Off topic: Another full moon quake

Hi, this has little to do with Latin America energy and commodities.

Did the full moon provoke today’s earthquake and tsunami in Japan? Most reputable scientists say that there’s no solid correlation between moon gravity and earthquake frequency.

But I started wondering about this when the Sumatra quake hit on Dec. 26, 2004, a full moon — 63 minutes after the moon was most full.

My curiosity grew in February, with the devastating quake in Chile. When that one happened, the moon was almost full and was within 15 hours of perigee, its closest approach to earth. At 3:30 a.m. local time, the moon was past noon, meaning it had just passed over South America, exerting a very slight but detectable upward pull on the continent. Perhaps just enough to loosen up the fault and let the Nazca plate slip a bit deeper into its magmatic grave.

Of course, 1 second on the google and I see I’m far from the first person to think of this. Syzygy!

“Syzygy” refers to the alignment of three celestial objects. Syzygy of the sun, Earth, and moon occur twice a month, at the full and new moons. At such times, gravitational forces are at a maximum, especially when the bodies are close together, Berkland said.

The Earth and moon are closest together—at perigee—once a month. The Earth and sun are closest together—at perihelion—once a year. Perihelion currently occurs in early January. Maximum gravitation force occurs when a syzygy and perigee occur on the same day as perihelion.

There are big buts in all of this. The Sumatra quake was, according to my handy perigee-apogee calculator a day before lunar apogee — the moon’s furthest distance from the earth. That said, it was just 15 hours before the moon was full.

The anecdotal evidence is strong. Going down the list of the strongest quakes on record, let’s see which ones were within 48 hours of a full or new moon.

Chile 1960 – nothing.
Alaska 1964 – full moon.
Sumatra 2004 – full moon.
Kamchatka 1952 – nyet.
Chile 2010 – full moon.
Ecuador 1906 – nada.
Alaska 1965 – close but no salmon.
Sumatra 2005 – 3 days after full. I say no.
Tibet 1950 – 46 hours after new moon.
Alaska 1957 – nowhere near.
Sumatra 2007 – 23 hours after new moon.
Indonesia 1938 – 29.5 hours after new moon.
Kamchatka 1923 – nyet.
Chile-Argentina 1922 – no.
Kuril Islands 1963 – no.

So, 6 of the top 15 quakes, or 40%, happened within 48 hours of either new moon or full moon. Those 96 hours make up just 27% of the lunar cycle. I am not running statistical tests on this because I don’t recall how to decide if this is a significant finding. But just on this list, it anecdotally looks good for the syzygysts, along with giving us a chance to learn an excellent Scrabble word.

Anyway, best of luck to those affected by today’s rumble.


2 thoughts on “Off topic: Another full moon quake

  1. NicaCat

    A little late here, but probably TOTALLY OT: I remember when these creatures were advertising for Quizno’s. Very strange.

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