Hi to all our readers,
I have just heard on the Japanese grapevine that rumours are being circulated via internet and online social communication devices, networks of an imminent Supermoon caused Tonankai quake – and these rumours and nuclear crisis circumstances could be coincide together to create a possible panic in the Kanto population beginning possibly from – well, right now… I am not sure if the reports from the foreign press take a bit of time to get translated and the trickle effect reaches the Japanese with a time-lag, but it appears to be rife right now. Asahi news on 14 March had also published a disturbing Quake panel wants another look at forecasts for eastern Japan.
There are reportedly many devout astrology followers in Japan. The article links and excerpts in English posted below give you an idea of what is being circulated (don’t ask me what’s lost in translation or added…). I am told that there may be a run on food and essentials again … partly, people are skittish because of reports of rising temperatures in the containment vessels of certain of the Fukushima reactors, but more on account of alleged predictions of an 87% likelihood of the Tonankai earthquake that are being circulated (see pps 43-50 of “Earthquake prediction: an international review” by David W. Simpson, Paul G. Richards, American Geophysical Union).
I truly hate to spread rumours (which I suppose I am by repeating the Japanese rumour – but wouldn’t you rather know???). But as you know, we’ve considered that the local psyche and psychological fear factor (and possible resulting panic) is as disrupting to our lives here, perhaps even more so than the disaster crisis events.
By the way, this issue was enough to inspire an article by National Geographic magazine in 2005 in which a US California-based geologist and a US Geological Survey geophysist faced off , taking opposing sides.
More article links and some excerpts are provided below.
No, the “supermoon” didn’t cause the Japanese earthquake | Bad Science Discover magazine’s Blog, Mar 11, 2011
“So we know Earth’s gravity triggers moonquakes. I don’t think any scientist disputes that,” Berkland said. “When I learned that, I went to my former [U.S. Geological Survey] colleagues in Menlo Park [California] and pointed out this really exists, so what’s so difficult about turning it around?”
According to Berkland, the U.S. Geological Survey said such a theory is ridiculous—the Earth is 82 times more massive than the moon. Though the Earth can trigger quakes on the moon, they said, the moon is too small to trigger any earthquakes.
But the moon is mostly solid and lacks a liquid core like the Earth, Berkland said. The Earth “is an active, living planet, and so it is not at all surprising that minor gravitational stresses can trigger earthquakes,” he said.
Using syzygy and other factors—such as the number of cats and dogs listed in the lost and found in newspaper classified advertisements—Berkland said he accurately predicted several earthquakes, including the October 17, 1989 earthquake in San Francisco, California. Berkland said the number of cats and dogs reported missing goes up prior to an earthquake. The numbers went up significantly prior to the 1989 San Francisco quake, he said.
At least two major quakes may suppoort Berkland’s theory. The December 26, 2004, magnitude 9.1 in Sumatra, Indonesia, occurred on the day of a full moon. Likewise, the March 27, 1964, magnitude 9.2 earthquake in Alaska occurred on the day of maximum high tide.
According to Berkland, such correlations are more than coincidences. They demonstrate a true connection between the moon and earthquake activity, he said.
But Bellini, the U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist, said, “There is still no known observation of an effect related to the moon and seismicity.”
In a follow-up email to National Geographic News, Bellini questioned the scientific validity of Berkland’s predictions. He said they appear to be “self-selected statistical analysis of historical seismicity rates and are so vague in time and location that they are certain to be correct.”
The tragic earthquake and tsunami in Japan Friday (March 11) set the Internet abuzz with the idea that the moon, which will be at its fullest of the year on March 19, played a role in the devastating natural disaster.
The seed for the idea was planted by an astrologer, who contended that this large full moon – a so-called “supermoon”– would touch off natural disasters like the Japan earthquake since the moon would make its closest approach to Earth in 18 years. Scientists, however, dismissed the notion entirely and now a top NASA scientist is weighing in.
Super Full MoonNASA: ” A perigee full Moon brings with it extra-high “perigean tides,” but this is nothing to worry about, according to NOAA. In most places, lunar gravity at perigee pulls tide waters only a few centimeters (an inch or so) higher than usual. Local geography can amplify the effect to about 15 centimeters (six inches)–not exactly a great flood.
Indeed, contrary to some reports circulating the Internet, perigee Moons do not trigger natural disasters. The “super moon” of March 1983, for instance, passed without incident. And an almost-super Moon in Dec. 2008 also proved harmless
and also Nutters Claim Huge Full Moon Could Cause Earthquakes, Tidal Waves LA Weekly 18 Mar 2011 …]
As the nutters’ theory goes however…
Article excerpt follows on below:
“A plausible mechanism exists. Lunar tidal forces causing twice daily tides also stress Earth’s rocky interior. Tidal forces are greater during the full and new Moon phases because tidal forces from the Sun add to the tidal forces from the Moon. Tidal forces are also greater during perigee because the Moon is closer to Earth. Are these effects significant?
What Are Tidal Forces?
Tidal forces are caused by the difference in gravitational force. The portion of Earth closest to the Moon experiences the strongest gravitational pull from the Moon. The Moon’s gravity is weakest on the portion of Earth farthest from the Moon. This difference in gravitational force, the tidal force, causes two tidal bulges. The portions of Earth closest to and most distant from the Moon bulge, causing two high and low tides a day.
Mathematical Calculation of Tidal Forces
Gravitational forces are directly proportional to the mass and inversely proportional to the distance squared. While still directly proportional to the mass, tidal forces are inversely proportional to the cube (not square) of the distance. To those versed in calculus, this inverse cube effect comes from the derivative of the gravitational force law. (For details see Zeilik and Gregory, Introductory Astronomy & Astrophysics, Saunders, 1998.) These proportionalities allow calculating ratios of tidal forces.
The ratio of the Sun’s to the Moon’s tidal force on Earth is the ratio of the Sun’s mass divided by its distance cubed to the Moon’s mass divided by its distance cubed. Using the relevant distances and masses, I calculate that the tidal force from the Sun is about 45% of the tidal force from the Moon.
During the full and new Moon phases, the Earth, Sun, and Moon form a line. Hence the Sun’s tidal forces add to the Moon’s tidal forces. Tides are more extreme during full and new Moon phases. During the first and third quarter lunar phases, however, the Sun and Moon are 90 degrees apart as seen from Earth. Hence the Sun’s tidal forces subtract from the Moons tidal forces. Therefore tidal forces on Earth vary significantly as the Moon cycles through its phases.
How much does the very close perigee affect the tidal force? Tables posted by the South African Astronomical Observatory list the Moon’s distance as 367,577 kilometers on March 19, 2011. The average distance to the Moon during the 13 perigees listed for 2011 is about 362,000 kilometers. Cubing the ratio of these distances shows that the Moon’s tidal force during the March 19 perigee would be only about 5% greater than on the average perigee if it were during a full Moon.
These numbers suggest the tidal effect of the March 19, 2011 perigee is too small to suddenly unleash rampant tectonic destruction.
Moon During Recent Earthquakes
Looking at the Moon’s distance and phase during recent strong earthquakes listed by the USGS can further test the claims that a perigee during full Moon causes major earthquakes.
Most recently, Japan suffered a devastating 9.0 magnitude earthquake on March 11, 2011. That sounds suspiciously close to the March 19 perigee and full Moon, but remember that the Moon’s complete cycle only takes a month. The Moon was at apogee, its farthest distance from Earth, on March 6, so on March 11 the Moon was slightly closer to apogee than to perigee. On March 11, the Moon was 1 day before first quarter, so the Sun’s tidal force subtracted from the Moon’s tidal force to decrease the total tidal effect. In addition, March 11 is before the March 19 supermoon; in cause-effect relationships the cause customarily precedes the effect.
Chile’s 8.8 magnitude earthquake occurred on February 27, 2010. The Moon was at perigee, but not the closest perigee, and was within a day of being full.
Haiti’s devastating earthquake occurred on January 12, 2010. This date initially sounds close to the last supermoon on January 30, 2010, when the Moon was only 15 kilometers farther from Earth than on March 19, 2011. Again the Moon’s cycle only takes a month, so Haiti’s earthquake was only 5 days before lunar apogee on January 17, 2010 and 2 days before the new Moon on January 14. The supermoon did not cause Haiti’s earthquake.
On September 29, 2009 there was an 8.1 magnitude earthquake in the Samoan Islands. The Moon was at apogee and in the gibbous phase between first quarter and full. The supermoon effect clearly did not cause this strong earthquake.
These data show no correlation between the Moon’s phase or distance and the occurrence of devastating earthquakes. Caveat: A sample of only four earthquakes is to small to be statistically valid. Hence these earthquake data are anecdotal evidence not a statistically valid argument. A valid statistical study is beyond the scope of this article.
How Tidal Forces Do Contribute to Earthquakes
Heat deep in Earth’s interior drives convection currents in the mantle. Continental plates floating on the mantle drift to cause earthquake, volcanic, and other tectonic activity. Tidal forces acting on Earth’s interior generate friction and therefore some, not all, of the heat energy driving tectonic activity. Showing this mechanism works, tidal forces heat Jupiter’s moon, Io, and provide the energy to make Io the most volcanically active world in the solar system. This tidal heating is however a very long term effect, so the number of earthquakes does not change in response to rapid changes in tidal forces.
One nice thing about physics is that anyone with the necessary knowledge can test outlandish claims. Knowing physics allows one to pull the small grains of truth from big bunches of baloney.”
(Related link: The Supermoon Debate Grows in Wake of Japan Tsunami Mar 12, 2011 )