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Causes Of Mild Geological Climates

The Uniformity Of Climate

Hypotheses Of Climatic Change


Some Problems Of Glacial Periods

The Climatic Stress Of The Fourteenth Century

The Variability Of Climate

The Changing Composition Of Oceans And Atmosphere

The Climate Of History

Glaciation According To The Solar-cyclonic Hypothesis[38]

Least Viewed

Terrestrial Causes Of Climatic Changes

The Effect Of Other Bodies On The Sun

The Sun's Journey Through Space

Post-glacial Crustal Movements And Climatic Changes

The Earth's Crust And The Sun

The Origin Of Loess

The Solar Cyclonic Hypothesis

Glaciation According To The Solar-cyclonic Hypothesis[38]

The Climate Of History

The Changing Composition Of Oceans And Atmosphere

The Earth's Crust And The Sun

Although the problems of this book may lead far afield, they ultimately
bring us back to the earth and to the present. Several times in the
preceding pages there has been mention of the fact that periods of
extreme climatic fluctuations are closely associated with great
movements of the earth's crust whereby mountains are uplifted and
continents upheaved. In attempting to explain this association the
general tendency has been to look largely at the past instead of the
present. Hence it has been almost impossible to choose among three
possibilities, all beset with difficulties. First, the movements of the
crust may have caused the climatic fluctuations; second, climatic
changes may cause crustal movements; and third, variations in solar
activity or in some other outside agency may give rise to both types of
terrestrial phenomena.

The idea that movements of the earth's crust are the main cause of
geological changes of climate is becoming increasingly untenable as the
complexity and rapidity of climatic changes become more clear,
especially during post-glacial times. It implies that the earth's
surface moves up and down with a speed and facility which appear to be
out of the question. If volcanic activity be invoked the problem becomes
no clearer. Even if volcanic dust should fill the air frequently and
completely, neither its presence nor absence would produce such peculiar
features as the localization of glaciers, the distribution of loess, and
the mild climate of most parts of geological time. Nevertheless, because
of the great difficulties presented by the other two possibilities many
geologists still hold that directly or indirectly the greater climatic
changes have been mainly due to movements of the earth's crust and to
the reaction of the crustal movements on the atmosphere.

The possibility that climatic changes are in themselves a cause of
movements of the earth's crust seems so improbable that no one appears
to have investigated it with any seriousness. Nevertheless, it is worth
while to raise the question whether climatic extremes may cooeperate with
other agencies in setting the time when the earth's crust shall be

As to the third possibility, it is perfectly logical to ascribe both
climatic changes and crustal deformation to some outside agency, solar
or otherwise, but hitherto there has been so little evidence on this
point that such an ascription has merely begged the question. If
heavenly bodies should approach the earth closely enough so that their
gravitational stresses caused crustal deformation, all life would
presumably be destroyed. As to the sun, there has hitherto been no
conclusive evidence that it is related to crustal movements, although
various writers have made suggestions along this line. In this chapter
we shall carry these suggestions further and shall see that they are at
least worthy of study.

As a preliminary to this study it may be well to note that the
coincidence between movements of the earth's crust and climatic changes
is not so absolute as is sometimes supposed. For example, the profound
crustal changes at the end of the Mesozoic were not accompanied by
widespread glaciation so far as is yet known, although the temperature
appears to have been lowered. Nor was the violent volcanic and
diastrophic activity in the Miocene associated with extreme climates.
Indeed, there appears to have been little contrast from zone to zone,
for figs, bread fruit trees, tree ferns, and other plants of low
latitudes grew in Greenland. Nevertheless, both at the end of the
Mesozoic and in the Miocene the climate may possibly have been severe
for a time, although the record is lost. On the other hand, Kirk's
recent discovery of glacial till in Alaska between beds carrying an
undoubted Middle Silurian fauna indicates glaciation at a time when
there was little movement of the crust so far as yet appears.[125] Thus
we conclude that while climatic changes and crustal movements usually
occur together, they may occur separately.

According to the solar-cyclonic hypothesis such a condition is to be
expected. If the sun were especially active when the terrestrial
conditions prohibited glaciation, changes of climate would still occur,
but they would be milder than under other circumstances, and would leave
little record in the rocks. Or there might be glaciation in high
latitudes, such as that of southern Alaska in the Middle Silurian, and
none elsewhere. On the other hand, when the sun was so inactive that no
great storminess occurred, the upheaval of continents and the building
of mountains might go on without the formation of ice sheets, as
apparently happened at the end of the Mesozoic. The lack of absolute
coincidence between glaciation and periods of widespread emergence of
the lands is evident even today, for there is no reason to suppose that
the lands are notably lower or less extensive now than they were during
the Pleistocene glaciation. In fact, there is much evidence that many
areas have risen since that time. Yet glaciation is now far less
extensive than in the Pleistocene. Any attempt to explain this
difference on the basis of terrestrial changes is extremely difficult,
for the shape and altitude of continents and mountains have not changed
much in twenty or thirty thousand years. Yet the present moderately mild
epoch, like the puzzling inter-glacial epochs of earlier times, is
easily explicable on the assumption that the sun's atmosphere may
sometimes vary in harmony with crustal activity, but does not
necessarily do so at all times.

Turning now to the main problem of how climatic changes may be connected
with movements of the earth's crust, let us follow our usual method and
examine what is happening today. Let us first inquire whether
earthquakes, which are one of the chief evidences that crustal movements
are actually taking place in our own times, show any connection with
sunspots. In order to test this, we have compared Milne's Catalogue of
Destructive Earthquakes from 1800 to 1899, with Wolf's sunspot numbers
for the same period month by month. The earthquake catalogue, as its
compiler describes it, "is an attempt to give a list of earthquakes
which have announced changes of geological importance in the earth's
crust; movements which have probably resulted in the creation or the
extension of a line of fault, the vibrations accompanying which could,
with proper instruments, have been recorded over a continent or the
whole surface of our world. Small earthquakes have been excluded, while
the number of large earthquakes both for ancient and modern times has
been extended. As an illustration of exclusion, I may mention that
between 1800 and 1808, which are years taken at random, I find in
Mallet's catalogue 407 entries. Only thirty-seven of these, which were
accompanied by structural damage, have been retained. Other catalogues
such as those of Perry and Fuchs have been treated similarly."[126]

If the earthquakes in such a carefully selected list bear a distinct
relation to sunspots, it is at least possible and perhaps probable that
a similar relation may exist between solar activity and geological
changes in the earth's crust. The result of the comparison of
earthquakes and sunspots is shown in Table 7. The first column gives the
sunspot numbers; the second, the number of months that had the
respective spot numbers during the century from 1800 to 1899. Column C
shows the total number of earthquakes during the months having any
particular degree of spottedness; while D, which is the significant
column, gives the average number of destructive earthquakes per month
under each of the six conditions of solar spottedness. The regularity of
column D is so great as to make it almost certain that we are here
dealing with a real relationship. Column F, which shows the average
number of earthquakes in the month succeeding any given condition of the
sun, is still more regular except for the last entry.



A: Sunspot numbers
B: Number of months per Wolf's Table
C: Number of earthquakes
D: Average number of earthquakes per month
E: Number of earthquakes in succeeding month
F: Average number of earthquakes in succeeding month


0-15 344 522 1.52 512 1.49
15-30 194 306 1.58 310 1.60
30-50 237 433 1.83 439 1.85
50-70 195 402 2.06 390 2.00
70-100 135 286 2.12 310 2.30
over 100 95 218 2.30 175 1.84

The chance that six numbers taken at random will arrange themselves in
any given order is one in 720. In other words, there is one chance in
720 that the regularity of column D is accidental. But column F is as
regular as column D except for the last entry. If columns D and E were
independent there would be one chance in about 500,000 that the six
numbers in both columns would fall in the same order, and one chance in
14,400 that five numbers in each would fall in the same order. But the
two columns are somewhat related, for although the after-shocks of a
great earthquake are never included in Milne's table, a world-shaking
earthquake in one region during a given month probably creates
conditions that favor similar earthquakes elsewhere during the next
month. Hence the probability that we are dealing with a purely
accidental arrangement in Table 7 is less than one in 14,400 and greater
than one in 500,000. It may be one in 20,000 or 100,000. In any event it
is so slight that there is high probability that directly or indirectly
sunspots and earthquakes are somehow connected.

In ascertaining the relation between sunspots and earthquakes it would
be well if we could employ the strict method of correlation
coefficients. This, however, is impossible for the entire century, for
the record is by no means homogeneous. The earlier decades are
represented by only about one-fourth as many earthquakes as the later
ones, a condition which is presumably due to lack of information. This
makes no difference with the method employed in Table 7, since years
with many and few sunspots are distributed almost equally throughout the
entire nineteenth century, but it renders the method of correlation
coefficients inapplicable. During the period from 1850 onward the record
is much more nearly homogeneous, though not completely so. Even in these
later decades, however, allowance must be made for the fact that there
are more earthquakes in winter than in summer, the average number per
month for the fifty years being as follows:

Jan. 2.8 May 2.4 Sept. 2.5
Feb. 2.4 June 2.3 Oct. 2.6
Mar. 2.5 July 2.4 Nov. 2.7
Apr. 2.4 Aug. 2.4 Dec. 2.8

The correlation coefficient between the departures from these monthly
averages and the corresponding departures from the monthly averages of
the sunspots for the same period, 1850-1899, are as follows:

Sunspots and earthquakes of same month: +0.042, or 1.5 times the
probable error.

Sunspots of a given month and earthquakes of that month and the
next: +0.084, or 3.1 times the probable error.

Sunspots of three consecutive months and earthquakes of three
consecutive months allowing a lag of one month, i.e., sunspots of
January, February, and March compared with earthquakes of February,
March, and April; sunspots of February, March, and April with
earthquakes of March, April, and May, etc.; +0.112, or 4.1 times the
probable error.

These coefficients are all small, but the number of individual cases,
600 months, is so large that the probable error is greatly reduced,
being only +-0.027 or +-0.028. Moreover, the nature of our data is such
that even if there is a strong connection between solar changes and
earth movements, we should not expect a large correlation coefficient.
In the first place, as already mentioned, the earthquake data are not
strictly homogeneous. Second, an average of about two and one-half
strong earthquakes per month is at best only a most imperfect indication
of the actual movement of the earth's crust. Third, the sunspots are
only a partial and imperfect measure of the activity of the sun's
atmosphere. Fourth, the relation between solar activity and earthquakes
is almost certainly indirect. In view of all these conditions, the
regularity of Table 7 and the fact that the most important correlation
coefficient rises to more than four times the probable error makes it
almost certain that the solar and terrestrial phenomena are really

We are now confronted by the perplexing question of how this connection
can take place. Thus far only three possibilities present themselves,
and each is open to objections. The chief agencies concerned in these
three possibilities are heat, electricity, and atmospheric pressure.
Heat may be dismissed very briefly. We have seen that the earth's
surface becomes relatively cool when the sun is active. Theoretically
even the slightest change in the temperature of the earth's surface must
influence the thermal gradient far into the interior and hence cause a
change of volume which might cause movements of the crust. Practically
the heat of the surface ceases to be of appreciable importance at a
depth of perhaps twenty feet, and even at that depth it does not act
quickly enough to cause the relatively prompt response which seems to be
characteristic of earthquakes in respect to the sun.

The second possibility is based on the relationship between solar and
terrestrial electricity. When the sun is active the earth's atmospheric
electrical potential is subject to slight variations. It is well known
that when two opposing points of an ionized solution are oppositely
charged electrically, a current passes through the liquid and sets up
electrolysis whereby there is a segregation of materials, and a
consequent change in the volume of the parts near the respective
electrical poles. The same process takes place, although less freely, in
a hot mass such as forms the interior of the earth. The question arises
whether internal electrical currents may not pass between the two
oppositely charged poles of the earth, or even between the great
continental masses and the regions of heavier rock which underlie the
oceans. Could this lead to electrolysis, hence to differentiation in
volume, and thus to movements of the earth's crust? Could the results
vary in harmony with the sun? Bowie[127] has shown that numerous
measurements of the strength and direction of the earth's gravitative
pull are explicable only on the assumption that the upheaval of a
continent or a mountain range is due in part not merely to pressure, or
even to flowage of the rocks beneath the crust, but also to an actual
change in volume whereby the rocks beneath the continent attain
relatively great volume and those under the oceans a small volume in
proportion to their weight. The query arises whether this change of
volume may be related to electrical currents at some depth below the
earth's surface.

The objections to this hypothesis are numerous. First, there is little
evidence of electrolytic differentiation in the rocks. Second, the outer
part of the earth's crust is a very poor conductor so that it is
doubtful whether even a high degree of electrification of the surface
would have much effect on the interior. Third, electrolysis due to any
such mild causes as we have here postulated must be an extremely slow
process, too slow, presumably, to have any appreciable result within a
month or two. Other objections join with these three in making it seem
improbable that the sun's electrical activity has any direct effect upon
movements of the earth's crust.

The third, or meteorological hypothesis, which makes barometric pressure
the main intermediary between solar activity and earthquakes, seems at
first sight almost as improbable as the thermal and electrical
hypotheses. Nevertheless, it has a certain degree of observational
support of a kind which is wholly lacking in the other two cases. Among
the extensive writings on the periodicity of earthquakes one main fact
stands out with great distinctness: earthquakes vary in number according
to the season. This fact has already been shown incidentally in the
table of earthquake frequency by months. If allowance is made for the
fact that February is a short month, there is a regular decrease in the
frequency of severe earthquakes from December and January to June. Since
most of Milne's earthquakes occurred in the northern hemisphere, this
means that severe earthquakes occur in winter about 20 per cent oftener
than in summer.

The most thorough investigation of this subject seems to have been that
of Davisson.[128] His results have been worked over and amplified by
Knott,[129] who has tested them by Schuster's exact mathematical
methods. His results are given in Table 8.[130] Here the northern
hemisphere is placed first; then come the East Indies and the Malay
Archipelago lying close to the equator; and finally the southern
hemisphere. In the northern hemisphere practically all the maxima come
in the winter, for the month of December appears in fifteen cases out of
the twenty-five in column D, while January, February, or November
appears in six others. It is also noticeable that in sixteen cases out
of twenty-five the ratio of the actual to the expected amplitude in
column G is four or more, so that a real relationship is indicated,
while the ratio falls below three only in Japan and Zante. The
equatorial data, unlike those of the northern hemisphere, are
indefinite, for in the East Indies no month shows a marked maximum and
the expected amplitude exceeds the actual amplitude. Even in the Malay
Archipelago, which shows a maximum in May, the ratio of actual to
expected amplitude is only 2.6. Turning to the southern hemisphere, the
winter months of that hemisphere are as strongly marked by a maximum as
are the winter months of the northern hemisphere. July or August appears
in five out of six cases. Here the ratio between the actual and expected
amplitudes is not so great as in the northern hemisphere. Nevertheless,
it is practically four in Chile, and exceeds five in Peru and Bolivia,
and in the data for the entire southern hemisphere.




A: Region
B: Limiting Dates
C: Number of Shocks
D: Maximum Month
E: Amplitude
F: Expected Amplitude
G: Ratio of Actual to Expected Amplitude


Northern Hemisphere 223-1850 5879 Dec. 0.110 0.023 4.8
Northern Hemisphere 1865-1884 8133 Dec. 0.290 0.020 14.5
Europe 1865-1884 5499 Dec. 0.350 0.024 14.6
Europe 306-1843 1961 Dec. 0.220 0.040 5.5
Southeast Europe 1859-1887 3470 Dec. 0.210 0.030 7.0
Vesuvius District 1865-1883 513 Dec. 0.250 0.078 3.2
Old Tromometre 1872-1887 61732 Dec. 0.490 0.007 70.0
Old Tromometre 1876-1887 38546 Dec. 0.460 0.009 49.5
Normal Tromometre 1876-1887 38546 Dec. 0.490 0.009 52.8
Balkan, etc. 1865-1884 624 Dec. 0.270 0.071 3.8
Hungary, etc. 1865-1884 384 Dec. 0.310 0.090 3.4
Italy 1865-1883 2350 Dec.(Sept.)0.140 0.037 3.8
Grecian Archip. 1859-1881 3578 Dec.-Jan. 0.164 0.030 5.5
Austria 1865-1884 461 Jan. 0.370 0.083 4.4
Switzerland, etc. 1865-1883 524 Jan. 0.560 0.077 7.3
Asia 1865-1884 458 Feb. 0.330 0.083 4.0
North America 1865-1884 552 Nov. 0.350 0.075 4.7
California 1850-1886 949 Oct. 0.300 0.058 5.2
Japan 1878-1881 246 Dec. 0.460 0.113 4.1
Japan 1872-1880 367 Dec.-Jan. 0.256 0.093 2.8
Japan 1876-1891 1104 Feb. 0.190 0.053 3.6
Japan 1885-1889 2997 Oct. 0.080 0.032 2.5
Zante 1825-1863 1326 Aug. 0.100 0.049 2.0
Italy, North 1865-1883 1513 Sept.(Nov.) 0.210 0.046 4.6
of Naples
East Indies 1873-1881 515 Aug., Oct., 0.071? 0.078 0.9
or Dec.?
Malay Archip. 1865-1884 598 May 0.190 0.072 2.6
New Zealand 1869-1879 585 Aug.-Sept. 0.203 0.073 2.8
Chile 1873-1881 212 July 0.480 0.122 3.9
Southern Hemisphere 1865-1884 751 July 0.370 0.065 5.7
New Zealand 1868-1890 641 March, May 0.050 0.070 0.7
Chile 1865-1883? 316 July, Dec. 0.270 0.100 2.7
Peru, Bolivia 1865-1884 350 July 0.480 0.095 5.1

The whole relationship between earthquakes and the seasons in the
northern and southern hemispheres is summed up in Fig. 12 taken from
Knott. The northern hemisphere shows a regular diminution in earthquake
frequency from December until June, and an increase the rest of the
year. In the southern hemisphere the course of events is the same so far
as summer and winter are concerned, for August with its maximum comes in
winter, while February with its minimum comes in summer. In the southern
hemisphere the winter month of greatest seismic activity has over 100
per cent more earthquakes than the summer month of least activity. In
the northern hemisphere this difference is about 80 per cent, but this
smaller figure occurs partly because the northern data include certain
interesting and significant regions like Japan and China where the usual
conditions are reversed.[131] If equatorial regions were included in
Fig. 12, they would give an almost straight line.

The connection between earthquakes and the seasons is so strong that
almost no students of seismology question it, although they do not agree
as to its cause. A meteorological hypothesis seems to be the only
logical explanation.[132] Wherever sufficient data are available,
earthquakes appear to be most numerous when climatic conditions cause
the earth's surface to be most heavily loaded or to change its load most
rapidly. The main factor in the loading is apparently atmospheric
pressure. This acts in two ways. First, when the continents become cold
in winter the pressure increases. On an average the air at sea level
presses upon the earth's surface at the rate of 14.7 pounds per square
inch, or over a ton per square foot, and only a little short of thirty
million tons per square mile. An average difference of one inch between
the atmospheric pressure of summer and winter over ten million square
miles of the continent of Asia, for example, means that the continent's
load in winter is about ten million million tons heavier than in summer.
Second, the changes in atmospheric pressure due to the passage of storms
are relatively sharp and sudden. Hence they are probably more effective
than the variations in the load from season to season. This is suggested
by the rapidity with which the terrestrial response seems to follow the
supposed solar cause of earthquakes. It is also suggested by the fact
that violent storms are frequently followed by violent earthquakes.
"Earthquake weather," as Dr. Schlesinger suggests, is a common phrase in
the typhoon region of Japan, China, and the East Indies. During tropical
hurricanes a change of pressure amounting to half an inch in two hours
is common. On September 22, 1885, at False Point Lighthouse on the Bay
of Bengal, the barometer fell about an inch in six hours, then nearly an
inch and a half in not much over two hours, and finally rose fully two
inches inside of two hours. A drop of two inches in barometric pressure
means that a load of about two million tons is removed from each square
mile of land; the corresponding rise of pressure means the addition of a
similar load. Such a storm, and to a less degree every other storm,
strikes a blow upon the earth's surface, first by removing millions of
tons of pressure and then by putting them on again.[133] Such storms, as
we have seen, are much more frequent and severe when sunspots are
numerous than at other times. Moreover, as Veeder[134] long ago showed,
one of the most noteworthy evidences of a connection between sunspots
and the weather is a sudden increase of pressure in certain widely
separated high pressure areas. In most parts of the world winter is not
only the season of highest pressure and of most frequent changes of
Veeder's type, but also of severest storms. Hence a meteorological
hypothesis would lead to the expectation that earthquakes would occur
more frequently in winter than in summer. On the Chinese coast, however,
and also on the oceanic side of Japan, as well as in some more tropical
regions, the chief storms come in summer in the form of typhoons. These
are the places where earthquakes also are most abundant in summer. Thus,
wherever we turn, storms and the related barometric changes seem to be
most frequent and severe at the very times when earthquakes are also
most frequent.

Davisson and Knott.)

solid line ---- Northern Hemisphere.
dashed line .... Southern Hemisphere.]

Other meteorological factors, such as rain, snow, winds, and currents,
probably have some effect on earthquakes through their ability to load
the earth's crust. The coming of vegetation may also help. These
agencies, however, appear to be of small importance compared with the
storms. In high latitudes and in regions of abundant storminess most of
these factors generally combine with barometric pressure to produce
frequent changes in the load of the earth's crust, especially in winter.
In low latitudes, on the other hand, there are few severe storms, and
relatively little contrast in pressure and vegetation from season to
season; there is no snow; and the amount of ground water changes little.
With this goes the twofold fact that there is no marked seasonal
distribution of earthquakes, and that except in certain local volcanic
areas, earthquakes appear to be rare. In proportion to the areas
concerned, for example, there is little evidence of earthquakes in
equatorial Africa and South America.

The question of the reality of the connection between meteorological
conditions and crustal movements is so important that every possible
test should be applied. At the suggestion of Professor Schlesinger we
have looked up a very ingenious line of inquiry. During the last decades
of the nineteenth century, a long series of extremely accurate
observations of latitude disclosed a fact which had previously been
suspected but not demonstrated, namely, that the earth wabbles a little
about its axis. The axis itself always points in the same direction, and
since the earth slides irregularly around it the latitude of all parts
of the earth keeps changing. Chandler has shown that the wabbling thus
induced consists of two parts. The first is a movement in a circle with
a radius of about fifteen feet which is described in approximately 430
days. This so-called Eulerian movement is a normal gyroscopic motion
like the slow gyration of a spinning top. This depends on purely
astronomical causes, and no terrestrial cause can stop it or eliminate
it. The period appears to be constant, but there are certain puzzling
irregularities. The usual amplitude of this movement, as
Schlesinger[135] puts it, "is about 0".27, but twice in recent years it
has jumped to 0".40. Such a change could be accounted for by supposing
that the earth had received a severe blow or a series of milder blows
tending in the same direction." These blows, which were originally
suggested by Helmert are most interesting in view of our suggestion as
to the blows struck by storms.

The second movement of the pole has a period of a year, and is roughly
an ellipse whose longest radius is fourteen feet and the shortest, four
feet; or, to put it technically, there is an annual term with a maximum
amplitude of about 0".20. This, however, varies irregularly. The result
is that the pole seems to wander over the earth's surface in the spiral
fashion illustrated in Fig. 13. It was early suggested that this
peculiar wandering of the pole in an annual period must be due to
meteorological causes. Jeffreys[136] has investigated the matter
exhaustively. He assumes certain reasonable values for the weight of air
added or subtracted from different parts of the earth's surface
according to the seasons. He also considers the effect of precipitation,
vegetation, and polar ice, and of variations of temperature and
atmospheric pressure in their relation to movements of the ocean. Then
he proceeds to compare all these with the actual wandering of the pole
from 1907 to 1913. While it is as yet too early to say that any special
movement of the pole was due to the specific meteorological conditions
of any particular year, Jeffreys' work makes it clear that
meteorological causes, especially atmospheric pressure, are sufficient
to cause the observed irregular wanderings. Slight wanderings may arise
from various other sources such as movements of the rocks when
geological faults occur or the rush of a great wave due to a submarine
earthquake. So far as known, however, all these other agencies cause
insignificant displacements compared with those arising from movements
of the air. This fact coupled with the mathematical certainty that
meteorological phenomena must produce some wandering of the pole, has
caused most astronomers to accept Jeffreys' conclusion. If we follow
their example we are led to conclude that changes in atmospheric
pressure and in the other meteorological conditions strike blows which
sometimes shift the earth several feet from its normal position in
respect to the axis.

(After Moulton.)]

If the foregoing reasoning is correct, the great and especially the
sudden departures from the smooth gyroscopic circle described by the
pole in the Eulerian motion would be expected to occur at about the same
time as unusual earthquake activity. This brings us to an interesting
inquiry carried out by Milne[137] and amplified by Knott.[138] Taking
Albrecht's representation of the irregular spiral-like motion of the
pole, as given in Fig. 13, they show that there is a preponderance of
severe earthquakes at times when the direction of motion of the earth in
reference to its axis departs from the smooth Eulerian curve. A summary
of their results is given in Table 9. The table indicates that during
the period from 1892 to 1905 there were nine different times when the
curve of Fig. 13 changed its direction or was deflected by less than 10 deg.
during a tenth of a year. In other words, during those periods it did
not curve as much as it ought according to the Eulerian movement. At
such times there were 179 world-shaking earthquakes, or an average of
about 19.9 per tenth of a year. According to the other lines of Table 9,
in thirty-two cases the deflection during a tenth of a year was between
10 deg. and 25 deg., while in fifty-six cases it was from 25 deg. to 40 deg.. During
these periods the curve remained close to the Eulerian path and the
world-shaking earthquakes averaged only 8.2 and 12.9. Then, when the
deflection was high, that is, when meteorological conditions threw the
earth far out of its Eulerian course, the earthquakes were again
numerous, the number rising to 23.4 when the deflection amounted to more
than 55 deg..



No. of No. of Average No.
Deflection Deflections Earthquakes of Earthquakes
0-10 deg. 9 179 19.9
10-25 deg. 32 263 8.2
25-40 deg. 56 722 12.9
40-55 deg. 19 366 19.3
over 55 deg. 7 164 23.4

In order to test this conclusion in another way we have followed a
suggestion of Professor Schlesinger. Under his advice the Eulerian
motion has been eliminated and a new series of earthquake records has
been compared with the remaining motions of the poles which presumably
arise largely from meteorological causes. For this purpose use has been
made of the very full records of earthquakes published under the
auspices of the International Seismological Commission for the years
1903 to 1908, the only years for which they are available. These include
every known shock of every description which was either recorded by
seismographs or by direct observation in any part of the world. Each
shock is given the same weight, no matter what its violence or how
closely it follows another. The angle of deflection has been measured as
Milne measured it, but since the Eulerian motion is eliminated, our zero
is approximately the normal condition which would prevail if there were
no meteorological complications. Dividing the deflections into six equal
groups according to the size of the angle, we get the result shown in
Table 10.



Average angle of deflection Average daily number
(10 periods of 1/10 year each) of earthquakes
-10.5 deg. 8.31
11.5 deg. 8.35
25.8 deg. 8.23
40.2 deg. 8.14
54.7 deg. 8.86
90.3 deg. 11.81

Here where some twenty thousand earthquakes are employed the result
agrees closely with that of Milne for a different series of years and
for a much smaller number of earthquakes. So long as the path of the
pole departs less than about 45 deg. from the smooth gyroscopic Eulerian
path, the number of earthquakes is almost constant, about eight and a
quarter per day. When the angle becomes large, however, the number
increases by nearly 50 per cent. Thus the work of Milne, Knott, and
Jeffreys is confirmed by a new investigation. Apparently earthquakes and
crustal movements are somehow related to sudden changes in the load
imposed on the earth's crust by meteorological conditions.

This conclusion is quite as surprising to the authors as to the
reader--perhaps more so. At the beginning of this investigation we had
no faith whatever in any important relation between climate and
earthquakes. At its end we are inclined to believe that the relation is
close and important.

It must not be supposed, however, that meteorological conditions are the
cause of earthquakes and of movements of the earth's crust. Even
though the load that the climatic agencies can impose upon the earth's
crust runs into millions of tons per square mile, it is a trifle
compared with what the crust is able to support. There is, however, a
great difference between the cause and the occasion of a phenomenon.
Suppose that a thick sheet of glass is placed under an increasing
strain. If the strain is applied slowly enough, even so rigid a material
as glass will ultimately bend rather than break. But suppose that while
the tension is high the glass is tapped. A gentle tap may be followed by
a tiny crack. A series of little taps may be the signal for small cracks
to spread in every direction. A few slightly harder taps may cause the
whole sheet to break suddenly into many pieces. Yet even the hardest tap
may be the merest trifle compared with the strong force which is keeping
the glass in a state of strain and which would ultimately bend it if
given time.

The earth as a whole appears to stand between steel and glass in
rigidity. It is a matter of common observation that rocks stand high in
this respect and in the consequent difficulty with which they can be
bent without breaking. Because of the earth's contraction the crust
endures a constant strain, which must gradually become enormous. This
strain is increased by the fact that sediment is transferred from the
lands to the borders of the sea and there forms areas of thick
accumulation. From this has arisen the doctrine of isostasy, or of the
equalization of crustal pressure. An important illustration of this is
the oceanward and equatorial creep which has been described in Chapter
XI. There we saw that when the lands have once been raised to high
levels or when a shortening of the earth's axis by contraction has
increased the oceanic bulge at the equator, or when the reverse has
happened because of tidal retardation, the outer part of the earth
appears to creep slowly back toward a position of perfect isostatic
adjustment. If the sun had no influence upon the earth, either direct or
indirect, isostasy and other terrestrial processes might flex the
earth's crust so gradually that changes in the form and height of the
lands would always take place slowly, even from the geological point of
view. Thus erosion would usually be able to remove the rocks as rapidly
as they were domed above the general level. If this happened, mountains
would be rare or unknown, and hence climatic contrasts would be far less
marked than is actually the case on our earth where crustal movements
have repeatedly been rapid enough to produce mountains.

Nature's methods rarely allow so gradual an adjustment to the forces of
isostasy. While the crust is under a strain, not only because of
contraction, but because of changes in its load through the transference
of sediments and the slow increase or decrease in the bulge at the
equator, the atmosphere more or less persistently carries on the tapping
process. The violence of that process varies greatly, and the variations
depend largely on the severity of the climatic contrasts. If the main
outlines of the cyclonic hypothesis are reliable, one of the first
effects of a disturbance of the sun's atmosphere is increased storminess
upon the earth. This is accompanied by increased intensity in almost
every meteorological process. The most important effect, however, so far
as the earth's crust is concerned would apparently be the rapid and
intense changes of atmospheric pressure which would arise from the swift
passage of one severe storm after another. Each storm would be a little
tap on the tensely strained crust. Any single tap might be of little
consequence, even though it involved a change of a billion tons in the
pressure on an area no larger than the state of Rhode Island. Yet a
rapid and irregular succession of such taps might possibly cause the
crust to crack, and finally to collapse in response to stresses arising
from the shrinkage of the earth.

Another and perhaps more important effect of variations in storminess
and especially in the location of the stormy areas would be an
acceleration of erosion in some places and a retardation elsewhere. A
great increase in rainfall may almost denude the slopes of soil, while a
diminution to the point where much of the vegetation dies off has a
similar effect. If such changes should take place rapidly, great
thicknesses of sediment might be concentrated in certain areas in a
short time, thus disturbing the isostatic adjustment of the earth's
crust. This might set up a state of strain which would ultimately have
to be relieved, thus perhaps initiating profound crustal movements.
Changes in the load of the earth's crust due to erosion and the
deposition of sediment, no matter how rapid they may be from the
geological standpoint, are slow compared with those due to changes in
barometric pressure. A drop of an inch in barometric pressure is
equivalent to the removal of about five inches of solid rock. Even under
the most favorable circumstances, the removal of an average depth of
five inches of rock or its equivalent in soil over millions of square
miles would probably take several hundred years, while the removal of a
similar load of air might occur in half a day or even a few hours. Thus
the erosion and deposition due to climatic variations presumably play
their part in crustal deformation chiefly by producing crustal stresses,
while the storms, as it were, strike sharp, sudden blows.

Suppose now that a prolonged period of world-wide mild climate, such as
is described in Chapter X, should permit an enormous accumulation of
stresses due to contraction and tidal retardation. Suppose that then a
sudden change of climate should produce a rapid shifting of the deep
soil that had accumulated on the lands, with a corresponding
localization and increase in strains. Suppose also that frequent and
severe storms play their part, whether great or small, by producing an
intensive tapping of the crust. In such a case the ultimate collapse
would be correspondingly great, as would be evident in the succeeding
geological epoch. The sea floor might sink lower, the continents might
be elevated, and mountain ranges might be shoved up along lines of
special weakness. This is the story of the geological period as known to
historical geology. The force that causes such movements would be the
pull of gravity upon the crust surrounding the earth's shrinking
interior. Nevertheless climatic changes might occasionally set the date
when the gravitative pull would finally overcome inertia, and thus usher
in the crustal movements that close old geologic periods and inaugurate
new ones. This, however, could occur only if the crust were under
sufficient strain. As Lawson[139] says in his discussion of the "elastic
rebound theory," the sudden shifts of the crust which seem to be the
underlying cause of earthquakes "can occur only after the accumulation
of strain to a limit and ... this accumulation involves a slow creep of
the region affected. In the long periods between great earthquakes the
energy necessary for such shocks is being stored up in the rocks as
elastic compression."

If a period of intense storminess should occur when the earth as a whole
was in such a state of strain, the sudden release of the strains might
lead to terrestrial changes which would alter the climate still further,
making it more extreme, and perhaps permitting the storminess due to the
solar disturbances to bring about glaciation. At the same time if
volcanic activity should increase it would add its quota to the tendency
toward glaciation. Nevertheless, it might easily happen that a very
considerable amount of crustal movement would take place without causing
a continental ice sheet or even a marked alpine ice sheet. Or again, if
the strains in the earth's crust had already been largely released
through other agencies before the stormy period began, the climate might
become severe enough to cause glaciation in high latitudes without
leading to any very marked movements of the earth's crust, as apparently
happened in the Mid-Silurian period.


[Footnote 125: E. Kirk: Paleozoic Glaciation in Alaska; Am. Jour. Sci.,
1918, p. 511.]

[Footnote 126: J. Milne: Catalogue of Destructive Earthquakes; Rep.
Brit. Asso. Adv. Sci., 1911.]

[Footnote 127: Wm. Bowie: Lecture before the Geological Club of Yale
University. See Am. Jour. Sci., 1921.]

[Footnote 128: Chas. Davisson: On the Annual and Semi-annual Seismic
Periods; Roy. Soc. of London, Philosophical Transactions, Vol. 184,
1893, 1107 ff.]

[Footnote 129: C. G. Knott: The Physics of Earthquake Phenomena, Oxford,

[Footnote 130: In Table 8 the first column indicates the region; the
second, the dates; and the third, the number of shocks. The fourth
column gives the month in which the annual maximum occurs when the crude
figures are smoothed by the use of overlapping six-monthly means. In
other words, the average for each successive six months has been placed
in the middle of the period. Thus the average of January to June,
inclusive, is placed between March and April, that for February to July
between April and May, and so on. This method eliminates the minor
fluctuations and also all periodicities having a duration of less than a
year. If there were no annual periodicity the smoothing would result in
practically the same figure for each month. The column marked
"Amplitude" gives the range from the highest month to the lowest divided
by the number of earthquakes and then corrected according to Schuster's
method which is well known to mathematicians, but which is so confusing
to the layman that it will not be described. Next, in the column marked
"Expected Amplitude," we have the amplitude that would be expected if a
series of numbers corresponding to the earthquake numbers and having a
similar range were arranged in accidental order throughout the year.
This also is calculated by Schuster's method in which the expected
amplitude is equal to the square root of "pi" divided by the number of
shocks. When the actual amplitude is four or more times the expected
amplitude, the probability that there is a real periodicity in the
observed phenomena becomes so great that we may regard it as practically
certain. If there is no periodicity the two are equal. The last column
gives the number of times by which the actual exceeds the expected
amplitude, and thus is a measure of the probability that earthquakes
vary systematically in a period of a year.]

[Footnote 131: N. F. Drake: Destructive Earthquakes in China; Bull.
Seism. Soc. Am., Vol. 2, 1912, pp. 40-91, 124-133.]

[Footnote 132: The only other explanation that seems to have any
standing is the psychological hypothesis of Montessus de Ballore as
given in Les Tremblements de Terre. He attributes the apparent seasonal
variation in earthquakes to the fact that in winter people are within
doors, and hence notice movements of the earth much more than in summer
when they are out of doors. There is a similar difference between
people's habits in high latitudes and low. Undoubtedly this does have a
marked effect upon the degree to which minor earthquake shocks are
noticed. Nevertheless, de Ballore's contention, as well as any other
psychological explanation, is completely upset by two facts: First,
instrumental records show the same seasonal distribution as do records
based on direct observation, and instruments certainly are not
influenced by the seasons. Second, in some places, notably China, as
Drake has shown, the summer rather than the winter is very decidedly the
time when earthquakes are most frequent.]

[Footnote 133: A comparison of tropical hurricanes with earthquakes is
interesting. Taking all the hurricanes recorded in August, September,
and October, from 1880 to 1899, and the corresponding earthquakes in
Milne's catalogue, the correlation coefficient between hurricanes and
earthquakes is +0.236, with a probable error of +-0.082, the month being
used as the unit. This is not a large correlation, yet when it is
remembered that the hurricanes represent only a small part of the
atmospheric disturbances in any given month, it suggests that with
fuller data the correlation might be large.]

[Footnote 134: Ellsworth Huntington: The Geographic Work of Dr. M. A.
Veeder; Geog. Rev., Vol. 3, March and April, 1917, Nos. 3 and 4.]

[Footnote 135: Frank Schlesinger: Variations of Latitude; Their Bearing
upon Our Knowledge of the Interior of the Earth; Proc. Am. Phil. Soc.,
Vol. 54, 1915, pp. 351-358. Also Smithsonian Report for 1916, pp.

[Footnote 136: Harold Jeffreys: Causes Contributory to the Annual
Variations of Latitude; Monthly Notices, Royal Astronomical Soc., Vol.
76, 1916, pp. 499-525.]

[Footnote 137: John Milne: British Association Reports for 1903 and

[Footnote 138: C. G. Knott: The Physics of Earthquake Phenomena, Oxford,

[Footnote 139: A. C. Lawson: The Mobility of the Coast Ranges of
California; Univ. of Calif. Pub., Geology, Vol. 12, No. 7, pp. 431-473.]

Next: Conclusion

Previous: The Sun's Journey Through Space

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