Loading...
EarthquakesScience

Could the Japanese Earthquake Affect World Weather?

Serbian mathematician Milutin Milankovitch calculated how the three natural cycles of our planet's shift - respectively referred to as obliquity, eccentricity and precession - influence the amount of seasonal sunlight falling over the planet.

Much has been made in the news of the shift in the Earth’s axis by half a foot as a result of the Japanese earthquake. The Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University’s Earth Institute has answered that question in a press release. The simply answer, is no.

Jerry McManus, a climate scientist at Columbia, answered the question with a simply no, but went on to explain just why what seems like such a big shift in the Earth’s axis is, in fact, not so big after all; or that uncommon.

While earthquakes do unleash a large amount of energy, especially large earthquakes like the Sendai earthquake, they do not release enough energy to shift the Earth’s axis enough to affect the weather.

In fact, larger shifts of Earth’s axis happen each year as a result of the fluctuating mass of the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans, and these don’t affect the weather at all. These natural variations can see shifts in the Earth’s axis of up to 39 inches, which far outstrip the 6.5 inch shift of the Japanese earthquake, not to mention the comparatively tiny 2.8-inch shift of the Chile earthquake in 2010.

Even these shifts, which seem massive when you consider the object being moved, are nothing in comparison to the long-term cyclical shifts of our planet’s movement that can change temperature and climate.

Earth currently leans at an angle of 23.5 degrees as it makes its way around the sun, which causes the seasons to act as they do. But variations in the Earth’s tilt over longer timescales can have a massive effect on the seasons. And every 41,000 years or so, our planet’s tilt shifts about a degree in either direction, a shift which is the equivalent of 70 miles. At its highest tilt—24.5 degrees—more sunlight falls on the poles; at its lowest—22.1 degrees—more light falls on the equator.

There are two other astronomical cycles which affect our planet’s climate; the changing shape of its elliptical path around the sun every 100,000 years or so, and the shifting wobble of its axis—much like a spinning top—on average, every 21,000 years.

Each of the above natural variances is caused by the gravitational effect had on our planet by our moon and the other planets in our solar system.

Source: Columbia University




3 comments
  1. David Trepanier

    Ok-I know its not a major shift but going from warm winters for many years in mid Wisconsin to the exceptionally cold weather in winter the last two years, and basically no spring and much cooler summer last year since the Japanese earthquake a couple years ago-I believe it has to have had an effect on the weather-even if only slightly and maybe there is some other contributing factors. I mean we went from rain around Christmas time to below zero two years in a row, and weeks of below zero temps from only a couple few days the years before-I am not a scientist, but sometimes what I see from documentaries-scientists seem to want what they are attempting to prove or explain be one side or one extreme when its usually obvious that its a mixture of both sides of the extremes-I dont understand why they have to be dead set on one aspect or the other and cant except anything in between-wish I could think of an example right now of a documentary that I seen this in, but I have seen it in many documentaries-its honestly really frustrating for me to see-I believe its human nature to want to prove your side or ideas, and especially when another scientist disagrees, or thinks something different, and as I have noticed is that both sides can be proven to a certain degree, and is as I said more of a mixture of the two that balances the two sides out as what is natural in nature.

  2. David Trepanier

    Ok-I know its not a major shift but going from warm winters for many years in mid Wisconsin to the exceptionally cold weather in winter the last two years, and basically no spring and much cooler summer last year since the Japanese earthquake a couple years ago-I believe it has to have had an effect on the weather-even if only slightly and maybe there is some other contributing factors. I mean we went from rain around Christmas time to below zero two years in a row, and weeks of below zero temps from only a couple few days the years before-I am not a scientist, but sometimes what I see from documentaries-scientists seem to want what they are attempting to prove or explain be one side or one extreme when its usually obvious that its a mixture of the other side of the extreme-I dont understand why they have to be dead set on one aspect or the other and cant except anything in between-wish I could think of an example right now, but I seen it in many documentaries-its honestly really frustrating for me to see-I believe its human nature to want to prove your side or ideas, and especially when another scientist disagrees, or thinks something different, and as I have noticed is that both sides can be proven to a certain degree, and is as I said more of a mixture of the two that balances the two sides out as what is natural in nature.

  3. David

    Okay, I have to ask…

    “I’m a Christian, a nerd, a geek, a liberal left-winger, and believe that we’re pretty quickly directing planet-Earth into hell in a handbasket!”

    What does this have to do with the shift in the axis, potential weather changes, or anything else for that matter? Don’t get me wrong, I believe in Christ, I’m a geek, and I’m a college graduate with many more years of study into about 50 different fields. I just don’t see how that makes me an expert on anything.

    Just saying.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *