The full moon – very full!

Brought forward as a result of the Japanese earthquake.

I had this item scheduled for publication on Friday 18th March, the day before this month’s full moon.  But recent events in Japan made me decide to bring it forward to today for reasons that will be clear when this Post is read further.

The world is set to experience the biggest full moon for almost two decades when the satellite reaches its closest point to Earth next weekend.

On 19 March, the full moon will appear unusually large in the night sky as it reaches a point in its cycle known as ‘lunar perigee’.

Stargazers will be treated to a spectacular view when the moon approaches Earth at a distance of 221,567 miles (356,577 km) in its elliptical orbit – the closest it will have passed to our planet since 1992.

The full moon could appear up to 14% bigger and 30% brighter in the sky, especially when it rises on the eastern horizon at sunset or is provided with the right atmospheric conditions.

Moon apogee and perigee

This phenomenon has reportedly heightened concerns about ‘supermoons’ being linked to extreme weather events – such as earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis. The last time the moon passed close to the Earth was on 10 January 2005, around the time of the Indonesian earthquake that measured 9.0 on the Richter scale.

Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was also associated with an unusually large full moon.

Previous supermoons occurred in 1955, 1974 and 1992 – each of these years experienced extreme weather events, killing thousands of people.

However, an expert speaking to Yahoo! News today believes that a larger moon causing weather chaos is a popular misconception.

Dr Tim O’Brien, a researcher at the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics at the University of Manchester, said: “The dangers are really overplayed. You do get a bit higher than average tides than usual along coastlines as a result of the moon’s gravitational pull, but nothing so significant that will cause a serious climatic disaster or anything for people to worry about.”

But according to Dr Victor Gostin, a Planetary and Environmental Geoscientist at Adelaide University, there may be a link between large-scale earthquakes in places around the equator and new and full moon situations.

He said: “This is because the Earth-tides (analogous to ocean tides) may be the final trigger that sets off the earthquake.”

UPDATE: This was noted in Naked Capitalism on Saturday.

Volcanoes have reportedly erupted in JapanIndonesia, and Kamchatka Russia today, presumably due to the massive Japanese earthquake. There have been no reports of damage from the eruptions.

3 thoughts on “The full moon – very full!

  1. Thanks for telling us. I was unaware… I do also believe that tides can induce quakes, although there were scientific papers saying that it was not so. But scientific papers had said before that huge quakes did not induce quakes far away… and that was proven recently to not be true.
    PA

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    1. CNN reports Earthquake Moves Japan Eight Feet, Shifting Earth’s Axis
      The powerful earthquake that unleashed a devastating tsunami Friday appears to have moved the main island of Japan by 8 feet (2.4 meters) and shifted the Earth on its axis.

      “At this point, we know that one GPS station moved (8 feet), and we have seen a map from GSI (Geospatial Information Authority) in Japan showing the pattern of shift over a large area is consistent with about that much shift of the land mass,” said Kenneth Hudnut, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

      Reports from the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology in Italy estimated the 8.9-magnitude quake shifted the planet on its axis by nearly 4 inches (10 centimeters).

      The Japanese quake comes just weeks after a 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck Christchurch on February 22, toppling historic buildings and killing more than 150 people. The timeframe of the two quakes have raised questions whether the two incidents are related, but experts say the distance between the two incidents makes that unlikely.

      “I would think the connection is very slim,” said Prof. Stephan Grilli, ocean engineering professor at the University of Rhode Island.

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