Tag Archives: tidal forces

Statistical analysis suggests Moon can cause quakes

The uncertainty of science: A careful statistical analysis of when major earthquakes occur has suggested they are more likely to be more powerful if they occur around the full and new moons when tidal forces are at their peak.

Satoshi Ide, a seismologist at the University of Tokyo, and his colleagues investigated three separate earthquake records covering Japan, California and the entire globe. For the 15 days leading up to each quake, the scientists assigned a number representing the relative tidal stress on that day, with 15 representing the highest. They found that large quakes such as those that hit Chile and Tohoku-Oki occurred near the time of maximum tidal strain — or during new and full moons when the Sun, Moon and Earth align.

For more than 10,000 earthquakes of around magnitude 5.5, the researchers found, an earthquake that began during a time of high tidal stress was more likely to grow to magnitude 8 or above.

As these results are based entirely on statistical evidence, not on any direct link between tidal forces and actual quakes, they are quite uncertain and unproven.

The location of the volcanoes on Titan are not where scientists had expected them to be.

The uncertainty of science: The location of the volcanoes on Titan are not where scientists had expected them to be.

As Io moves closer to Jupiter, the planet’s powerful gravity pulls hard on the moon, deforming it. This force decreases as Io retreats, and the moon bounces back. This cycle of flexing creates friction in Io’s interior, which in turn generates enormous amounts of volcano-driving tidal heat. Common sense suggests that Io’s volcanoes would be located above the spots with the most dramatic internal heating. But Hamilton and his colleagues found that the volcanoes are significantly farther to the east than expected.

Many of the news headlines, including the article above, have trumpeted how the volcanoes on Io are in the wrong place. (See also this article.) Not. The theories were wrong, not the volcanoes. Nature does what it wants to do. It is our job to figure out why.

One astronomer has found that the habitable zone around some smaller stars is smaller than first calculated because of tidal heating.

One astronomer has found that the inner edge of the habitable zone around some dwarf stars is smaller than first calculated because tidal forces overheat planets close to the star.

Then again, this heating might expand the habitable zone in other directions. Stars might overheat when close to the star, but get a boost of needed heat when they would normally be too far away.