By SHANNON HALL JAN. 18, 2018 of the New York Times
On Dec. 26, 2004, a magnitude 9.1 earthquake ruptured the ocean floor off the west coast of Sumatra. The resulting tsunami killed nearly 230,000 people in 14 countries, making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in history. It occurred during a full moon.
The earthquake that devastated Chile in 2010 and the Great Alaskan Earthquake in 1964 also happened on full moons. But a new study published in Seismological Research Letters finds that the connection is nothing but folklore.
To analyze the supposed link, Susan Hough, a seismologist at the United States Geological Survey, scrutinized 204 earthquakes of magnitude 8 or greater over the past four centuries. She then matched those earthquakes to the lunar calendar and found that no more occurred during a full or new moon than on any other day of the lunar cycle.
“It’s not some wild crazy idea,” Dr. Hough said, but the gravitational effect is vanishingly small and only occurs under narrow circumstances, so it would never translate into a pronounced force — certainly not one that can be seen in a calendar or used to make predictions.
In a study by Satoshi Ide, a seismologist at the University of Tokyo, and his colleagues made headlines when it suggested that the number of high-magnitude earthquakes (like the one that occurred in Sumatra) also increases slightly as tidal stresses rise.
Dr. Hough’s study though “debunks the prevalent superstition some people have that the moon tells us something about the danger,” said John Vidale, a seismologist at the University of Southern California who directs the Southern California Earthquake Center….until of course the next study another time.