On August 14 a magnitude 7.7 earthquake occurred of
the coast of Japan. A prediction had been posted that the planetary alignment
of August 14 would produce significant earthquakes. Did the Japan earthquake fulfil the prediction?
Short answer: no.
This, allegedly, is an earthquake producing alignment, despite everything being all over the place. The Venus Moon alignment is at a significant angle to the Earth-Sun axis. Jupiter is way off (click to embiggen).
To explain why, we need to briefly consider
statistics. In any given year there are, on average 26338 earthquakes, and 16
of these are magnitude 7 and above. In general, earthquakes occur at random
, so what is the probability that a 7+ earthquake would occur on the date of
the alignment by chance alone?
The probability that a 7+ earthquake will occur
on any specified day in a year is 1/24. This is hardly wildly improbable, and
it is plausible this alignment and the quake are coincident by chance alone.
But in fact the probability the August 14 event is by
chance alone is much more likely, because you need to consider all
alignments in a given 365 day span.
If we take "alignment" to mean when a
minimum of two planetary bodies are within 5 degrees of each other, or 5 degrees
from directly opposite each other (like full Moons/new Moons and the Sun), then
in the 365 day period since 14 August 2011, there were 53 alignments
of the bright planets Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and the Moon . Thus, by
chance alone we should see two planetary alignments occurring on the
same day as a 7+ magnitude earthquake in this time period.
The August 14 quake scrapes in as the Venus-Moon
alignment was on the 13th, and the Mars-Saturn alignment was on the 15th. So
the likelihood that we have seen this result by chance alone is pretty much a
June 4, 2 days before the transit of Venus. Full Moon lined up with Venus 3 degrees from the Sun, Mercury and Jupiter within 15 degrees of the Sun. Altogether a much more favourable line-up for earthquakes - yet nothing happened.
Next you have to consider all the alignments that didn't
have a 7+ earthquake associated with them. 51 of 53 alignments had no 7+
earthquake associated with them, that's an impressive miss rate.
if we consider the alignments of 4 June, 18 June and 15 July. On 4 June, two
days before the transit of Venus, The Sun and full Moon were aligned and Venus
was within 3 degrees of the Sun. Jupiter
and Mercury were within 15 degrees of the Sun.
If we were going to see 7+
earthquakes this alignment should do it. But it didn't. The alignments of 18
June and 15 July were very similar to that of 13 August, but were devoid of 7+
quakes (indeed, June and July were the quietest months for earthquakes since 14
August 2011). The results are entirely consistent with chance.
Now let's consider plausibility. It is plausible that
tidal forces could increase earthquakes, after all, the tidal force of the Moon
causes the crust of the earth to flex by as much as 30 cm, it's possible this flexing
could set off a quake that is close happening spontaneously.
earthquakes in general are not more common at the times of full or new Moon,
when the tidal forces of the Sun and Moon are aligned and tides are at their highest.
Maybe the addition of extra planetary tidal forces
could do the trick?
Tidal force drops off as the cube of the distance, the
tidal force of Jupiter is 0.000033 that of the Moon. Also, for the effects
to truly add up, the Sun, Moon and planets have to be precisely aligned.
alignments favoured by the various websites around the 'net have alignments that
are completely ineffective, being more than 25 degrees away from the Solar
new/full Moon axis. Remember that the highest tides (of both water and the Earth's
crust) occur at Full and New Moon, when the Sun and Moon are aligned, the lowest
tides are at last quarter Moon, when the Moon is at 90 degrees to the Sun-Earth
The following table shows the tidal forces of the Sun, the Moon, and the
planets compared to that of the Sun (set at 1).
Indeed, the Venus-Moon alignment of August 14 is opposed by the
Mars-Saturn alignment. So we would expect a lower chance of a planet-induced
earthquake (if not for the fact the tidal forces is so insanely tiny).
What about the idea that the planetary alignments are causing
resonances, amplifying the lunar tidal effects? Mensur Omerbashich uses the metaphor of soldiers marching in lock-step, where the repeated simultaneous foot falls of
the soldiers set up a bridge destroying resonance. However, in this case we
have one soldier (the Moon), whose footfalls occur with a 14 day rthym, next to
him a grass hopper (Jupiter) who jumps before the soldiers boot strikes the
bridge, and an ant (Venus) who also jumps before the soldiers boot falls, but
at a different time from the grasshopper. As well, the timing of the jumps of
the grasshopper and ant changes from footfall to footfall, so there is no
regular pattern to them.
Nope, not resonance.
The August 14 quake is exactly what we would expect from
a earthquake and aligment occuring together by chance. This is re-enforced by
the large number of alignments which fail to produce alignments, and a lack of
a plausible mechanism for alignments to cause earthquakes.
are lovely to watch. But that is the sole extent of their influence of Earth.
 There are occasional earthquake clusters in an
active zone, and aftershocks in a major earthquake, but for 7+ magnitude quakes
they are close enough to being randomly distributed for our purposes.
 This is much more restrictive than the alignment earthquake
predictors, who add in Mercury, Uranus and Neptune to the mix, regardless of
their miniscule tidal effects, and separations of up to 15 degrees. Also, they
tend to include the days either side of the alignment which increases the
probability you will see alignment just by chance.
 I am well aware of the limitations of the
metaphor, but the point is that you need some consistent peiodicity, and decent
mass, for resonance systems to work. Planetary alignments just don't fit the
 More information on earthquakes and astronomical phenomena here.
Labels: Conjunction, earthquakes, Mars, Pseudoscience, Saturn, Venus