Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Earth's pull is 'massaging' our moon

Many scientists deny that factors external to the Earth can have a significant impact upon the Earth's climate yet there is considerable evidence that this indeed the case. Their instincts tell them that they must always look for internal factors, and internal factors alone, to explain the Earth's climate systems. Most will admit that Moon might have some influence upon the Earth's climate through the dissipation of its tidal forces in the Earth's oceans but beyond that they have little time for thinking outside the box.

It is now emerging that those who reject the idea that factors external to the Earth can have a significant influence upon the Earth's climate are increasingly at odds with the evidence.

One quirky way to show that this is the case is to reverse the argument around. This can be done by asking the question: Is there any evidence to show that the Earth can have a significant influence upon the Moon and nearby planets? If this is indeed the case then would it be so hard to imagine that it might possible for the reverse to happen (in specific cases). 
One piece of evidence that shows that the Earth can have a significant impact upon external astronomical bodies is the gravitational interaction between the Earth and Venus. Every time the planet Venus passes between the Earth and Sun it presents the same face towards Earth. This happens because the slow retrograde rotation rate of the planet Venus (approximately 243 days) has allowed the Earth's gravity to nudge Venus's rotation period into a resonance lock with the Earth's orbital period.

We now have an addition piece of evidence to support the idea that the Earth can have a significant influence upon the Moon. Thomas et al. 2015 (1) report that imaging by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) has revealed the presence of over 3,000 geological faults known as lobate scarps. Indeed, it has emerged that these globally distributed faults are the most common tectonic land form on the moon. 

Initially it was thought that the lobate scarp faults were created by the gradual shrinkage of the Moon's crust as it cooled. However, an analysis of the orientations of these small scarps has yielded a very surprising result. It shows that the orientation of the fault lines is being influenced by an unexpected source--gravitational tidal forces from Earth.

Smithsonian senior scientist Thomas Watters of the National Air and Space Museum in Washington
said that"There is a pattern in the orientations of the thousands of faults and it suggests something else is influencing their formation, something that's also acting on a global scale -- 'massaging' and realigning them." 

The other forces acting on the moon come not from its interior, but from Earth. These are tidal forces. When the tidal forces are superimposed on the global contraction, the combined stresses should cause predictable orientations of the fault scarps from region to region. "The agreement between the mapped fault orientations and the fault orientations predicted by the modeled tidal and contractional forces is pretty striking," says Watters.

The fault scarps are very young -- so young that they are likely still actively forming today. The team's modeling shows that the peak stresses are reached when the moon is farthest from Earth in its orbit (at apogee). If the faults are still active, the occurrence of shallow moonquakes related to slip events on the faults may be most frequent when the moon is at apogee. This hypothesis can be tested with a long-lived lunar seismic network.

NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. "Earth's pull is 'massaging' our moon." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 September 2015. 

The question now becomes, why is it so hard for scientists to admit that factors external to the Earth could have a significant impact upon the Earth's climate.
  1. Thomas R. Watters, Mark S. Robinson, Geoffrey C. Collins, Maria E. Banks, Katie Daud, Nathan R. Williams, Michelle M. Selvans. Global thrust faulting on the Moon and the influence of tidal stresses.Geology, 2015; 43 (10): 851 DOI: 10.1130/G37120.1


  1. This is an obscure study but interesting:

    New Concepts in Global Tectonics Newsletter, no. 60, September, 2011 SUN, MOON AND EARTHQUAKES Vinayak G. KOLVANKAR Former scientist, BARC, Mumbai 400051, India

    "It was found that nearly 98% of the earthquakes for different regions, examined for the period 1973-2008, show a direct relationship between the Sun’s position and the earthquake-moon distance together with the Sun-Earth-Moon angle. As the time changes from 00-24 hours, the sum of the earthquake-moon distance and the Sun-Earth-Moon angle changes through 360 deg, and plotting these two variables for different earthquakes reveals a simple 45 deg straight-line relationship between them."

  2. WHT,

    An interesting paper, with a good set of references on the study between lunar tides and earthquakes. Thanks for the reference.

    However, looking at the KOLVANKAR paper, I smell a rat. Whenever you get a 45 degree straight-line relationship in a graph that is very tight, it is usually because:

    a) you are unwittingly plotting one variable against its self.


    b) you are plotting two variables (that are not necessarily related to each other) that are heavily scaled by another third variable.

    An example of the later is plotting the luminosity of stars at one wavelength against their luminosity at another wavelength. Since the luminosity of the star (at any given wavelength) depends upon the square of the distance of the star, any uncertainties in stellar distances to the star will produce a wonderfully tight 45 degree linear relationship between the stellar luminosities of the stars that you are plotting.

    I will get back to you on this one.

  3. Sorry to go off topic, but going back to the current status of global climate for a minute.
    I see Joe Bastardi (ref latest Weatherbell weekly update) is saying that the current status looks very much like late 1950's. This aligns with the previous comments on the PDO article as repeated below;
    Your best bet is to go back to a place in the climate record where the Atlantic Meridional Oscillation (AMO) is negative, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) is positive, the ENSO goes through an El Nino[2015]/La Nina[2016] cycle and the Sun is in a Dalton-like Minimum in its magnetic activity cycle.

    If you can find a point in the climate record where this has happened just look at how the world climate responded - however - be a little bit more careful at regional levels - since they are much more nuanced.

    Here is my best guess:

    AMO is a 30 year cooling cycle last from ~ 2000-2030
    The reduced level of solar activity indicates a cooling period lasting from ~ 2005-2035

    PDO is a warming cycle that could last for a decade or two.
    There will be EL Nino warming events in 2015, 2019-20, (2023), 2024 and 2027.

    I think that I am saying that at this staged we can only make an educated guess about what will actually take place.
    AnonymousApril 22, 2015 at 6:19 PM

    Thanks for your comment. I did some amateurish googling to see if I could find a period of a falling AMO, a rising PDO and low sun activity.
    The records don't go back as far as Dalton, but it seems the 1960's have a rough match.
    From what I can see the broad weather patterns of the 1960's were;
    Australia; good rains (especially in the West), moving to drought, especially in the East
    USA; Hurricanes early on, moving on to some very cold years
    Europe; Cold and dry
    India; Some cyclones and floods early on, moving to drought in mid-1960's.
    Southern Africa; good rains.
    ...a very slightly educated guess on the way forward .

  4. chuckle ... That's what we were saying over at The Azimuth Forum when discussing the Kolvankar paper! I wrote :

    "For the geometry inclined, that is a stunner. If somehow the guy is ending up just plotting X=X, that would be kind of embarrassing."

  5. All of your work on the Moon's impact on the Earth is very compelling particularly when considered together with the VEJ and SOC effect that you have also described. The later two would also effect the earths LOD. I keep running across of evidence of a step change in the pacific climate in 1976 that is quite discrete and has yet to unwind itself. Your paper in 2011 is clearly the key to understanding this as yet I do not see it clearly. Do you have any thoughts on why 1976 is so significant in the pacific? Any forecast from your work on when the step change might reverse?