Why Australia Will Become a Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7:7)

Is there a change Australia’s nuclear weapons position under Turnbull?

Prof. Murray Hunter

Since the early 1970s, Australian Governments have been strongly supportive of nuclear non-proliferation under the definitions of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), signed by the McMahon Government in 1970 and ratified by the incoming Labor Whitlam Government in 1973.

Australia’s anti-nuclear position was even strengthened under Liberal-Coalition Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, as the “green/anti-nuclear” movement was quickly growing in Australia at the time. With the exception of Prime Minister John Howard, who saw a changing Asia-Pacific nuclear balance, subsequent prime ministers Hawke, Keating, Rudd, and Gillard also strongly followed the non-proliferation line.

Paradoxically, every prime minister supported to various degrees, the development of uranium mining and export as an economic driver. The Fraser and later Rudd Governments argued that uranium exports should be used as a means to strengthen non-proliferation by demanding safeguards from customers.

Uranium exports have been controversial, with strong domestic protests over the years, governments trampling over indigenous wills, and deep party rifts within the Labor movement. Yet on the issue on non-proliferation, Australia had always been at the forefront in international forums.

Prior to the 1970s, Australia took a different view towards nuclear non-proliferation. In 1944, Australia supplied uranium ore to the Manhattan Project. Australian physicist Mark Oliphant played a major role in pushing the atomic bomb program in both Britain and the US before the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941.

However after World War II, the US Government reneged on its agreement to share nuclear technology with its allies. Then Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies, granted Australia’s assistance to Britain in its quest for autonomous nuclear weapons, giving technical assistance and allowing nuclear tests in the Mont Bello Islands, Emu Field and Maralinga, on Australian soil between 1952 and 1963. Australia also participated in the development of the Blue Streak and bloodhound missiles, which were potential nuclear weapon delivery systems with Britain during this era.

The significance of Australian participation, which didn’t go unnoticed by Australian bureaucrats and politicians at the time, was that under section IX.3 of the proposed NPT, Australia would be able to claim nuclear status as it had participated in the production and detonation of nuclear weapons prior to 1st January 1967. Historical reports indicate that the Australian Government’s main motivation at the time, (including US pressure), was to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the local hemisphere, rather than seeking the abolishment of nuclear weapons.

Bureaucratic support from within the Australian defence and security establishment for a nuclear hedging position was strong at the. Wikileaks publication of diplomatic cables between Australia and the US on Iran’s bid to develop nuclear weapons indicated this. Notable Australian diplomat and former Director-General of the Office of National Assessments, Peter Varghese was reported as saying in his briefings to the United States that Australia didn’t see Iran as a ‘rogue state’ in its development of nuclear weapons as “Tehran’s nuclear program (was) within the paradigm of the laws of difference, noting that Iran’s ability to produce a nuclear weapon may be enough to meet it’s security objectives”.

Attempts during the 1950s and 1960s were made by a number of defence personnel, high placed public servants, academics, and right wing elements of the Liberal-Country Party to acquire nuclear weapons. Initially purchasing them from either Britain or the United States was advocated. Later developing an independent nuclear deterrent was favored.

Most of the active proponents for nuclear weapons were defence related personal. They developed a number of plans to acquire nuclear weapons from the British, or have the United States deploy them on Australian soil. Sir Philip Baxter, who was head of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission (AAEC) at the time, operated a clandestine research program to isolate the isotope U-235 from uranium, the quality needed in the production of nuclear weapons.

Some academics like Professor A. L. Burns of the Australian National University also advocated an Australian nuclear option which was aired by the Australian media at the time, especially in relation to the Chinese testing a nuclear bomb and the belief that Indonesia was also developing nuclear weapons. Pressure groups like the Democratic Labor Party and Returned Soldiers League which were both influential during the 1960s also strongly advocated an Australian nuclear weapon option.

The reluctance of the Australian Government to go ahead with the development of its own nuclear weapons all changed after Prime Minister Menzies retirement, when John Gorton unexpectedly became prime minister after the disappearance of Prime Minister Harold Holt in 1967. John Gorton, an ex-RAAF pilot strongly believed that Australia should have its own independent nuclear deterrent with the Chinese in possession of nuclear weapons in the region. Plans went underway to develop a nuclear facility at Jervis Bay on the South Coast of New South Wales that would house both a nuclear reactor, which could produce weapons grade plutonium, and bomb manufacturing facilities.

Gorton tried to develop an Australian nuclear weapon capability before the NPT was signed. However in March 1971, he was disposed by William McMahon, who cancelled all nuclear weapon development plans. It will always remain a matter of conjecture how much influence the US had in his decision.

Moving back to the present day, two recent reactions to recent events by the Turnbull Government could hint of a change in thinking about Australia’s strong non-proliferation position.

Firstly, Australia’s tradition of supporting non-proliferation in international forums has been broken. Australia failed to support the recent United Nations resolution to outlaw nuclear weapons on the floor of the General Assembly last month to the surprise and astonishment of many interested in this issue. Secondly, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull failed to give Melbourne based International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) director Beatrice Fihn a congratulatory call after been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. This seems significant in what can be considered Austria’s first Nobel Peace Prize.

In addition Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s rhetoric about nuclear weapons soon about to spread through the region indicates a change in Canberra’s world view.

This is not yet a policy shift, but perhaps recognition that nuclear weapons for Australia may need to be an option. However, even if nuclear weapons were to be an option, the road ahead for any government would be rocky, if not almost fatal without a need the public would accept.

The regional environment has changed dramatically over the last few years. China is rising rapidly economically and will become the world’s largest economy very soon. China’s military capacity is rising in accordance with her aspirations, and is asserting itself in the South China Sea, a region it has historically seen as its sphere of influence. Many pundits would claim that these actions should be expected with China’s re-emergence. However with this expansion of Chinese forces, the balance of power between China vis a vis the US is rapidly shifting.

This is by no means a direct threat to the security of Australia. It’s a new equilibrium that the region should be able to get comfortable with. Many are. However China’s rise in military force is prompting countries like India to upgrade its nuclear arsenal to much more powerful thermonuclear weapons.

The unstable part of the equation is North Korea’s development of thermonuclear weapons and delivery systems which may prompt nuclear latent states like Japan and South Korea change their status. This would make the Asia-Pacific on a par with Europe in regards to the nuclear of nuclear players.

Another important issue of the strategic equation is Australia’s relative decline in military capacity against other countries within the region. Australia’s ability to project itself militarily is almost non-existent now. Australia’s prestige as a ‘coldwar’ middle power is a long gone myth in the region today. Here, it is more Australian prestige rather than security that is of threat here.

The US extended nuclear deterrent (END) is another myth Canberra must contend with. Unlike Canada which is part of Continental North America and covered by the US nuclear umbrella, Australia is an isolated country in another part of the world. The US sound surveillance system (SOSUS) which is a nuclear submarine early warning system is not deployed around Australia’s continual shelf. In addition, Australia should learn the lesson of US involvement in the Falklands War between Britain and Argentina, where the US was primarily neutral. Australia cannot depend on direct US military assistance in any future potential regional military conflict.

It should also be said here, that Japan and South Korea pay enormous amounts of money for US protection. Australia has been expecting to get it virtually free for too long.

Australia’s capability to develop nuclear weapons is better than most. The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization (ANSTO) at Lucas Heights, replacing the AAEC in 1987 is an internationally renowned centre of nuclear research. Australia has also developed some advanced indigenous uranium refining technology, the SILEX process using lasers, which is much more economical and cheaper than the traditional centrifuge technology. Australia has large reserves of uranium and a stockpile of semi-refined uranium at Lucas heights. Australia also has a certain degree of bomb making technology that it gained from participation with Britain in the nuclear tests during the 1950s and its own endeavours back in the 1970s. Australia has the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II fighter, Boeing F/A-18a & B Hornet, and the F/A 18F Super Hornet as capable medium range delivery systems. Australia also has a range of nuclear capable cruise missiles which can be launched from aircraft, ships, and submarines.

However, this doesn’t mean developing a nuclear arsenal would be an easy project for any future government. The project would be a major one requiring special budgeting, which would mean curtailing other budget expenditure. This could be very difficult in today’s economic environment.

In addition, public opinion would most likely be against the idea, unless a major threat was collectively perceived against the nation. North Korean threats against Australia were not enough. The establishment of Japanese and South Korean nuclear arsenals would not be enough. Maybe an event closer to home such as Indonesia developing nuclear weapons would change public opinion. Maybe that might not even be enough. It may take something drastic like a nuclear Indonesia and some sort of Iranian like revolution taking place before public opinion would shift towards favoring a nuclear deterrent for Australia.

This is an unlikely scenario in the short term, but not so remote in the medium to long term. Acting after the event however would just be too late.

In the absence of some form of threat to Australia’s security, public debate would probably be one of the most heated and passionate within Australian society. This would be reflected in the finely balanced Australian Parliament. This debate would have the potential to bring down the Government.

In the absence of bi-partisanship between the major parties on the issue, a Labor Government on current policy would firmly squash any potential nuclear program. It may not even need a change of government, a change of leader within the Liberal Party maybe enough to force the cancellation of any nuclear program.

The nuclear weapon debate is an issue politicians can use to gain power, which would prevent Australia developing nuclear weapons. That’s the dynamics of a democratic system. If France or Britain had to develop nuclear weapons from scratch today, it would almost be impossible through their democratic processes.

Even if Australia decided to go ahead with a nuclear program, tacit approval would be needed from the United States. The US has for years been hedging on this. However with the Trump view of the world (a view that will almost certainly for economic reasons outlive Trump), the US may support allies in the Asia-Pacific taking more responsibility for their own defence. The proposal by Australia to develop its own nuclear arsenal may bring big offers of concessions from the US, where a future administration may offer alternatives.

An indigenous Australian nuclear arsenal would allow Australia to be more independent in foreign policy, something that is needed to handle the changing China-US balance in the region. It would most probably bring the respect of China and free Australia from the need to unquestionably follow the US line. Iraq after all was a disaster that Australia could have avoided. Both Australian bureacrats and government see this.

France is a precedent in Europe which follows an independent foreign policy, and Israel is a precedent in the MENA, where it could be argued that the country has been able to survive in a hostile region due to the deterrents it has in place.

The writer is not arguing that the Turnbull Government has made a complete turn towards a nuclear hedging policy. The writer is arguing that the Turnbull Government understands the possibility of an independent nuclear arsenal may be an option in the near to medium future. It could be preparing the way. It’s the responsibility of defence and the public service to prepare these positions and the government of the day to consider them.

Watch this space and expect to see the concept of an Australian nuclear deterrent discussed more in the media in the near future, particularly when major events favour such a response.

An abridged version was first published in the Asia Sentinel

The Nuclear Risk in Asia (Revelation 8)


It is now a truism among foreign and defence policy practitioners that the post-Cold War nuclear build-up in the Indo-Pacific region constitutes the dawn of the “second nuclear age”, argues the Atlantic Council’s report, Asia in the “Second Nuclear Age”.

From the 1990s onward, China’s decision to stir out of its strategic languor and modernize its nuclear arsenal, along with the resolve of India and Pakistan to deploy operational nuclear forces, and, more recently, North Korea’s sprint to develop reliable long-range nuclear capabilities that can credibly threaten the continental United States, has led many to aver that the second nuclear age will rival the worst aspects of the first.

During the first nuclear age, baroque nuclear arms build-ups, technical one-upmanship, forward deployed nuclear forces, and trigger-alert operational postures characterized the competition between the superpowers and their regional allies. The nuclear rivals embraced nuclear war-fighting doctrines, which internalized the notion that nuclear weapons were usable instruments in the pursuit of political ends, and that nuclear wars were winnable.

Two rivalries

There is a sense of déjà vu among nuclear pessimists that nuclear developments in China, India, and Pakistan could produce similar outcomes. When North Korea’s nuclear advances are factored in, the prognoses become even direr. More specifically, the second nuclear age consists of two separate systems of nuclear rivalry, with potentially dangerous spillover effects.

The first rivalry is centred on India, Pakistan, and China, with a geographic footprint that overlays the larger Indo-Pacific region. The second rivalry encompasses the Northeast Pacific, overlaying the Korean peninsula, Japan, and the United States. North Korean developments, and a potential US overreaction to them, threaten China’s historic nuclear minimalism and its own interests as an emerging global power.

Similarly, US suggestions of global retreat, and the retraction of extended deterrence guarantees to its allies in Northeast Asia, could push those allies to acquire independent nuclear arsenals and intensify the second nuclear age.

Splendid first-strike

Until very recently, the threat of a nuclear war was thought most likely in South Asia, where India and Pakistan are involved in a festering low-intensity conflict (LIC) fostered by deep conflicts about identity and territory. Specific dangers include Pakistan’s threats to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in a conventional war with India. Likewise, India’s investments in ballistic-missile defences (BMD) and multiple-re-entry vehicle (MRV) technology could, in theory, afford future decision-makers in New Delhi the means to execute splendid first-strike (a counterforce attack intended to disable the opponent’s nuclear capacity before it is used) options against Pakistan.

Prognoses of the nuclear rivalry between India and China are generally less threatening. But, when the latter rivalry is considered in the context of ongoing boundary disputes between New Delhi and Beijing, their self-identification as great powers accounting for nearly 50% of global gross domestic product (GDP) by mid-century, their participation in regional balance-of power-systems, and potential operational brushes between sea-based nuclear forces forward deployed in the Indian Ocean, those concerns invariably overshadow any optimism.

Asia’s nuclear future

In the background of the unfolding gloom of the second nuclear age, the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center conducted three workshops in India, Pakistan, and China in the fall of 2016, with the objective of drawing academics, policy practitioners, and analysts in each country to discuss the unfolding nuclear dynamics in the region. All three workshops had a common theme: Assessing Nuclear Futures in Asia.

Under this umbrella theme, workshop participants tackled three specific subjects:

  • The general nature of the strategic competition in Indo-Pacific region;
  • The philosophical approaches shaping nuclear developments in China, India, and Pakistan;
  • The hardware and operational characteristics of their nuclear forces.

The report Asia in the “Second Nuclear Age” presents the findings of the three workshops, in separate sections on China, India, and Pakistan.

What stands out in these findings is that regional participants generally reject the nuclear pessimism in Western capitals. The nuclear “sky is falling” argument, they maintain, is simply not supported by the evidence, at least when evidence is embedded in its proper context.

Key Conclusions

• While the first nuclear age was riven by deep ideological conflicts between two contrarian political systems that viewed the victory of the other as an existential threat, the nuclear rivalry between China, India, and Pakistan is nothing like that.

All three states accept the legitimacy of the international system, to the extent that they share goals of market capitalism, state sovereignty, and multilateral institutionalism. Undoubtedly, the three states have different domestic political systems: authoritarian capitalist (China), liberal democracy (India), and praetorian democracy (Pakistan). Yet, none of these nuclear powers views the domestic political system of another as jeopardizing its own existence.

• At least two among the three nuclear powers – China and India – have vast strategic depth, excellent geographical defences, and strong conventional forces. Neither fears a conventional threat to its existence. Leaderships in both countries have a shared belief that nuclear weapons are political weapons whose sole purpose is to deter nuclear use by others. They also share a common institutional legacy of civilian-dominated nuclear decision-making structures, in which the military is only one partner, and a relatively junior one, among a host of others.

All three factors – the structural, the normative, and the institutional – dampen both countries’ drives toward trigger-ready, destabilizing, operational nuclear postures that lean toward splendid first-strike options.

However, this reassurance does not extend to Pakistan, which – due to the lack of geographic depth and weaker conventional forces against India – has embraced a first-use nuclear doctrine.

Pakistan’s hybrid praetorian system also allows its military near autonomy in nuclear decision-making. This combination of structural and institutional factors has led Pakistan to elect a rapidly expanding nuclear force that, within a decade, could rival the British, French, and Chinese arsenals in size, though not in sophistication.

Evidence also suggests that Pakistan has developed tactical nuclear weapons, although it does not appear to have operationalized tactical nuclear warfare.

• In the nuclear dynamic in the Indo-Pacific region, India and Pakistan are novice developers of nuclear arsenals; the weapons in their inventory are first-generation fission weapons. Likewise, their delivery systems are the first in the cycle of acquisitions. Their hardware acquisitions generate outside concern because of the scope of their ambitions. Both nations plan to deploy a triad capability.

Nonetheless, this ambitious goal and the selection of technologies underline the central lesson of the nuclear revolution, which is force survival (to enable an assured second-strike capability).

China’s goal

• Force survival through secure second-strike capabilities is also China’s goal. It is the only nuclear power among the three that is actually modernizing, i.e., replacing ageing delivery systems with newer and better designs.

Thus far, the evidence suggests that Chinese and Indian explorations of multiple-re-entry vehicle technologies are aimed at reinforcing deterrence through the fielding of more robust second-strike capabilities. This conclusion is also supported by the fact that neither India nor China has, nor is developing, the ancillary intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) systems necessary to execute splendid first-strike attacks.

Another technology of concern is missile defence. India’s goals vis-à-vis missile defence are still unclear, and its technical successes with the programme are even less evident. Chinese goals are similarly unclear, and appear to be exploratory means for defeating adversarial attempts to stymie its deterrent capability.

• On a more positive note, neither India nor Pakistan is conducting nuclear tests to develop or improve designs for nuclear warheads. The same holds for China. However, Pakistan is rapidly accumulating fissile material, which could increase to four hundred and fifty kilograms of plutonium, sufficient for ninety weapons, and more than 2,500 kilograms of highly enriched uranium (HEU), sufficient for one hundred simple fission warheads by 2020.

India’s warheads

India is accumulating approximately 16.6 kilograms of fissile material annually, sufficient for a force of approximately 150-200 warheads, though all fissile material is probably not converted into nuclear warheads.

China, however, is no longer producing fissile material. It is only modestly increasing the size of its arsenal, from 264 to 314 warheads. The size of the Chinese, Indian, and Pakistani arsenals will remain a function of the calculations of damage ratios that each believes essential to achieve deterrence. Yet, if current trends remain stable, the size of their arsenals should remain comparable to the French and British nuclear arsenals. The arsenals will be large, but will by no means approach the gargantuan size of the US or Russian nuclear arsenals.

• Like other regional nuclear powers during the first nuclear age, China, India, and Pakistan might also decide to forego one or more vulnerable legs of their nuclear triad. At present, however, there are no indicators of this happening.

The nuclear rivalry in South Asia remains ominous, because Pakistan wages LIC against India via non-state actors, while the latter has devised limited conventional-war options to punish the Pakistani military on Pakistani soil. India has also recently hinted that it could abandon nuclear no first use (NFU) in favour of splendid first-strike options. Simultaneously, however, India is backing away from its purported limited-conventional-war doctrine against Pakistan, on the premise that the LIC does not represent an existential threat to Indian security, and that there are other sophisticated methods for dealing with Pakistan’s aggressions that don’t involve pressing nuclear buttons.

The decline in India’s appetite for limited conventional war against Pakistan, if institutionalized over time, would represent a game changer and significantly reduce the risk of nuclear war in the region.

• The big difference between the first and second nuclear ages is the domestic stability of the nuclear-weapon powers. For the greater part of the first nuclear age, states that wielded nuclear arsenals were stable and boasted strong governing institutions.

In Asia – while China and India represent this continuity of strong state institutions, as well as checks and balances on the military – Pakistan remains internally unstable, and increasingly unable to rein in praetorianism over national security and nuclear policy.

Asia in the “Second Nuclear Age”, Gaurav Kampani and Bharath Gopalaswamy

New York Quake Overdue (The Sixth Seal) (Revelation 6:12)


New York City Is Overdue For Large Earthquake: Seismologist

New York City could start shaking any minute now.

Won-Young Kim, who runs the seismographic network for the Northeast at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, said the city is well overdue for a big earthquake.

From Metro New York:

The last big quake to hit New York City was a 5.3-magnitude tremor in 1884 that happened at sea in between Brooklyn and Sandy Hook. While no one was killed, buildings were damaged.

Kim said the city is likely to experience a big earthquake every 100 years or so.

“It can happen anytime soon,” Kim said. “We can expect it any minute, we just don’t know when and where.”

New York has never experienced a magnitude 6 or 7 earthquake, which are the most dangerous. But magnitude 5 quakes could topple brick buildings and chimneys.

Seismologist John Armbruster said a magnitude 5 quake that happened now would be more devastating than the one that happened in 1884.

“Today, with so many more buildings and people … we’d see billions in damage,” Armbruster said. “People would probably be killed.”

2018: The Year of the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

15073790937_a2b5f1e61f_bSloshing of Earth’s core may spike major earthquakes

By Paul VoosenOct. 30, 2017 , 1:45 PM

The number of major earthquakes, like the magnitude-7 one that devastated Haiti in 2010, seems to be correlated with minute fluctuations in day length.

SEATTLE—The world doesn’t stop spinning. But every so often, it slows down. For decades, scientists have charted tiny fluctuations in the length of Earth’s day: Gain a millisecond here, lose a millisecond there. Last week at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America here, two geophysicists argued that these minute changes could be enough to influence the timing of major earthquakes—and potentially help forecast them.

During the past 100 years, Earth’s slowdowns have correlated surprisingly well with periods with a global increase in magnitude-7 and larger earthquakes, according to Roger Bilham of the University of Colorado (CU) in Boulder and Rebecca Bendick at the University of Montana in Missoula. Usefully, the spike, which adds two to five more quakes than typical, happens well after the slow-down begins. “The Earth offers us a 5-years heads up on future earthquakes, which is remarkable,” says Bilham, who presented the work.

Most seismologists agree that earthquake prediction is a minefield. And so far, Bilham and Bendick have only fuzzy, hard-to-test ideas about what might cause the pattern they found. But the finding is too provocative to ignore, other researchers say. “The correlation they’ve found is remarkable, and deserves investigation,” says Peter Molnar, a geologist also at CU.

The research started as a search for synchrony in earthquake timing. Individual oscillators, be they fireflies, heart muscles, or metronomes, can end up vibrating in synchrony as a result of some kind of cross-talk—or some common influence. To Bendick, it didn’t seem a far jump to consider the faults that cause earthquakes, with their cyclical buildup of strain and violent discharge, as “really noisy, really crummy oscillators,” she says. She and Bilham dove into the data, using the only complete earthquake catalog for the past 100 years: magnitude-7 and larger earthquakes.

In work published in August in Geophysical Research Letters they reported two patterns: First, major quakes appeared to cluster in time

—although not in space. And second, the number of large earthquakes seemed to peak at 32-year intervals. The earthquakes could be somehow talking to each other, or an external force could be nudging the earth into rupture.

Exploring such global forces, the researchers eventually discovered the match with the length of day. Although weather patterns such as El Nino can drive day length to vary back and forth by a millisecond over a year or more, a periodic, decades-long fluctuation of several milliseconds—in particular, its point of peak slow down about every three decades or so—lined up with the quake trend perfectly. “Of course that seems sort of crazy,” Bendick says. But maybe it isn’t. When day length changes over decades, Earth’s magnetic field also develops a temporary ripple. Researchers think slight changes in the flow of the molten iron of the outer core may be responsible for both effects. Just what happens is uncertain—perhaps a bit of the molten outer core sticks to the mantle above. That might change the flow of the liquid metal, altering the magnetic field, and transfer enough momentum between the mantle and the core to affect day length.

Seismologists aren’t used to thinking about the planet’s core, buried 2900 kilometers beneath the crust where quakes happen. But they should, Bilham said during his talk here. The core is “quite close to us. It’s closer than New York from here,” he said.

At the equator, Earth spins 460 meters per second. Given this high velocity, it’s not absurd to think that a slight mismatch in speed between the solid crust and mantle and the liquid core could translate into a force somehow nudging quakes into synchrony, Molnar says. Of course, he adds, “It might be nonsense.” But the evidence for some kind of link is compelling, says geophysicist Michael Manga of the University of California, Berkeley. “I’ve worked on earthquakes triggered by seasonal variation, melting snow. His correlation is much better than what I’m used to seeing.”

One way or another, says James Dolan, a geologist at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, “we’re going to know in 5 years.” That’s because Earth’s rotation began a periodic slow-down 4-plus years ago. Beginning next year, Earth should expect five more major earthquakes a year than average—between 17 to 20 quakes, compared with the anomalously low four so far this year. If the pattern holds, it will put a new spin on earthquake forecasting.