The Grand Planetary Alignment
by Ken Kalb 1981
The most severe weather of the century throughout most of the Midwest and South. Torrential rains causing widespread destruction and death in Northern California. Killer Storms in many European countries. The worst border earthquake in 126 years rocking a huge area from Eastern Canada to Southern Connecticut. A swarm of more than 100 tremors shaking normally stable Arkansas. Strange natural disasters almost daily all over the globe.
Is this nature as usual, or is something extraordinary going on? The beginning of 1982 has indeed been strange and disastrous. But it may be only be a prelude to genuine cataclysms yet to come.
Such was the forecast of a scholarly and well-documented book entitied The Jupiter Effect, coauthored in 1974 by Cambridge astrophysicists John Gribbin and Stephen Plagemann. The book targeted 1982 as a time when meteorological and geological activity would build up and become intensely magnified thanks to a variety, of physical mechanisms operating simultaneously. Highlighting the forecast was a massive and disastrous earthquake on the southern section of the San Andreas Fault near Los Angeles.
Synthesizing a variety of research projects from the past two decades showing interrelationships of sunspots, solar tides, planetary alignments, disturbed weather patterns and changes in the speed of the Earth's rotation, the authors claimed to have found a trigger capable of rousing regions of geologic instability.
The authors wrote that when the planets in our solar system swing into their rare grand alignment later in 1982, the squeeze will be put on that trigger, and viola: Bye, bye L.A.!
Now before you pack your bags and hock the family farm, bear in mind that the theory has recently been largely debunked. In the June 1980 issue of Omni magazine, Gribbin himself, though still embracing the basic principles of the theory, wrote that he might have gotten the exact year wrong. Dr. K.L. Upton of Griffith Park Observatory feels that the claims do not stand up to scientific scrutiny, and might have even been just a hoax perpetrated to cash in on the lucrative market for sensationalist books.
But despite the doubts of the theory's most drastic detractors. the bizarre coincidence of our savage weather and intensified seismicity this year with the scenario forecast in The Jupiter Effect cannot be ignored. Planetariums and observatories across the country report that their phone lines have been deluged with inquiries about the Jupiter Effect, the grand alignnment of the planets, and the scientific prophecy of a doomsday in 1982.
So now that the fateful time is dawning, let's re-examine the theory and its objections, so you may draw your own conclusions on the matter.
To fully understand the research and reasoning behind the Jupiter Effect, you may wish to read the book, still in print and usually available at your local bookstore. In the meantime, the following is a summary of the book's basic reasoning and conclusions.
Gribbin and Plagemann found a variety of independent research forging a link between solar activity and terrestrial seismicity, particularly during the peak years of the approximate 11-year sunspot cycle. During these peaks, which have remained fairly consistent since Galileo first discovered sunspots in 1610, there are a maximum number of solar disturbances including sunspots, solar flares, solar prominences and coronal holes.
Apparently, these dramatic disturbances of the Sun's equilibrium blast powerful pulses of charged particles through space and into the Earth's ionosphere. This theoretically creates an upsetting affect on the overall circulation of the huge masses of atmospheric weather patterns, which can alter the speed of the Earth's rotation and thus change the length of our day. In turn, this sudden slowing of the Earth, even by just a few milliseconds, causes extreme stress on the tectonic plate margins where earthquakes occur.
The authors then pointed to a variety of research indicating that alignments of the planets magnify the various forms of solar activity, and in turn bad weather and geological activity on the Earth. They cited the research of Dr. E.K. Bigg of Sydney, Australia which found that the planet Mercury had a magnifying effect on sunspots, most likely due to a tidal influence from gravitational attraction, much like our own Moon creates tides on the Earth. Further research by Dr. Bigg found that this "Mercury Effect" was compounded when one or more of the tidal planets (Venus, Earth, or Jupiter) was on the same side of the Sun as Mercury. Among much additional evidence, Plagemann cited the research of a NASA colleague that found a 20 percent increase in solar activity when Jupiter and Saturn were in conjunction.
"The wealth and variety of coincidence is remarkable, although too often it has either been ignored or kept quiet by the discoverers themseles, afraid perhaps of ridicule," Gribbin and Plagemann wrote.
So when they found that all of the planets in our solar system would be clustering in a relatively narrow arc on the same side of the Sun at approximately the same time as the next peak in the sunspot cycle, the case seemed crystal clear.
"From time to time betwen 1982 and 1984 we imagine there will be bursts of strong activity associated with the unusual series of alignments," wrote the Cambridge astrophysicists. "A remarkable chain of evidence, much of it known for decades but never before linked together, points to 1982 as the year in which the San Andreas Fault will be subjected to the most massive earthquake known in the populated regions of Earth in this century."
Here were two respected scientists from Cambridge University, one connected with NASA, the other with a prestigious science journal (Nature), writing a book with a foreward by the revered Isaac Asimov - making one of the most astounding scientific forecasts of all time!_
THE PLANETARY ALIGNMENTS OF 1982-1984
A typical diagramatic representation of the solar system would show the nine planets randomly splattered around the 360 degree plane of the Sun. Now, visualize the same concentric orbits, but with all of the planets clustered in a narrow bunch in a small slice of space (see picture). Indeed, during the years 1982-1984 there will be several occasions when all or most of the planets will gather in a series of rather tight groupings.
The actual affects of such planetary alignments, if any, have been a topic of speculation and controversy for many years. Since this phenomenon only recurs every 179 years (according to the authors), modern science lacks much empirical data. Gribbin and Plagemann, however, point to records showing a series of violent earthquakes on the San Andreas Fault in late 1800 that rocked San Juan Batista through Santa Barbara, damaging areas as far south as San Diego. But contending scientists have retorted that these earthquakes preceded the actual "grand alignments" of that period by a few years.
The Jupiter Effect does not pinpoint a precise date for the earthquakes, rather an approximate period that highlights 1982. Nor does it explicate just what combination of planetary alignments and sunspots would actually depress the doomsday device.
But subscribers to the theory logically deduce that the danger dates must be during the closest concentration of planetary alignments. Speculators thus pinpoint March 10 of 1982 when all nine planets will be clumped within a somewhat narrow arc (95 degrees) on the same side of the Sun, forming five approximate planetary conjunctions. Furthermore, massive Jupiter (1300 times the volume of Earth) with its powerful magnetic field will be positioned almost directely at the midpoint of the alignment. To ice the March 10 cake, the Moon will just a few hours past its zenith (full), another factor which many scientists believe accentuates the occurrence of earthquakes.
But even if we survive the March 10 test of the Jupiter Effect without fanfare, don't breathe a sigh of relief. The next two years hold a host of other propitious planetary positionings, particularly if one planet is removed from the picture (see table). On May 25, for example, all planets except Venus will be grouped within a 64-degree sector, including five approximate planetary conjunctions. The same day in 1983 will find the planets almost as tightly grouped, but with six approximate alignments. Or perhaps April 25 of ominous 1984 will prove unusual, when all of the planets except Mars will cluster within just 60 degrees, with five of them forming a grand conjunction in the constellation of Scorpio.
I personally am looking ahead at the Capricorn SuperConjunction of January 11 1994 as a wide open "window of vulerability" for Earth changes, eventhough it occurs slightly after the 1991-2 sunspot peak. But it is the May 3rd of 2000 Grand Alignment with Jupiter at the Center of the Taurean cluster with hard aspects to Uranus and Neptune which triggers the feeling in my gut of the Big One. I suggest humanity come together in Spirit on this day as a global family to raise the collective energy to channel the surge of cosmic juice into positive transformation.
Then again, these periods of alignments may just pass us by without rocking our Earth-boat any more than usual.
THE FAT HITS THE FIRE
Such a bold and dramatic forecast_could not help but irritate exposed nerves among many spheres of interest. The Jupiter Effect has found many adversaries armed with a powerful arsenal of criticism. The majority of scientists feel in fact, that the theory stands in defiance of science.
One of the basic criticisms questions the ability of the planets, no matter how accurately aligned, to exert enough gravitational force to significantly raise solar tides or otherwise accentuate solar activ¡ity. Dr. Edward K.L. Upton of Griffith Park Observatory claims that the maximum tidal influence of the Sun is 20000 times weaker than the corresponding lunar tides on the Earth, and amounts to only 1 millimeter in height. Furthermore, he points out that "the planets beyond Saturn cannot increase the tides by as much as one percent under any conditions." Noted Belgian astronomer Jean Meeus adds that "when it is even suggested that Pluto may contribute to the triggering of sunspots, we may wonder whether the two authors are competent or serious."
But Gribbin and Plagemann insist that the links between planetary alignments and solar activity are both solid and significant. Citing a study by Dr. K.D. Wood of the University of Colorado, they claim that between 1600 and 1972, the dates of (solar) tidal height and sunspot maximum rarely differed from each other by more than a few months. But they also contend that while the planetary effects on solar tides are beyond question, they are likely to be less significant than other forces that the planetary resonances exert on the oblate spinning Sun. These magnetic and hydrodynamic forces "affect both the external tidal and the inertial forces within the Sun," and are not fully understood by science. They claim that "as the planets, especially the giants, move around the Sun, they swing it backward and forwards and around, like circling ice skaters holding hands with one another."
Supporting scientists have interpreted these planetary influences, which theoretically enhance sunspots, in terms of electromagnetism rather than gravity. Sunspots are large centers of intense magnetic force that vary in magnitude from the size of the Earth to that of Jupiter; with hundreds spreading across the face of the Sun at a given time. These scientists speculate that when the planets align on the same side of the Sun, their powerful magnetic fields (particularly Jupiter's) interact with the magnetic fields of the sunspots, and cause them to "grow." However, as astronomy profressor Frank Marshak of Santa Barbara City College points out, "both gravitational and electromagnetic forces drop off as the square of the distance." Thus, the vast reaches of space should diminish these forces into insignificance.
Another criticism often leveled at the Jupiter Effect has to do with whether the planetary alignments are really all so "grand." The cover of the book depicts the alignment to resemble pearls on a string, which is indeed a gross misrepresentation of the actual configuration. Astronomer Jean Meeus, writing for the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, notes that "the closest all nine planets will ever assesmble during this period is within a heliocentric sector of 95 degrees." Though this does represent a rather close clustering of the planets, Dr. Meeus asks, "is this an alignment?"
Additional objections have centered in the discrepancy between the dates of the sunspot maximum and of the planetary alignments. The peak of the last sunspot cycle is generally believed to have been in 1980, with the number of sunspots per day averaging around 160 (incidentally, 1980 did experience twice as many "significant" earth¡quakes as 1979, as well as the fury of Mt. St. Helens). But in his Omni article, Gribbin claimed that the entire basis of the theory might be in jeopardy because the sun seemed to be reaching its peak too soon!
A SOLAR SURPRISE
But on this point the plot suddenly thickens. An examination of sunspot activity for the first five weeks of 1982 (see table) indicates that the Sun has been in a veritable frenzy. According to the Solar Forecast Center in Colorado, the average number of sunspots for this period is more than 180, with certain days recording 400 observable sunspots! This raises some interesting questions. Since Gribbin questioned his own faith in the Jupiter Effect strictly because he thought the Sun's activity might be declining, wouldn't it now be renewed with the Sun's current vigor, precisely at the time of his original forecast? Hopefully the good doctor will provide some clarification of the matter.
One point on which all scientists agree is that some day in the not-too-distant future the southern section of the San Andreas Fault will slip and cause a disastrous earthquake. The S.A. Fault marks the margin of the Pacific and North American tectonic plates which are slowly but surely separating. The land mass from Baja California to San Francisco is accumulating increasing strain as the underlying plates move North and West by two to three inches a year, while the surface crust remains stationary. This stress has been building up since the fault was relieved by the last major earthquake 125 years ago at Fort Tejon. Scientists concur that the fault is now long overdue for a tremendous slip of about 30 feet, capable of producing an initial eanhquake greater than magni¡tude 8 on the Richter Scale, or about the same intensity as the Great 1906 SanFrancisco earthquake whose initial jolt destroyed over 28,000 buildings.
HEROES OR HOAXERS?
Dr. Upton claims that the Jupiter Effect is so riddled with flaws and errors that "it is difficult to resist the suspicion that they (Gribbin and Plagemann) do know better, and that the Jupiter Effect is a gigantic deception." He complains that "in the Jupiter Effect we find an amazingly uncritical acceptance of whatever supports the theory and a total obliviousness to any data that would underimine it." Upton is simply puzzled how two bona fide members of the scientific establishment could exercise such a pseudoscientific treatment of evidence. He suggests that the answer may be found in the book's continual focus on California, where "one finds a fear of earthquakes combined with a proven market for sensational books."
Yet in the same January, 1982 issue of the Griffith Observer, in which Upton called the theory a hoax, Gribbin wrote, "it is too early to be complacent, and solar activity needs to be watched for another year or so after maximum before the Jupiter Effect link can be forgotten (this time around)." This award winning scientist and author of several books sticks by his guns, still toying with his "trigger" theory for doomesday in 1982!
If Californians do suffer a monster earthquake this year Drs. Gribbin and Plagemann will probably be celebrated as prophets. If not, the Jupiter Effect will likely fade away with all the other flaky theories certain Southern Californians seem so susceptible to. But even if March 10 goes by without a wiggle or a wobble, we have the future years to watch, and some clues to piece together. I, for one, will be following the Sun and its activities for messages as to when the thin skin of this planet's surface will wrinkle again.