Ken Ring has discovered Twitter – and yet another channel to embarrass himself with his pseudoscientific theories.
This time, Ring is linking recent whale strandings at Farewell Spit with the seismic activity that had my fellow movie-goers scurrying out of a showing of The Book Thief at 3.52pm on Monday afternoon in Wellington.
It’s an odd science that says there’s no whale strandings-earthquake connection, but one between riding bikes to work and the S Pole melting
— Ken Ring (@kenringweather) January 21, 2014
No Ken, its not odd, you are odd.
Farewell Spit is the EXACT same latitude as Eketahuna. We say whales strand due to underwater earthquakes. Strandings = earthquake warnings
— Ken Ring (@kenringweather) January 21, 2014
“We” Ken? Who would that be? The voices inside your head?
The whale strandings-earthquake theory pops up from time to time, thanks largely to the work of Indian Dr Arunachalam Kumar who has regularly suggested that whale strandings are a precursor to large seismic events. He has been helped along by breathlessly uncritical media coverage from, among others, the Times of India:
A Manglorean academic’s prediction of natural disaster following whale deaths at New Zealand on August 20, has come true.
Dr Arunachalam Kumar, professor at KS Hedge Medical Academy, had espoused the theory that the unexplained whale deaths are linked to natural disasters over the years and has been proved to be spot-on this time also.
After whale deaths of the New Zealand coast, he had received an e-mail query regarding the possible outcome of this event. He had said the incident was prelude to eruption of a volcano in Indonesia within seven days and an earthquake would follow within two weeks.
Both predictions, based on the observations of Dr Kumar on changes in whale behaviour, have turned out to be absolutely right. On August 29, Mt Sinabung, a long dormant volcano in Sumatra erupted suddenly, forcing the evacuation of thousands of people from its vicinity. On September 4, Christchurch, New Zealand, was rocked by one of the most powerful earthquakes in its history.
The doctor had in December 2004 predicted the coming of the titanic Asian tsunami a full three weeks before it struck, killing 150,000 people.
Professor Kumar’s undeserved claim to fame is that he wrote on an email forum on December 4, 2004 that the stranding of 120 whales on an Australian beach in late November, would be followed by a major seismic event.
I have noted with alarm, the last week report of such mass deaths of marine mammals in an Australian beachside. I will not be surprised if within a few days a massive quake hits some part of the globe.
Three weeks later, the Boxing Day earthquake and tsunami occurred. This Independent piece that ran in early 2005 summarises what is still the view of scientists…
Mark Simmonds is director of science at Britain’s Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS).
He has studied strandings in detail because one of the questions most frequently asked of him and the WDCS is why they happen. The main answer is, he says, that most whales are intensely social animals, and act together. If one heads into the beach, the others follow. It may be an accident; sometimes human agency may be partly to blame; sometimes the Earth’s magnetic field may play a role.
“But nobody has shown any correlation between whale strandings and earthquakes. If you’re saying there is, you would have to present the data to prove your case.”
Over to Professor Kumar. His original email strongly implies that he is in possession of such data. But, contacted at his office in Mangalore, he was unable to provide any.
Did he have a list of the correlations between previous whale strandings and earthquakes? The correlations in which he had tracked the data and plotted the locales? “I don’t have a lot of these things,” he said. “I’m just an avid reader. I watch with particular interest.
“As a science man, I don’t want to put these things on paper,” he replied. “It would take me a long time to put it right.”
So Kumar appears to have no evidence at all for backing up his core assertion that cetacean strandings and earthquakes are linked.
Yet he undoubtedly did post his solemn warning just three weeks before the biggest earthquake of the past 40 years: “I will not be surprised if within a few days a massive quake hits some part of the globe.” Chance? Luck? Science? Make of it what you will. Plenty of others are.
As a science man, he doesn’t want to put these things down on paper? Enough said.