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Tests and Quakes

August 09, 1992

I read with great interest Riley Geary's article "Nuclear Tests Are Blameless--for Quakes" (Commentary, July 9). Unfortunately, he does not indicate which seismic records he has subjected to statistical analysis or exactly which statistical techniques he has followed.

His conclusions differ significantly from mine. I have conducted a long-term study of earthquakes, their location, size and frequency throughout the world using seismic data from the last 90 years. My study indicates that a significant disruption in the pattern of large magnitude quakes (6.0 and above) coincides with the advent of nuclear bomb testing. This disruptive pattern continues.

One can say that nuclear bomb testing has no effect on the triggering of earthquakes without having to demonstrate any connection. Regrettably, my statistical research leads to the opposite and more frightening conclusion that nuclear bomb testing does have an influence on the occurrence of large earthquakes.

Both hypotheses cannot be correct. Either bomb tests have an effect or they do not. The pattern of large earthquakes has changed since the 1950s. Why? More research is necessary.

I support Riley Geary's desire to stop nuclear bomb testing, especially in view of the recent Chinese test of a one-megaton bomb in May.

At the very least, a halt to nuclear bomb testing will guarantee the arguments remain academic, saving the environment and possibly lives.

GARY T. WHITEFORD, Professor of Geography, University of New Brunswick

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