Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity
The new Washington
Post Weather website
Jump to CWG's
Latest Full Forecast
Outside now? Radar, temps
and more: Weather Wall
Follow us on Twitter (@capitalweather) and become a fan on Facebook
Posted at 1:45 PM ET, 03/11/2011

The "SuperMoon" and the Japan earthquake

By Jason Samenow

On March 19, the moon's orbit will make its closest approach to Earth in 18 years while at the same time be in full phase. Such a coincidence has been named a "SuperMoon" by astrologer Richard Nolle. As entertainingly chronicled by John Metcalfe over at TBD, Nolle predicts all kinds of weather and natural hazard mayhem, including strong earthquakes, around the time of the Supermoon.

So the questions that emerge are: 1) Is there any legitimate science linking the Supermoon and extreme natural hazards? and, 2) Did the upcoming Supermoon play a role in this morning's horrific earthquake in Japan, the fifth most powerful on record?

AccuWeather's Astronomy blogger Mark Paquette, in a post on March 1, stopped short of rejecting the idea Supermoons and natural hazards are linked, writing:

There were SuperMoons in 1955, 1974, 1992 and 2005. These years had their share of extreme weather and other natural events. Is the Super Moon and these natural occurences a coincidence? Some would say yes; some would say no. I'm not here to pick sides and say I'm a believer or non-believer in subjects like this...

He noted that one of his readers pointed out that the last extreme supermoon occurred on January 10, 2005, right around the time of the 9.0 Indonesia earthquake.

Metcalfe's TBD piece documents all sorts of coinciding extreme weather events that have occurred around past Supermoons.

Hurricane Katrina made land on the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29, 2005, which was 10 days after the SuperMoon for that month. The 1938 New England hurricane happened on Sept. 21, three weeks after a SuperMoon. Australia's Hunter River experienced mass flooding and property destruction in February 1955, two whole months before and after bookending SuperMoons

Surely appreciating that correlation does not equal causation and the pitfalls of developing theories on anecdotal evidence, Metcalfe then mocks the notion of making too much of these coincidences, sarcastically commenting: "I could just pick harmless events that happened around SuperMoons and use them to formulate a theory stating that nobody should ever pay astrologers for readings again."

He also cites a news article from Australia on the impending "Moonageddon" which quotes astronomist Pete Wheeler as follows:

"There will be no earthquakes or volcanoes," Mr Wheeler told, "unless they are to happen anyway".
"(The Earth will experience) just a lower than usual low tide and a higher than usual high tide around the time of the event, but nothing to get excited about."

For the record, I've never encountered any legitimate science that shows any credible causal link between moon proximity and phase and meteorological or geological events.

Nevertheless, here we are just eight days away from the SuperMoon witnessing one of the worst natural calamity's in decades.

AccuWeather's Paquette, whereas he was agnostic in his March 1 blog, writes today "I am starting to believe!"

"I believe that the Earth may have already felt some of the supermoon's effects. It could be a huge coincidence that this earthquake was not influenced by the supermoon. But in my totally unscientific opinion, having no hard evidence to back it up, it doesn't seem like just coincidence to me."

But the Bad Astronomy blog, which aims to debunk scientific misconceptions, completely rejects any link between the SuperMoon and the Japan quake. Author Phil Plait, an astronomer, states emphatically:

I do hope I can help mitigate the panic and worry that can happen due to people blaming this earthquake on the so-called "supermoon" -- a date when the Moon is especially close to the Earth at the same time it's full. So let me be extremely clear:
Despite what a lot of people are saying, there is no way this earthquake was caused by the Moon.
The idea of the Moon affecting us on Earth isn't total nonsense, but it cannot be behind this earthquake, and almost certainly won't have any actual, measurable affect on us on March 19, when the full Moon is at its closest.

The post then walks through very well laid out scientific arguments for why the Supermoon and the Japan earthquake are not related. It also explains why the Supermoon is highly unlikely to cause extreme weather, stating: "[Weather] is caused by an incredibly complex interaction between the Earth's rotation, the heat input from the Sun, the way the oceans and seas absorb and radiate heat, and a million other factors. If the Moon contributes in any way, it is very, very small compared to these other massive factors."

I found the piece extremely convincing and highly recommend reading it. Suffice to say, I'm not on the SuperMoon causing natural chaos bandwagon.

By Jason Samenow  | March 11, 2011; 1:45 PM ET
Categories:  Environment, Latest, Science  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: The tsunami's path and progress to Hawaii, California, Oregon and other U.S. sites
Next: PM Update: Saturday trends milder


This one is indeed a shocker.

All the news and info videos have been placed here:

But looking at the pattern of these things on there... that pattern pre-dates the Super Moon, hence skeptism. However, the actual size of this one supports the idea.

Put me down as a "don't know".


Posted by: xeus333 | March 11, 2011 2:14 PM | Report abuse

USGS has some fascinating mapping related to the earthquake. No Moon mentioned.

Posted by: tbva | March 11, 2011 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Believe what you want. "Experts" at NASA used to ridicule those who insisted that many of the features on Mars were obviously created by moving water. Today those "experts" all say those features were created by moving water.

I always take "expert" opinions with a good dose of salt, both sodium and potassium chlorides.

Many of the great earthquakes and tsunamis in history happened during "supermoons." Just look it up.

Yes, we are only talking about a 7% increase in gravitational energy, that it is 7% of a tremendous force. Who knows how much it takes to trigger movement along a tectonic plate junction that is already on the verge of slipping?

Ignorant people like Bill O'Reilley still don't accept that the moon is responsible for the tides. This country is packed with stupid people denying reality all the time, just because it doesn't fit with their desired worldview.

Posted by: thomasmc1957 | March 11, 2011 2:42 PM | Report abuse

The moon has been shown by science to have a very powerful effect on tides and even our hormonal balances of our own physiology and many effects on the physiology of most life on the planet. It is not a far stretch of the imagination to postulate that it may have the same type of influences on other terrestrial tidal forces. Very plausable and most likely probable.

Posted by: newamericanow | March 11, 2011 3:13 PM | Report abuse

The moon has been shown by science to have a very powerful effect on tides and even our hormonal balances of our own physiology and many effects on the physiology of most life on the planet. It is not a far stretch of the imagination to postulate that it may have the same type of influences on other terrestrial tidal forces. Very plausable and most likely probable.

Posted by: newamericanow | March 11, 2011 3:30 PM | Report abuse

I would be thinking that its time that someone took this a little more seriously than others are, to make a statement that the moon had no cause what so ever to the things that are happening at the moment would be a little off given the correlation and needs more investigation. Australia and New Zealand all in the last couple of months and Japan, something would suggest there is a lot going on at the moment. The moon has a constant effect on our planet and changes even if they are only 7% are going to have an effect on something.
and 7% could be huge - we need smart people working on a definitive not people whom as respected dismissing things. We don't live the 18th Century after all.

Posted by: wayneconyers | March 11, 2011 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Wait - how does it happen every 18 years and happened in 2006?

Posted by: mdem929 | March 11, 2011 3:48 PM | Report abuse

It anyone remembers high school science, the moon does affect the earth, especially ocean tides. While it may be questionable that the earthquake was a direct result of the proximity between the moon and earth, it can't be discounted either. Science provides the answers but we may not have the knowledge to measure it.

Posted by: bhrising | March 11, 2011 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Let's review.
1. volcanic eruptions in Hawaii
2. miillions of fish being pushed into harbor by some rogue wave activity
3. earthquake in japan
4. unseasonal tornadic activity across the US in the last week

Not saying it's related or absolutely attibutable to the moon, but it makes for interesting discussion.

Posted by: christinejohnson1hotmailcom | March 11, 2011 5:33 PM | Report abuse

If a "supermoon" had such huge effects, one would expect to also see fairly large effects whenever we have a perigee line up close to a full moon. For example, last year on Jan 30th, we had a perigee approach only 2 hours off of a full moon, and all of 15 km further from the Earth than this upcoming supermoon: given that perigee to apogee is 40,000 km, we should have seen 99.9% of the effects of a supermoon that day. Did we? No.

You can find other perigee/full moon coincidences here:

(not to mention: we are 8 days away from a supermoon... so there isn't even anything special about the current position of the moon! The Earth can't "anticipate" an upcoming coincidence of nature... that's like blaming a hurricane on the fact that an eclipse 8 days in the future is going to alter solar energy coming into the earth. While there's no evidence that eclipses have anything to do with hurricanes, one could at least imagine some kind of tenuous connection... but 8 days before an eclipse? No way. Ditto with events 8 days before a supermoon.)

Posted by: marcusmarcus | March 11, 2011 6:32 PM | Report abuse

Hmmm, let me think.

Lets deal with the facts!

Moons average distance from Earth
238,857 miles

March 19th 2011's Supermoon distance from Earth
221,567 miles

17,290 miles closer to Earth

0.07% closer to Earth than Average

Gravity maybe weak but it is still unknown how it reacts with the many features of the universe, especially at a quantum level.

This supermoon could affect the liquid magma around the Earths core (pulling and squeezing it) causing pressure that would ultimately need to find a way out through the Earths crust.

This could easily affect any unstable parts of the planet due to pressure. The "Techtonic Plates" being one of those!

This cannot be dismissed by astronomers as they do not necessarily have the all round knowledge of the way the universe works (Quantum Physics) and the way our planet Earth works (Geology).

Gravity maybe weak but it is faster than light as any affect of its force is instantaneous, but it is one of the forces that binds and governs the universe we live in. Therefore we should respect it, especially as we do not know everything about it.

You cannot prove or dis-prove the supermoons affect on the planet, but I myself do not beleieve in coincidences.

My heart goes out to those in Japan!


Posted by: julianmummery | March 11, 2011 6:49 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2012 The Washington Post Company