Whether or not an earthquake can be predicted has been debated for more than a century. From Feb. 25 to Apr. 8, 1999, this puzzle was sharply debated by both authoritative pessimists and optimists in Nature Debates [1], but no conclusion was made. Moderator I. Main proposed an aim: "A timescale of months to weeks" for short-term prediction in his introduction [2], but he withdrew it at the end [3]. M. Wyss, an optimist, admitted, "I am pessimistic about the near future"[4].

There are two ways to end this debate. One of them is that the pessimists propose a demonstration like the impossibility of trisecting an angle, or the conservation law of energy. Then, no optimist will attempt to predict earthquakes. The other is that the optimists give a reliable example like inventing the first airplane. After that, the pessimists will disappear gradually.

Preferring the latter, we would like to present two accurate predictions for different size earthquakes to show that they are reliable, and at the aim of Moderator Main, and can be repeated. Both predictions have dated signatures from the U. S. Geological Survey.

Historical Background and Task

I should simply introduce the historical background of earthquake clouds. Ancient Chinese and Italians studied special clouds which were indicative of impending earthquakes. There was a document in the Lon-De County Chronicle, China, 300 years ago (recompiled in 1935): "It was sunny and warm; the sky was blue and clear. Suddenly, there appeared threads of black clouds spanning the sky like a long snake. The clouds stayed for a long time, so there would be an earthquake..." [5]. The method was recently revived in Japan and China. On the morning of Mar. 6, 1978 C. Kagida, the former mayor of Nara City, Japan, predicted the 7.8 Kantow earthquake on Mar. 7 by the clouds [5]. He also proposed that the epicenter of an earthquake would be located in the mid-perpendicular plane of the clouds, which was wrong unfortunately.

I have been predicting earthquakes since June 20, 1990 for the 7.7 Iran earthquake [6], which occurred 18 hours later and killed or injured 370,000 people. Because the earthquake was the only one bigger than 7 in the northwest direction of my home town Hangzhou (30.27 N, 120 E), China, for 333 days from May 31, 1990 till Apr. 28, 1991, I believed that there must be a strong relationship between the cloud and the earthquake. As long as the epicenter was not located by Kagida's law, but on where the cloud's tail pointed toward, I felt that both Japanese and Chinese scientists would give up on the method. Being the only one having predicted the Iran earthquake correctly, I felt my duty to develop the method, which is why I, a retired Chinese chemist, have faced a strange field, ignored all of doubt, mock, and even insults, and spent about $ 35,000 living with my daughter Wenying, a Ph.D. student at Caltech, where I can observe more clouds and get earthquake data, satellite images, and literature.

I correctly predicted the 6.1 Afghanistan earthquake [7] to both the USGS and the LA Times, but the tragedy did not miss. On Feb. 7, 1997, LA Times reported the earthquake killed 4,000, injured 16,000, and caused 40,000 homeless people. To avoid another tragedy, I write this article to persuade the opponents to consider how the lantern shaped cloud formed and why my predictions with low probabilities could be true, and to try if they can make predictions as good as mine. Since the majority of them are authorities in the seismologic field and have excellent research conditions, they should do much better. If none of them even can, I hope that they would like to cooperate with me to complete the honorable historic task.


I thank the USGS for signatures of my predictions, Southern California Earthquake Data, and World Earthquake Data, and the Netscape and the International Weather Satellite Center, especially sites: "jpg" and "gif", for satellite cloud images, and Pasadena Star-News for twice reported my work, and Caltech libraries for literature, and Professor George Moore and my daughter Wenying Shou for support.


  1. Nature Debates Home Page.
  2. Ian Main. Is the reliable prediction of individual earthquakes a realistic scientific goal? Nature debates, Introduction, (1999).
  3. Ian Main. Earthquake prediction: concluding remarks. Nature debates, Week 7, (1999).

  4. Max Wyss. Not yet, but eventually. Nature debates, Week 1, (1999).
  5. Li, D.J. Earthquake Clouds, 148-150 (Xue Lin Public Store, Shanghai, China, 1982).
  6. The 7.7 Iran Earthquake Prediction on June 20, 1990
  7. The 6.1 Afghanistan Earthquake Prediction on January 5, 1998

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