkey Also volcanoes seem to be quite prolific Could the increase in cosmic radiation be a factor?

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
January 26, 2020 5:03 pm

Well solar minimums ie low sunspot numbers, definitely correlate with more cosmic rays getting through due to the sun’s magnetic field weakening and on top of that our own magnetosphere is weakening rather rapidly too. The effect of cosmic rays on the planet should not be dismissed lightly and wattsthat all about going on in Antarctica with the high energy neutrinos coming out of the Earth

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
January 27, 2020 1:19 pm

Brian Tinsley talks about Forbush decrease

Reply to  Maria
January 26, 2020 3:45 pm

High GCR (galactic cosmic rays) should accompany a decrease in the Solar Wind. Back in John Daley’s day, before the current climate change hysteria, Theodore Landscheidt attributed varying solar activity (on a long term) to movement of the center of gravity of the Solar System into and out of the radius of the sun. His theories were never well accepted although I recall that he predicted accurately some El Ninios and La Ninas, short term phenomena using other theories.
This whole earthquake-volcano thing does, to my lazy eye, look like it could be related to the Earth’s magnetic flux, which has not been researched ans thoroughly as I’d like.

January 26, 2020 4:37 am

It is impossible to establish a link between earthquakes and sunspots.
At least one million earthquakes on Earth, large and small, are estimated to occur annually.
And not all of them are detected, and the same is true with the improvement of instrumentation over the past half century.
Volcanic eruptions are a completely different story, the behavior of volcanoes changes during the Great Solar Minimum.
Large eruptions become more frequent, both effusive and explosive.

January 26, 2020 5:17 am

Here is a link to a blog post on major volcanic eruptions and solar activity.

Its not exactly convincing evidence.

While the typical sunspot cycle doesn’t seem to have much effect on climate, I think the data on grand solar minimums and maximums effect of climate is somewhat clear. The Little Ice Age was tough on agriculture. Does anyone believe that low solar activity (Maunder Minimum) had nothing to do with the Little Ice Age.?

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Nelson
January 26, 2020 9:01 am

The warmistas have been trying to prove there was no Little Ice Age, or Medieval Warm Period, except for local effects.
Of course they have also tried to claim that the 1970s ice age scare was all regarding one article in Newsweek.
So…yes, there are apparently people who think that.
Forty years ago, few had reason to doubt it, but by this point, there is a great deal of uncertainty in many quarters.
This entire subject has been at the center of many lively debates right here over the years.

Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
January 26, 2020 5:55 pm

“The warmistas have been trying to prove there was no Little Ice Age, or Medieval Warm Period, except for local effects.”

err no.

1. Folks are trying to DEMONSTRATE with EVIDENCE how widespread and synchronous the
warming and cooling was.
2. we dont have good coverage for either the LIA or the MWP, look at the proxy locations
if we had thermometers rather than proxies in those locations and tried to infer
a “global” phenomena from those scant locations, folks would holler. rightly so

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Steven Mosher
January 26, 2020 9:10 pm


Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
January 27, 2020 5:39 pm

your disagreement is not evidence

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
January 27, 2020 11:30 pm

Your er no comment is just doubletalk.
Maybe I should have used your preferred lingo and said “Wrong” instead.
Everyone here knows what I said is correct.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
January 28, 2020 9:45 pm

Here is some evidence.
Map, 752 individual scientists, 442 separate research institutes, 41 different countries:

If we had thermometers in these places you would be trying to claim you can calculate the temperature to within a hundredths of a degree even if the thermometers only read in whole degrees…after you adjustamized them properly, infilledized, homogenized, Karlized, and any other ized required.
But proxies showing it was far warmer and far colder at various times and far flung locations in the past…nooooo, it aint global.

As for er no…there are hundreds of articles right here and many other places on the subject of hockey stick graphs.
Whole websites and blogs on the subject.
Someone made a movie once and won some prize, with a giant need-a-ladder-to-reach-the-top sized graph of some hockey stick graph.
People in the UK had to get a court order regarding showing it to school kids.

Here is a whole Wikipedia entry on the subject:

The IPCC in 1990 has a graph in their report showing both the LIA and the MWP.
By the time the 2001 report came out, that graph had been disappeared, and replaced with a hockey stick graph.

Here is a link to some grpahs and photos and other assorted odds and ends on the subject on my Twitter page…just scroll down to see lots and lots of them.
Maybe none of the fluctuations were global…just everywhere people have happened to look.

Here is a link to umpteen article right here on the subject of hockey sticks.

I am pretty sure one or two of them mention something about erasing the LIA and the MWP…not to mention a whole bunch of people arguing exactly that.
In years past, there were lots of people far more shameless about attempts to erase the 1970s ice age scare, and the MWP and LIA and every other fluctuation.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
January 28, 2020 9:52 pm

No doubt, thank you Willis.
The question was regarding if there are actually people who believe yadda yadda yadda…
Yes there are.
Of course that does not mean there are not other people.
I am fairly certain Steven knows that very well.
The er no was unnecessary and incorrect.
I did not say anything wrong.
As for folks hollering…I doubt there is anything that has ever been said that does not have some people wanting to holler.
I hear Baskin Robbins has 43 flavors of ice cream.
And I was in a shoe store one time and it was incredible how many different kinds and sizes they had.
There are folks…

John Tillman
Reply to  Nelson
January 26, 2020 10:22 am

The LIA resulted not just from the Maunder, but one or two solar mínima before and one after it. The Maunder did however coincide with the depths of the LIA.

By contrast, the Medieval Warm Period suffered only one or two much shallower minima. The Modern WP has yet to endure a minimum.

January 26, 2020 6:18 am

@ Willis

The classic has always been the levels of Lake Victoria – or so I thought. Sifting through Google Scholar now, I find this: Stager, J. C., Ruzmaikin, A., Conway, D., Verburg, P., & Mason, P. J. (2007). Sunspots, el nino, and the levels of lake victoria, east africa. Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, 112(D15).

It claims the link between sunspots and the lake levels is there, but it looks weak to me. Did you ever throw Lake Victoria’s level into the periodogram machine? Can’t see it in your list of articles, mebbe not looking hard enough.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
January 26, 2020 4:27 pm

I had a friend send me a link to a study that found a correlation with very large earthquakes (8 and higher?) and solar pole reversal. It was interesting and peer reviewed. They gave no reason how one could effect the other.
Perhaps this?
What is your take on this? I have no opinion since I know of no physical mechanisms that could cause this.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
January 27, 2020 1:03 am

Thanks for your input. Always like to see others takes on things like this.
I had to read the “delay factor” multiple times, kind of think I understand what they are saying. But, pushing your window out for larger earthquakes due to occurrence of smaller earthquakes does make the window size pretty large. So, I would agree with your ad-hoc assessment.
Seems to me if there was a force strong enough to push us into larger earthquakes occurring it would create something else that was noticeable.

M__ S__
January 26, 2020 7:12 am

“So there you have it … sunspots do NOT affect earthquakes in any statistically significant fashion. ”

Hmm. The pareto chart would seem to indicate a strong correlation between earthquakes and sunspots, based on the visual graphic. Maybe I’m missing something.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
January 26, 2020 8:56 pm

I think he must be referring to your histogram with the two superimposed sets of data.
And misinterpreting what it is showing.
There is indeed a strong correlation, but the way the two were constructed and compared, having them match up means that earthquakes were no more likely to occur when sunspot activity was high, low, or anywhere in between, except for the one box noted that showed a small variance that was of some slight statistical significance.

January 26, 2020 9:14 am

But Willis, dontcha know? Sunspots (or lack of them — not sure which) cause volcanoes, earthquakes, cold & heat waves, sunburns, jet-stream shifts, magnetic-pole movements, stratospheric warm-ups — whatever you want (or don’t want).

/sarc? 😉

William Astley
January 26, 2020 10:35 am


You are logic/scientific about detailed analysis, however, the variables selected for analysis, the data period you selected, your cherry picking filtering of the data removing data that you could not explain, ignoring the new data, is the explanation as to why your did not help solve the constrained physical problem which is a puzzle with a logical structure.

Obviously changes to the frequency of sunspots on the sun does not capture the solar change, if there is a connection between long term solar changes and earthquake frequency which is changing.

Pretend the observation were important to solving the problem and you were try to solve a physical problem that is constrained.

It is a fact that there are sudden unexplained changes in mid-ocean earthquake frequency that are leading changes in planetary temperature by two years.

That observational fact is absolutely amazing, breathtaking, as there are now sufficient geological observations to solve the first part of the puzzle.

Everything that happens has a physical explanation. What you have found is something that does not have a physical explanation.

It is a fact that there was a sudden 300% and 100% increase in mid-ocean ridge earthquake frequency, all over the planet two years before the 1997 -1998 and 2015- 2016 El Nino events.

If a person could figure out what is causing the sudden increase in mid-ocean earthquakes all over the planet, perhaps the “What causes El Ninos? And what cause short term and long term climate change puzzle could be solved”

What is interesting is:

Mid ocean earthquake frequency increased by a factor of 300% at the start of the 1994 warming and stayed high for the entire warming period.

There are piles of other interesting things connected to finding and explaining what is happening to the earth and sun.

The Correlation of Seismic Activity and Recent Global Warming: 2016 Update

Namely, increased seismic activity in the HGFA (i.e., the mid-ocean’s spreading zones) serves as a proxy indicator of higher geothermal flux in these regions. The HGFA include the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the East Pacific Rise, the West Chile Rise, the Ridges of the Indian Ocean, and the Ridges of the Antarctic/Southern Ocean.

Equally important, the HGFA seismic frequencies accurately predicted the unusually powerful 2015/2016 El Niño, one of the strongest on record (Figure 2).

As illustrated in CSARGW, jumps in HGFA seismic activity can amplify an El Niño event, a phenomenon referred to as a SIENA or a Seismically Induced El Niño Amplification [1].

Accurately predicting two of these amplified El Niños (i.e., the 2015/2016 event plus the1997/1998 episode) is an important outcome of the HGFA seismicity/temperature relationship.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
January 26, 2020 2:00 pm

“That’s the voices in your head, and they are not your friend.”

Great quote!

William Astley
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
January 26, 2020 5:04 pm

Willis: Please stop mathematical analysis/thinking for a minute. You seem a bit sensitive. There is planetary observational evidence that changes everything.

There is different earthquake data in a peer reviewed paper ( linked to in my above comment) that shows mid-ocean ridge earthquake frequency correlates with planetary temperature changes, leading the temperature change.

Yes it would be wonderful to have access to the mid-ocean ridge earthquake data. That is the data that needs to analyzed.

Someone else however has analyzed that data and published that analysis in a peer reviewed paper. They have discovered a very interesting paradox.

Pretend we are trying to discover what is the physical reason, that there is a sudden increase in mid-ocean ridge earthquake frequency all over the planet for twenty years.

It is a fact that there is a large increase in mid-ocean earthquakes all over the planet and then two years later there is a El Nino event.

Reply to  William Astley
January 26, 2020 6:26 pm

“William Astley January 26, 2020 at 5:04 pm

Pretend we are trying to discover what is the physical reason, that there is a sudden increase in mid-ocean ridge earthquake frequency all over the planet for twenty years.

Without proving anything, you assume much. Pretend is a good word for it.

Earthquakes are not definitively proven to be caused by any outside influence. You have only inferred it.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
January 26, 2020 6:04 pm

“PS—You invite me to look at some study. You provided a link to the study but not to the data … seems like you are cherry-picking my request for TWO LINKS, one to the study and one to the data. Come back when you’ve figured out how to follow a simple request.”

you’d think folks would understand the basics.
your data as used
your code as run.

or no cookie.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
January 26, 2020 6:13 pm

Here willis.

Based upon the small but growing body of work which indicates that geothermal forcing may impact global temperatures, a statistical experiment is designed to test the hypothesis that increasing geothermal flux has contributed to recent global warming. For the experiment, seismic activity is used as a proxy for geothermal flux. The rationale for the design is well understood and amply documented in the literature: seismicity is strongly associated with geothermal flow [19-21] and it is easily deduced that increasing seismicity will indicate increasing geothermal flux. Furthermore, most of that flux should be realized at the globe’s HGFA [4]. Therefore, earthquake data from the IRIS Wilber 3 global dataset (available online at event, accessed 1/15/2016) for events with magnitudes between 4.0 and 6.0 (MAG4/6) were compiled for a number of the earth’s HGFA (Table 1).

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
January 26, 2020 10:05 pm

I am not seeing any way to query the data set on earthquakes that separates out the ones over the mid ocean ridges.
Do you think they went through them all one by one?
I entered a query for all events between 4 and 6 back to 1979, and since it only will give 10,000 results at a time, the results returned only went back to last March!
That is a lot of sorting.
The data base can be search by latitude and longitude, but I think maybe specifying the depth of typical ocean bottom events may allow some filtering.
I am gonna start with a range of like 10-15 kilometers, and see how that works out.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
January 26, 2020 10:39 pm

Whelp, found at least one issue, not sure how significant.
I was wondering about that cutoff at 6.0, so entered a query for all quakes back to 1979 to a depth of 20 km, and magnitude from 6 to 10…and came back with a whole mess of events, and lots of them are on the ridges.
It does appear that a lot of the ridge quakes are at 10 km depth, but a lot of them say depth is zero.
The ocean ridges are 2.6 km down on average.

Reply to  William Astley
January 26, 2020 6:16 pm

William you accuse Willis of cherry picking and then recommend a study that does THIS

“Although it would be ideal to capture the full spectrum of seismic activity in these areas, the low-magnitude events are excluded from the analysis since only earthquakes with magnitudes greater than 3.9 are detected at sufficiently high levels (approximately 90%) by the global network [22,23]. The back-arc basins of the western Pacific are also excluded from the analysis as these complex tectonic structures can involve both convergent and divergent (i.e., spreading) plate motions. To ensure homogeneity, the data assemblage is comprised exclusively of areas with spreading activity.”

William Astley
Reply to  Steven Mosher
January 26, 2020 6:56 pm

Steve, Why are you commenting? This stupid climate wars stops all thinking. Comments that are just rhetoric for the war are boring.

The earth suddenly changes with no explanation (it is a fact that mid-ocean earthquake frequency increased for the entire planet) during the entire period when we had satellite monitoring and we are all worried about climate change (warming) of 0.6C.

There is a physical paradox concerning what is causing the sudden increase in mid-ocean ridge earthquakes world to increase with almost all of the change correlating with planetary temperature.

From the paper:
Accurately predicting two of these amplified El Niños (i.e., the 2015/2016 event plus the1997/1998 episode) is an important outcome of the HGFA seismicity/temperature relationship.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  William Astley
January 26, 2020 8:45 pm

The paper Mosher linked to is much better, although not as up to date.
The one you linked to, William, gave no reason for limiting the data set to only 4-6 magnitude events.
I looked at it and was wondering how it could be that mid ocean ridge earthquakes were in a range from 200-300 events to 500-600 events in the mid 1990s, and stayed at that level for many years, and then increased again to an entirely new even higher level…and no one has been talking about this?
I was looking around but kind of discounted the plausibility and was not looking very avidly.
Then I saw Mosher’s post and looked very much more closely, and read the version of the paper he linked to which gave much more detail.
And now I am very interested…and still wondering how in hell no one has made any noise about this?
I have to say I am not sure I agree with every assertion in the paper, especially regarding the AMOC, or how it makes sense that increasing overturning of the deep ocean will raise the air temp, given that deep water is mostly all extremely cold even in the tropics.
But that is really beside the point.
If this research is all just as it is presented, and the numbers are all accurate for mid ocean ridge seismic activity, this is really incredibly significant, IMO.
Besides for anything else, it means it may be possible to look back at earlier in the 20th century and get at least some idea if the correlation holds, for example, with unadjusted data from the 1930s to 1940s warmth, and then the ~30 years of cooling, etc.
It would be nice if they had charted the events they counted, by year or even in the aggregate.
If a chart of the mid ocean ridge data used in the study shows the seismicity to be evenly distributed over the MORs, then earthquake data from long ago could give at least a rough idea of how the seismic data from the ridges varied in the period prior to the study period of this paper. Even prior to 1964 upgrades, there was a fairly good network of seismometers around the world. And many portions of mid ocean ridges would have been in range of at least some seismometers even back before the improved network came online.

But the main thing that is startling about this, besides for the obvious close correlation with satellite global temperature data, is that no one has been talking about this.

There are other implications of this, if it holds up to scrutiny, and among them is that it agrees with satellite data, but not with the adjustimacated hockey stick crap that the historical data sets and records have been magically morphed into.
Unadjusted temperatures in many locations, as well as historical accountings of changes in sea ice and mountain glaciers in the 20th century are a closely aligned. There is no jarring nonsensical misfits between these two sources of information, as there is when one tries to use the adjusted data sets to align with historical written records of various changes in the climate system.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
January 26, 2020 9:24 pm

The version of the paper I should have said.
Although the shorter version says it is a 2016 update and was published a year later…I am hard pressed to spot any update to the graphs.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
January 27, 2020 11:16 am

“…put a leash on your tongue…”

Having good mental habits is important if one even aspires to be objective, and one be objective to be able to hope to examine things from a scientific perspective.
So, as happy as I was at the prospect of have something suddenly turn up that explains decadal variations in temperature, and almost certainly has nothing to do with the dreaded CO2 monster, I was similarly initially skeptical (my bad number detector went off as well, but I did not have the presence of mind to realize that was why I was doubtful…I was thinking that such a huge change in the seismic activity of the world was very unlikely to have gone unmentioned and unnoticed by nearly everyone in the whole world) , almost dismissive, of the data showing such huge and stepwise increases in earthquake activity, under the ocean or anywhere else for that matter.
But even when I read the more complete version of the paper and saw more reason to look closely at what was being suggested (and one study is a suggestion, not a fact, no matter who did it, no matter what the subject. Nothing should be taken as factual or even likely until and unless it is shown to be both repeatable and reproducible…at a minimum), I made sure to both keep in mind and to state it in writing that any thoughts on the result are provisional at best…and so said at least a couple of times, in order to not just try to communicate properly but to make myself try to think about it properly.
IF the numbers hold up to scrutiny. If everything is just as is being stated, and can be verified, and even expanded upon.
Life is full of “ifs”.
Science is based on skepticism.

I would not flush the whole idea down the toilet at this point…not yet anyway.
Geothermal heat is tiny compared to the heat from the Sun, yet the idea is interesting.
But you have splashed a bucket of cold water on the findings with your diligence, Willis.
Many thanks for doing what most are unable to do with large data sets!
What I in particular am unable to do, not so rapidly in any case.

Thanks again.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
January 26, 2020 9:49 pm

I was thinking “Bring in the kittens, and break out your mittens…cause Hell must have just froze over!”, because I had typed out a virtually identical comment as the one Steven wrote about cherry picking.
But the longer version he then linked to contained information that was not in the shorter version, such as the justification for the abbreviated data sets, i.e. only counting events from 4-6.

Reply to  William Astley
January 27, 2020 5:50 pm

“Steve, Why are you commenting? ”
why are you asking me questions.?

1. you slagged Willis over a justified selection he made in the data.
2. you pointed a paper, I checked it’s sources.
3. The source your paper RELIES ON, does some rather sketchy data selection
4. I wondered why you slagged Willis and never bothered to check your own sources.

Trying to Play Nice
January 26, 2020 10:45 am

Another excellent analysis by Willis. This leaves only two possible explanations for earthquakes: Globull Warming or Ancient Astronauts.

Tom Searles
January 26, 2020 1:15 pm

Hi Willis,

This paper links Kp to earthquakes, but not sunspots. I bring this up because the lack of correlation between sunspots and earthquakes, manifests online as no correlation between solar activity or geomagnetism and earthquakes, (as Harvard Uni’s blog claims). I feel this is a bit of stretch, from sunspots to solar activity.

PS I’m not a scientist, but if you’d like the data on this I’m happy to research.

PSS always great content, thanks.

January 26, 2020 1:40 pm

Willis, if you receive 100 datasets, around 5% will show a nominally significant relationship even if chosen at random. And with datasets that are prescreened for correlations, the number of false positives should increase.

Nicholas McGinley
January 26, 2020 3:50 pm

I wish I had the skill to do this kind of analysis, Willis.
If I did, I would investigate the relationship between making toast and finding images of the Virgin Mary on slices of toast.
I think the data on that is far more robust than that of finding images of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches, but I am not certain…it could just be an artifact of more people eating toast than making grilled cheese sandwiches.
People are great at spotting patterns.
So good in fact, that we can see them where none exists.
I have no idea about volcanoes and earthquakes and a link to solar activity, but lots of people have reported there is one, and even proposed some mechanisms for how it could be so.
We know what causes earthquakes in a general way: Tectonic plates slide past each other, and get stuck due to irregularities in the rock surfaces. At some point the mechanical strength of the rock that is causing the sticking is exceeded, and the accumulated strain, which had up to that point caused the adjacent rocks to bend, stretch, or just undergo compression, at which point the fault slips suddenly and the resulting motion is what we called an Earthquake.
So presumably at some period of time prior to the earthquake, the rocks that are stuck are very near the breaking point, and might be induced to break free if and when some sort of additional strain or shock can cause a slippage that might have occurred somewhat later without the additional strain or shock.
Or possibly something weakens the rocks a little at that critical juncture.
Looked at in this way, one might expect a huge earthquake in one place, which are known to cause seismic energy waves to ring the whole Earth like a bell, might be expected to cause a flurry of earthquakes in distant locations.
Or like you mention, earth tides might do so…although since they are a constant regular event travelling around the world, they might be expected to simply cancel out with regard to periodicity.
So what is the relative amount of energy that might be delivered to a rock near the breaking point by such things as distant large quakes, tides, current flows through the Earth, cosmic rays that penetrate the ground, etc?
Large earthquakes on one part of the San Andreas fault is known to increase the accumulated strain on adjacent fault sections, but AFAIK, large quakes cause many after shocks as nearby rocks settle into a new equilibrium, and sometimes a large quake is preceded by a foreshock (in fact the only way to tell if a quake is a foreshock or the main event is in retrospect), and sometimes two similar sized quakes can occur in the same area separated by some short interval…hours, days…a week or more…but I know of no tendency for a huge quake in one part of the world to trigger Earthquakes all around the globe.
So…why not? The biggest earthquakes might be supposed to be followed by concentric circles of other quakes…if there are always some number of quakes waiting for some slight triggering event.
The logical conclusion is that the amount of energy needed to trigger a large quake, which presumably was caused by a large jam up allowing a large amount of strain to accumulate, would need a very large triggering event…large in comparison to the strain accumulated by years and years of inches per year of relative plate motion. Decades to centuries of such, judging by the time interval between major quakes.
That is a lot of energy.
And that seems like the reason that faults do not tend to unzip all at once, but instead do so with an often wide and (seemingly anyway) random interval of time in between quakes on adjacent fault segments.

BTW…right now the faults in California are estimated by the USGS to be overdue for a whole bunch of century scale events.

January 26, 2020 4:02 pm

A good summary from of the possible influence on earthquakes from external magnetic and electrical fields…

January 26, 2020 5:32 pm

I came to the conclusion that the positional relationships had such a small effect that it was irrelevant.

January 26, 2020 6:54 pm

EM tides? If the Sun & Moon tidal effect on Earth is not significant for earthquakes, and barycenter tidal effects of the the other planets can’t influence the sun, the chance of finding a stronger tidal effect is remote.

On the other hand, I enjoy a good mystery, so look at it like this. We can see stars and planets and asteroids, so we can imagine being hit by a giant meteor. Yet the biggest meteor craters we have are mere pimples on the surface of the Earth. They can’t compare to the many mountain ranges, built by past and current seismic activity. One earthquake at a time. And then there are volcano mountains and volcano explosions. The Earth beneath our feet, the deep earth, has a super-sized “weather” system, presumably with huge convection and currents pushing around huge continents and generating a magnetic field. Which could be changing! Or flipping! (that’s for the perennially terrified)

Earthquakes can be detected by seismic instruments. As can nuclear explosions. We could even measure earthquakes in Hiroshimas. One quote from a FAQ: “nuclear explosions typically release energy between 2-50 kilotons of yield, compared to, for example, the M6.5 Afghanistan earthquake in May of 1998 that had an equivalent yield of 2,000 kilotons.” What does that make the “Yellowstone Ticking Bomb”?

If I was interested enough I would look for a correlation between change in Length of Day (Earth rotation speed) and earthquakes (not expecting to find one). Or between climate change and LOD. Anything to get away from the obsession with CO2!

Reply to  Toto
January 26, 2020 10:24 pm

I had an acquaintance that noted anything less that 2 SD above gaussian noise was probably not worth looking at. In the work for the above, nothing came anywhere close to that.

Reply to  GeoLurking
January 27, 2020 12:17 pm

Even 2 SD will give a false positive in 5 % of cases for gaussian distributions, and often more for data that are not normally distributed. If you look at several candidate correlations you are quite likely to find at least one false positive. This practice is known as “P-chasing”.

In physics you would almost certainly not even be able to publish results at that significance level.

Reply to  Toto
January 27, 2020 12:27 pm

Actually large earthquakes have been shown to affect Length of Day (not the other way around).

This is actually inevitable since they definitely move large masses around relative to the Earth’s rotation axis.

Incidentally there is a strong rumour that Freeman Dyson once figured out a way to explode nuclear bombs underground with a negligible seismic transfer of energy, but that it is still secret since it was tested in Nevada and found to work.

Nicholas McGinley
January 26, 2020 7:41 pm

Hello Mods,
I posted a comment a while back which went into moderation.

Tom Searles
January 26, 2020 8:05 pm

Hi Willis,
I am curious what you think about the above paper by a NASA researcher linking Kp and earthquakes. Is this cow boy science or does the connection to geomagnetic storms pass muster? Would you like me to find the data or are we on sunspots only?

(Sorry if this pops up twice, there was a problem with my word press subs and I dont know if the other will eventually post)

Thomas Searles
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
January 28, 2020 2:31 pm

Maybe a misunderstanding, Yes I realized the relationship, but the paper found the link to periods in close proximity to the geomagnetic storms was statistically correlated to earthquakes, (not the amount of sunspots.)

“The statistical significance of nearly 100% is obtained for the Kp variations, synchronizing with more earthquakes in the Pacific Rim region.”

Thanks Tom

Thomas Searles
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
January 28, 2020 6:44 pm

Thanks for that Willis,
Great to have someone so scientifically literate to ask.

January 27, 2020 12:10 pm

The only external factor actually known to affect volcanic eruptions and earthquake activity is the growth and decay of ice sheets.

This has been shown repeatedly for Iceland (mainly volcanoes) and Scandinavia (only earthquakes). Data from other areas are less convincing.

But then it would be rather odd if the disappearance of a couple of kilometers thickness of ice did not affect volcanic and seismic activity.

Ulric Lyons
January 27, 2020 3:40 pm

If large earthquakes are associated with sort term periods of slow solar wind, that could be at any number of sunspots. So this study is meaningless.

January 28, 2020 6:56 am


Thanks for doing the work I am too inept to do. Please understand that my failure to do the homework is not due to laziness, but rather that God gave you gifts I lack.

I will confess I am disappointed. I hope you some day eventually do find a link between sunspots and activity on earth. Perhaps there is a correlation such as fewer sunspots = more comments at WUWT?

I hope you will forgive me for clinging to a bit of trivia: It is my understanding that, around fifteen years after the start of the Dalton Minimum there were two of the largest eruptions of the past 250 years, the Tamboro eruption and, roughly five years earlier, a “mystery eruption” (shown by ash in ice-cores in both Greenland and Antarctica.)

I cling to this trivia because we are approaching roughly fifteen years into the start of current “Quiet Sun”, and the trivia allows me to expect the worst, and enables me to creep about darkly peering up from under an umbrella on sunny days…..which does wonders for my reputation as an old crank.

Nicholas McGinley
January 28, 2020 2:02 pm

Interesting place for a massive quake.
Just a few hours ago, a massive 7.7 quake struck in the area between Jamaica and Cuba. Appears to be right on that fault line that runs through there.
Reports of buildings shaking in Miami, but I felt nothing in SW Florida.

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