A couple weeks ago, I told my youngest daughter, who is 11, about an article I’d read about a so-called “supermoon” that was set to appear on Saturday, March 19. According to the article, this particular moon was going to be a full moon at its closest point in its orbit to Earth; the next full moon scheduled to trek this close to Earth wouldn’t show up for another 18 years.
“That’s going to be one big moon,” was my first thought. My second thought was that I hoped we’d have a clear night, so it would be good for taking photographs.
I’d forgotten about telling my daughter about the upcoming supermoon until this week, when she asked me if I thought it had been responsible for the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan. “There might be a connection,” I told her, “except that the supermoon hasn’t happened yet.”
Then I explained about the moon’s gravitational pull on the earth, which causes high and low tides to occur, which she already knew about. What she really wanted to know was if there was another natural disaster headed for earth when the supermoon showed up for real.
I did my best to calm her fears but then started to wonder if there might be something to this whole supermoon and natural disaster connection. After all, I’d just been working on a story about a massive spring snow melt for the Upper Midwest and the possibility of floods for the region right about the time this supermoon is set to occur. Moons and floods seemed to have a connection as I recalled.
So, I looked into it via an Internet search. What I found out is that a lot of other people were afraid that the supermoon had caused the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and astronomy experts were doing their best to clarify why this couldn’t be true. The best explanation  I read was by Deborah Byrd, founder and president, EarthSky .
Byrd writes, “… on March 11, neither condition for a supermoon existed. The moon was not particularly close to Earth, and the Earth, sun and moon were not aligned.” In other words, the supermoon hadn’t happened yet.
So, when the supermoon does occur on March 19, what will occur? Byrd predicts “that if bad weather combines with high tides along coastlines – it might cause flooding on March 19,” but little else.
Since the Upper Midwest isn’t part of a tidal coastline, I guess we can scratch the potential Midwestern floods from the list of bad things that this supermoon might cause. On the other hand, I’m sure that if any natural disasters occur on Saturday, many will be quick to blame the supermoon.
I better get some talking points ready for my daughter, just in case.
Others may have a different opinion on the connection between supermoons and natural disasters. If so, I welcome your input on this or any topic related to soybean production and/or farm life.
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You can contact me (John Pocock) at: [email protected] .
Thanks for your readership.