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Full moon, cyclones and earthquakes


Over the past two days some TV cameramen, on the strength of the metservice maps and dire warnings of all NZ cities being lashed, quickly travelled to Nelson hoping to be on the spot with the first pics of flooded rivers. They have returned home downcast and empty-handed . The prospect of having an extreme weather event here also, after the devastation in Australia, had, for a brief time, given the media a heady field day. They were so caught up in their own excitement they didn't want to know that this well-publicised  'extreme' cyclonic event, with two cyclones colliding and supposed to bring a double whammy of weather to NZ, was actually going to be mostly dead in the water before it even crossed our shores.

But it was very predictable that because this cyclone was still well in the northern hemisphere, held in place by a northern moon, its effects were going to remain mainly to the north of us and around the latitude of Queensland. One only had to regard that the latitudinal position of the moon; its 'declination', which was as far north as it gets this time around, was on Monday. That it is cyclonic is because summer full moons always have the potential to cause cyclones, year in and year out. It is full moon on Thursday 20th at 9.20am for NZ. But being right in the north means something in terms of weather speed.

It indicates that this particular cyclonic system was going to be a relative fizzer for NZ. The moon's speed at any one time determines the speed of weather systems. Because Monday was the day of northern declination, its furthest point north for the month in its cycle in which due to the tilt of the earth it changes hemispheres every 13.6 days,  the moon's speed had slowed to a minimum, relative to and because it was, running parallel with that of Earth. Weather systems "block: or "stall" at northern or southern declination points. The description does not give any credence to the moon's role. But there is no blocking going on and there are no motors.

Whilst it is difficult to predict where cyclones will end up, because they assume a life of their own, nevertheless the timing is very regular. They will form around summer perigeal full moons moving south, and affect us more weatherwise when the full moon is over or just entering our hemisphere. The years of the greatest cyclone season activity are years when the perigee is on or near the equator. 2011 is the first of these after a lull period. These heavier-cyclone years come around every 3-4 years, but alternate the hemispheres. Most cyclones occur just below the equator or just above, and it is rare for a cyclone system to cross the equator. Mostly they will drift north or south of their points of generation.

If cyclones form north of the equator they will go north, if south they will proceed further south. If they form as the moon is crossing the equator they will be more powerful than one that forms at a northern or southern declination. Cyclones that form when perigee is on the equator will be more destructive. It is fairly obvious that this should be so, because the equator sticks out more into space, and earth-moon distances are averagely shorter during equinoctial perigee years, meaning that the gravitational pull from the moon is greater, there are kigtides in air, land and sea, and these maximise at this time. Every 9 years the moon is back to the same position with respect to its position relative to the equator.

Cyclones need certain conditions before they can form. Ocean waters must be warm, between 26-28C is optimal. So it must be around the time of month when the moon is full or new, because due to the mechanics of the tide of the atmosphere, they are kingtide times in the air and the most likely times for the oceans to heat sufficiently. The seas can warm the most under full moons in perigee, or new moons in apogee. We are on the full moon and perigee(moon closest to earth for the month) this coming week. The tides will be the third biggest for the whole year. The moon will be the 9th closest for the whole year. Earthquakes are bound to increase.

A tropical disturbance must also form for a cyclone to form, and perigees always bring that. Tropical cyclones can form so close together that often the storms feed on each other. When two storms are very close together, one can cancel out the other by absorbing its energy, like two cars feeding from the same tank of gas. Two cyclones together are not rare, because they are part of the same system. They are like an egg that divides into two eggs to form twins. Katrina and Rita (August 2005) were of this variety, also Ului and Tomas(March 2010).

In the case of cyclones Zelia that was in the Coral Sea above New Caledonia and Vania (already moving away to the east), there was never the threat that there would have been given a different moon position. Vania was always going to be mostly a spent force by Tuesday, and Zelia was earmarked in our Pacific cyclone report (available in e-reports) to be absorbed by the remnants of Vania around the 19th, move slowly east sending showers to the top of NZ around 22nd, and by the 26th would be so far east that another system forms over Vanuatu about 27th, staying there until the 31st when it is expected to have weakened to a tropical low and dissipated. However it will not be the end of activity, and in the Pacific should continue through February, feeding the north of NZ with remnants but not enough to make February feel like a wet month for NZ

Campers need not panic nor pack up. For NZ, unsettled conditions were to be expected around Tuesday, but likely to be more wind out in the open seas, swell and cloud than rain, with some further passing incidental showers around this coming weekend and stronger winds around the 24th. The last week of January may feel fairly unsettled but is not expected to deliver much actual rain. February and March see more cyclonic activity around Vanuatu and for NZ, but it will be our most summery month, particularly dry in the Bay of Plenty. March is a different story, and should be the month we will be most affected by wind and rain, especially in the first week, in the middle of the month, and around the beginning of the fourth week.

Earthquakes also increase around full and new moons. This is a week of increased potential activity. When there is a kingtide in the sea there is also a kingtide in the land and atmosphere. On January 22nd/23rd the tides will be the third highest for 2011 all around the world. The potential for earthquakes rises hugely during full moon or new moon, especially when the moon is in perigee, close to earth. The 4 September event coincided with new moon, the second closest to earth for 2010. In that week it was not just Christchurch that was affected. This week is again an active time.

Next month's perigee will see the moon the 5th closest for the year and the March perigee sees the greatest perigee for 2011, when the moon comes closest to Earth. The moon will be 356577kms away on March 19, and this will be the closest it has come to Earth since 12 Dec 2008 and won't be as close again until 14 Nov 2016. Will we get earthquake activity around then? The reader may be the judge. But when exactly and where exactly is hard to pinpoint. How far down is even harder to predict. The most we can say is stay away from old brick buildings around 18-20 March. In fact Christchurch may be a quite safe location, because large maginitude earthquakes seldom repeat soon afterwards in the same location, or Napier, Murchison and Edgecumbe would have had them well before now.

As NZ is formed from the Alpine fault that stretches from Te Anau to the Kermadecs anywhere could be considered at risk. But nothing is certain. Because the moon will be at lunar equinox it is likelier to be E/W fault lines that are activated more. On March 19 the moon will be E/W oriented. It indicates the north of the South Island and the east of the North Island may receive tremors. But only if the acivity is shallow. One day after the Asian tsunami (10kms under the crust of the earth) there was an earthquake of equal 8 magnitude in Cook Strait, but being 400kms down no one felt a thing and it wasn't even mentioned in the media. Besides, seismologists are only just discovering new fault lines that they were previously unaware of.

Only someone with their head in the sand would say there is no connection with the moon and the earth. There was a 7.2 earthquake in Pakistan on January 18th, a 5.5 in Rotorua and in Christchurch a 4.1 and several smaller ones over the past few days. The danger time will persist until after the weekend. The moon is to blame. When a big low appears on the TV weather map, often an earthquake of some magnitude may be close by, within a few hundred miles. The Te Anau quake of a couple of years agon was an example of this. There was a massive low in the Tasman at the time..

There will always be the moon, weather and earthquakes. Times to be vigilant are new and full moons, especually at times of perigee and the moon's declinations. We will never look up and see a large note across the sky that reads This Program Is Blocked, or that it looks like the empty-space training grid for Matrix. In fact it is usually the other way around - many programme/events are terminated due to bad weather. There will always be rough and calm weather and warm summers and cold winters. There will always be cyclones and earthquakes, and the two will occur together around summer full moon. That is what nature does, and we were born into it knowing that. 

If we are not yet used to extreme weather repeating, and we have reached the age required to read this article, then perhaps there is little hope that this realisation will come any time soon.  The full moon period hasn't ended yet, and there is more bad weather coming in a few days and the SI West Coast may be affected, and if so with the third highest tides of the year, there may again see swollen rivers. There are large tides over the next couple of months which pose flood risks. In Australia, around the 22nd which is this weekend, a significant storm may hit the Hunter region more than usual thunderstorm activity. There‚Äôs a fair bit of heat around in summer full moons, magnified by perigee, and that leads to thunderstorms, which could be quite frequent now in the NSW region for the remainder of January. 
Atmospheric disturbance due to the moon over the next three months is likeliest at these dates:

JAN 20th Thur F
JAN 22nd Sat P9
JAN 23rd Sun XhS
JAN 27th Thur 3rd
JAN 30th Sun V
FEB 3rd Thur N
FEB 6th Sun A, XhN
FEB 13th Sun ^
FEB 18th Fri F
FEB 19th Sat P5
FEB 20th Sun XhS
FEB 25th Fri V, 3rd
MAR 5th Sat N, XhN
MAR 6th Sun A
MAR 12th Sat ^
MAR 19th Sat XhS
MAR 20th Sun P1, F
MAR 25th Fri V
MAR 27th Sun 3rd

These are potential times of increased turbulance, earthquake activity, temperature swings and increased wind force, due to the moon. Abbreviations: N=new moon, F=full moon, 1stQ=first quarter, lastQ=last quarter, P=perigee,(P9=ninth closest for the year), A=apogee, XhS=moon crossing equator heading south, also called lunar equinox, XhN=moon crossing equator heading north, ^=northern declination, also known as north stitial colure,V=southern declination, also known as south stitial colure.

For more information on what the year's weather will bring, Random House(NZ) publishes our almanac books, for NZ, for Australia and for Ireland, and on sale now at local bookshops in NZ or from this link.
The almanacs may be ordered online. For each month the reader will find that the moon movements are plotted and the expected weather conditions for each town in NZ, Australia and Ireland are
described. It is a way of predicting what may happen in your area and when better to plan for outdoor events. There are also predictions of weather trends in coming years, and hints on how to make your own predictions using the moon.

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