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Earthquake Anxiety May Indicate Future Trouble

August 12, 2010
Cari Bourette · American Geographical Society’s Writers Circle

It is important for government officials and experts to reassure the public when no immediate danger is present. However, it may also be prudent to allow for the possibility, albeit remote, that something unusual is indeed occurring. In the past few months, people have perceived an unusual frequency of earthquake activity, and seem to be more worried than usual about future activity.

While popular understanding of such events may oftentimes be at odds with the current scientific paradigm, it is foolish to dismiss mass perceptions as simply meaningless. “Earthquake weather” is a common belief among people who live in Southern California. While there may be no direct causal link between earthquakes and the weather, the perception being expressed is not necessarily invalid. According to a recent study, earthquakes in California, at least since 1992, seem to follow an annual cycle, with September the peak of most frequent occurrence. Apparently, in their folklore, Californians are expressing a valid correlation between time of year and earthquakes. The attribution to the current weather may be in error, a bad “naming,” but the perception of a connection may indeed be valid.

There seems to be a pervasive level of anxiety regarding the stability of the Earth under our feet—something we normally take for granted. This feeling may be a metaphor for a general anxiety about the stability of our world and way of life, or it may be expressing a perception that we are in a season of earthquakes or natural disasters in general. Either way, it is a signal that something is not normal. Geographic research and analysis could help us better understand the relationships between people, their moods, and physical systems. Until then, the specific meaning of these mass perceptions may be unclear. For now, it would not be imprudent to take these as a cautionary sign to be prepared for the unusual and to stay alert for the out of the ordinary.



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