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The Japan Earthquake Was Not Caused by the “Supermoon”


Not to be disdainful, but it’s surprising that this is even a thing to be debunked: Since March 19th marks the moon’s perigee, or closest point to earth, and since some astrologer [not astronomer] said that scary things would happen during this so called “supermoon,” some folks — with the egging on of major media outlets [see above] — are asking if the 8.9 magnitude earthquake that hit off the coast of Japan today was caused by said supermoon. Their argument would be that when the moon is unusually close to Earth, its gravity affects Earthly happenings more and causes natural disasters.

According to “new age” forecasts, [AccuWeather blogger Mark Paquette] said, the supermoon brings strong earthquakes, storms or unusual climate patterns.

“There were supermoons in 1955, 1974, 1992 and 2005,” he wrote. “These years had their share of extreme weather and other natural events. Is the Super Moon and these natural occurrences 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, but as a scientist I know enough to ask questions and try to find answers.”

But tabling the question of whether the “supermoon” ever really causes much of anything ever, which is open to legitimate scientific debate, here’s the thing about claims that it had any relation to Japan’s high-magnitude quake: Even though the lunar perigee will take place on March 19th, it was at apogee, or its furthest point from Earth, on March 6th, and when the earthquake took place, it was actually further from Earth than usual.

Phil Plait breaks it down:

Study after study has shown that big earthquakes are not caused by the Moon, super or otherwise. It would make some sort of sense to think that maybe there is a connection, since the Moon pulls on the Earth, and the majority of earthquakes are caused by tectonic plates slipping past or under each other. However, you can look at the timing of earthquakes versus the distance (and phase) of the Moon, and at best there is a weak correlation between shallow, low intensity quakes and the Moon… and certainly none with major quakes.

Think about it: if there were some connection, and it were this obvious, geologists and seismologists would be issuing warnings every perigee and every full Moon. These are people who have devoted their lives to understanding how the Earth shakes, and would be screaming their heads off if it were something as easy and obvious as the Moon. They don’t because there’s no connection.

When terrible, seemingly random acts of natural devastation take place, it’s quite natural for people to want to look around and find a cause, but listening to debunked astrologers is in this instance quite literally howling at the moon.

Yahoo! News has a roundup of ways to donate to aid the relief effort.

(via Bad Astronomer)

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