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LUNAR INFLUENCES ON CLIMATE

DARIO CAMUFFO
CNR-Istituto di Scienze dellAtmosfera e del Clima, Corso Stati Uniti 4, 35127 Padova, Italy
(E-mail: camuffo@ictr.pd.cnr.it)

Abstract. Popular beliefs on the effects of the Moon on the weather probably go back to when
ancient civilisations followed a lunar calendar, and the Moon went from being a purely temporal
reference to becoming a causal reference. The incoming heat flow on the Earth may vary slightly after
solar activity. to and generate considerable effects. The light reflected from the Moon has also been
hypothesised as a cause, but the associated energy is too small. The anomalistic period of the Moon
(i.e., 27.5 days) coincides substantially with that of the sunspots found on the 1718th parallel of the
heliocentric latitude. Climatic modulation which lasts for around 27.5 days should be related to solar
activity, which supplies energy with an amount of two orders of magnitude greater than the lunar-
reflected energy. Another mechanism responsible for climatic variations is the redistribution of heat
on the Earth. The Moon with the tides induces movement of the water masses of the oceans and with
this there is a transport of heat. Semidiurnal lunar tides have been identified, although with modest
impact, in the atmospheric pressure, the wind field and the precipitation. On a monthly time scale,
variation of daily precipitation data shows that gravitational tides do indeed affect heavy rainfalls
more than mean precipitation values. On the longer time scale, several authors have identified the
18.6-yr nutation cycle, which is clearly visible in several data analyses, but often it cannot be easily
distinguished from the 19.9 SaturnJupiter cycle and the quasi-regular 22-yr double sunspot cycle
which at times may be dominant. In the time scale of centuries, covering a number of periods with
minimum solar activity, an analysis of meteorological data has demonstrated that only the Sprer
Minimum (A.D. 14161534) was characterised by climatic anomalies., whereas the other periods had
no singularities, or else the weak climate forcing was covered or masked by other factors, leaving the
question still open. In practice, lunar and solar influences can be found and have been demonstrated
with more or less the same level of confidence. Both have the same order of magnitude, and are
generally weak, interacting, and being often masked by local effects.

Keywords: Astronomic influence, climate change, Moon, solar cycles, weather

1. Introduction

Does the Moon really influence the climate? How much? How? Why does popular
belief concerning this subject exist? These are the basic questions we will try to
answer in this article. Popular beliefs on the effects of the Moon on the weather,
farming and on life in general probably go back to when ancient civilisations fol-
lowed a lunar calendar. Prior to the calendar reformation made by King Numa
Pompilius in Rome, and immediately followed by that of King Giosia in Israel
in 640 BC, the year was composed of 10 lunar months (i.e., 295 days), so that
each month changed season every year. The official calendar was of little help

Earth, Moon and Planets 8586: 99113, 2001.


2001 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
100 DARIO CAMUFFO

for seasonal activities, e.g., agriculture, which were based on the Moon phases.
The Moon thus easily went from being a purely temporal point of reference to
becoming a causal reference that linked the alternation of the seasons, and there-
fore the associated atmospheric phenomena, with the various forms of farming
and transhumance. Typical seasonal meteorological conditions were thus easily
attributed to the Moon, which announced them, and their conclusion was associated
with a change of Moon (Camuffo, 1990).
Science has proven that some of the influences that the early civilisations at-
tributed to the Moon are real, and that teleconnections among these events exist.
However, these teleconnections are so weak, that they can be found only with the
help of statistical analyses performed on meteorological data from places where
measurements have been regularly taken for a very long time. In practice, popular
beliefs can hardly be derived from direct experience of weather changes, and when
they are confirmed with advanced analyses, they are merely coincidental. In prac-
tice, the weather changes which can be predicted by simply looking at the Moon
have a low probability of success: For this reason farmers should be advised to
follow other, more reliable methods of forecasting.
Although astronomical factors are of little help in weather forecasting, long-
term astronomical influences have been successfully used to reconstruct the past
climates. A model has existed for the last 400 Myr, which takes into account all the
parameters which influence the orbital frequencies, in particular the EarthMoon
distance and the Earths rotation and moments of inertia (Berger, 1989). The reason
is that in the long term the changes in external forcing are orders of magnitude
greater than those of short-term changes.
Since the birth of Meteorology, many attempts have been made to forecast
weather and to correlate it with the lunar phases. Monthly periods, determined by
the New Moon, Moon in Apogee and so on, have been recognised as being relevant
for rainfall and other meteorological events. The first sound attempt was made in
the second half of the 1700s, when Giuseppe Toaldo recorded all the astronom-
ical ephemerides in the Poleni register of meteorological observations in Padova
from 1725 to 1764, to correlate astronomical and meteorological phenomena and
discover whether an influence could be found on statistical grounds. He published
a book on the influence of celestial bodies on the weather and seasonal climate
changes (Toaldo, 1770, 1781) as well as another with special reference to the im-
pact on agriculture (Toaldo, 1775). In these books he also presented and discussed
the atmospheric tides, later measured with hourly readings of barometric pressure
by his co-worker Vincenzo Chiminello (1786). The result of all of these observa-
tions and statistical calculations was that the Moon with all its cycles, chiefly the
monthly cycle and the so-called Saros cycle, i.e., the 18.6-yr lunar nutation, had
an important influence on the weather. He supposed that the heat reflected by the
Moon governed the physical forcing.
The teleconnections between Earth and Moon are substantially governed by two
factors: the astronomical forcing, and the complex response of the terrestrial system
LUNAR INFLUENCES ON CLIMATE 101

to external forcing. Weather is conditioned by so many factors and is governed by


so many non-linear relationships and feedback mechanisms that any perturbation
may trigger unexpected reactions and lead to unpredictable results. Only on av-
erage is the deterministic approach successful, and can be demonstrated with the
help of a very large number of cases. In addition, also in the case in which the
weather is conditioned by an external periodical forcing, the response does not
exactly follow the same cycles, but presents some return period that on average
follows a time interval close to the forcing periodicity, sometimes jumping some
expected return. Being weak, the forced climate signal is often masked by other
dominant factors, or covered by local interactions. For instance, the influence of
the patterns of sea-surface temperature (SST) on the atmosphere, e.g., El Nio
Southern Oscillation, the contribution of volcanic eruptions and the greenhouse
effect, are largely dominant. All of these factors sometimes make it difficult to
identify, or even to recognise, periodicities or astronomical forcings.

2. Mechanisms and Effects

The first physical quantity suspected of being responsible for climate changes is
the income of solar radiation, integrated over all wavelengths, which is in a first
approximation constant (the so-called solar constant). An important mechanism
for changes in the solar income is due to orbital motions, governed by planets
(mainly Saturn and Jupiter), and the Moon. This external forcing on which the
Milankovitch theory and astronomical models are based (Imbrie and Imbrie, 1979,
1980; Berger, 1981a, 1989), explains well the long- term changes on the millennial,
or longer scale. On a shorter time scale, the astronomic influences are less marked.
Over a short period, another mechanism modulating the solar constant be-
comes important: during flares and especially sunspot activity the energy emitted
by the Sun in the far UV wavelength increases slightly. The change in an 11-yr
cycle induces variations in the UV of no more than 0.01% in total irradiance
(Shine et al., 1990), although this contribution may have an important impact on
the atmospheric chemistry in the middle atmosphere. The incoming UV favours the
reaction, which transforms some stratospheric oxygen into ozone, which in turn is
the primary control of the stratospheric greenhouse effect.
Sunspots form at 40 heliographic latitude, and migrate towards the equator
where they are extinguished towards the end of an 11-yr period as discovered by
Schwabe. During their migration, they initially begin to grow until they reach their
maximum size midway along their path, and they then decrease until they disappear
close to the equator. Once this 11-yr single sunspot cycle is complete, the Sun
changes magnetic polarities and a complete heliomagnetic cycle, considering both
sunspots and magnetic polarity, is a double sunspot cycle which requires 22 yrs
(Hale cycle). Measurements of the solar constant from 1967 have shown a slow
102 DARIO CAMUFFO

oscillation in the absolute value of the irradiation with a peak to peak amplitude of
about 0.4%, coincident with the heliomagnetic 22-yr cycle (Frhlich, 1988).
During their migration towards the heliographic equator, sunspots and flares
undergo another cycle. The Sun, not being rigid, has a rotation speed which is
variable with the latitude and the rotation period lies from about 25 d at the equator
to 31 d near the poles. In the (1800s), Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli (1866b),
discovered that the Moons anomalistic revolution period (i.e., perihelion to peri-
helion) of 27.5 d, coincides substantially with that of the sunspots found on the
1718th parallel of the heliocentric latitude, exactly where solar activity reaches
its maximum value. This makes the effects of lunar luminosity and solar activity
practically indistinguishable, if only the 27.5-d periodicity is considered.
Actually, taking what we see from the Earth as a reference, the Moon has an
evident synodic period (i.e., from New Moon to New Moon) of 29.5 d, but this
should not be confused with the effects of solar activity. In fact, this period corres-
ponds to about the 63 heliocentric latitude, which is too high for sunspot activity.
However, lunar motion is characterised by astronomic regularity, and sunspots by
the quasi-regularity of astrophysical phenomena which occur with shorter or longer
recurrence intervals. The comparison between regular and quasi-regular periods
with similar duration is always confusing because the peaks of the power spectrum
are often spread out around the expected value.
Cosmic rays emitted by sunspot activity and a variability in their capture effi-
ciency as a result of the lunar distortion of the Earths magnetic field have also been
considered. One hypothesis is that the Moon in some way controls the incoming
meteor dust rate and so affects the number of freezing nuclei falling into the lower
atmosphere (Bigg, 1963). This could explain a modulation in the concentration
of meteor dust acting as ice crystals with obvious consequences on cloud cover,
rainfall, thunderstorms and hurricanes.
A cause-effect relationship links climatic changes with variations in solar activ-
ity and radiant heat emission. Eddy (1976, 1977, 1981) suggested that the climatic
deterioration in past centuries corresponded to periods of reduced solar activity,
and therefore, derived from a weaker solar input. Following his theory, the coldest
excursion of the Little Ice Age coincided with a period of minimum sunspot
activity, called Maunder Minimum. During the last two millennia, in which we
have good climate information from written documentary sources, it has been pos-
sible to check what happened during the suspect periods characterised by minimum
solar activity. These are: the Early Medieval Minimum, i.e., 660740 AD; the Oort
Minimum, 10101090; the Wolf Minimum, 12821342; the Sprer Minimum,
14161534 and the Maunder Minimum, 16451714. An estimate of 95% confid-
ence has found that the solar irradiance increase between the Maunder Minimum
of solar activity (16451714) and the decade of the 1980s was likely to be 0.4
0.2% (Solomon and Srinivasan, 1996).
Another mechanism responsible for climatic variations is the redistribution of
heat on the Earth. Even supposing the balance of global heat remains unchanged,
LUNAR INFLUENCES ON CLIMATE 103

the heat transport over the Earths surface may greatly alter local weather condi-
tions. However, it is also possible for the heat transport to alter the energy balance
with an efficient mechanism. The orbital motion of the EarthMoon pair around
their barycenter generates oceanic, atmospheric and terrestrial tides. Oceanic tides
generate cycles in: mean sea level, tidal currents, tidal flooding, currents in sub-
marine canyons, sea-ice conditions and sea-surface temperature; in practice, they
transport water and heat redistributing it in the sensible and latent form. Atmo-
spheric tides affect air pressure with implications in the wind field, precipitation
variations (Landsberg, 1976), thunderstorm frequency, temperature and so on.
Lunar influence determines changes in both the gravitational force (tides) and
latitudinal shifts in insolation. The key tidal cycles are: (i) semidiurnal; (ii) lunar
monthly, with the maximum effect in syzygy and minimum at quadrature; (iii) the
nutation lunar cycle, i.e., 18.6 yr. While the changing distance between Earth, Sun
and Moon exerts a continual influence on the tidal forces, the relative position of the
perihelion and the perigee play an important part in the monthly and longer-term
periodicities, chiefly the 18.6 yr.

3. The Main Cycles: Solar or Lunar Influence?

3.1. T HE SEMIDIURNAL LUNAR CYCLE

The semidiurnal lunar cycle occurs in both the atmosphere and in the oceans.
The amplitude of the small atmospheric lunar tide was established by Chapman
(1919, 1939, 1951): Its value is less than 0.2 hPa, and is so minute that it has been
considered of no practical relevance by climatologists (Lamb, 1972). However, this
factor and its consequences have been extensively studied. Semidiurnal lunar tides
were recognised in the atmospheric pressure in America, Australia and elsewhere
(Haurwitz and Cowley, 1966, 1967, 1968a, 1969a) and in the wind field at ground
level in America, Hong Kong and Uppsala (Haurwitz and Cowley, 1968b, 1969b).
Atmospheric tides and weak anomalies on the wind field in the middle atmo-
sphere (100 km) were observed in Italy (Cevolani and Bonelli, 1985). Even pre-
cipitation induced by a semidiurnal atmospheric tide was identified, although with
modest amplitude. The effect was more visible on heavy rainfalls than on mean
precipitation (Cevolani and Bonelli, 1986; Cevolani, 1989). In the cold months,
despite the astronomic symmetry, the Moon at the descending node affects the
precipitation more than the Moon at the ascending node (Cevolani and Bortolotti,
1987). In practice, the semidiurnal cycle is nearly completely covered by the largely
dominant daily solar cycle and all of these effects are of little climatic relevance.
104 DARIO CAMUFFO

3.2. T HE MONTHLY ( LUNAR SYNODIC ) CYCLE

Let us now consider Schiaparellis observation on the coincidence between the sun-
spot cycle and the lunar phase cycle, and Toaldos (1770, 1775, 1781) hypothesis
of the light reflected by the full moon. The incoming heat flow slightly varies with
both, but which of the two is dominant? The relative heat variation expected from
solar activity is of the order of 103 (Berger, 1981b) with reference to the solar
constant, while that due to infrared radiation from the Full Moon is 3 105
and the Sun radiation reflected from the Full Moon is 1 105 (Sellers, 1965).
Therefore, from the point of view of the energy balance, every climatic modulation
which lasts for around 27.5 d should be attributed to solar activity which supplies
an amount of energy which is two orders of magnitude greater. The lunar light is
too weak to generate even modest effects and with this consideration the theory
of the lunar phases advanced by Toaldo (1771, 1775, 1780) seemed destined to be
dropped. However, the theory of an increased energy income regulated by the lunar
phases has been confirmed by two studies. Analysing the data from the European
Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecast (ECMWF), Best discovered a monthly
oscillation of about 0.2 C (Best, 1994). From the paper, two hypotheses remain
open: a link with the Moon, or a bias caused by systematic effects in the ECMWF.
Global temperature can be observed by polar orbiting satellites, which mon-
itor the microwave emission of molecular oxygen. Daily temperature records from
1979 to 1994 revealed a statistically significant 0.02 C modulation between New
Moon and Full Moon, with temperature anomalies generally higher during Full
Moon (Balling and Cerveny, 1995). The authors noted that the temperature mod-
ulation identified in this study is five orders of magnitude less than the mean
lower-tropospheric temperature and that also the radiant energy supplied by the
Moon is five orders of magnitude less than that supplied by the Sun. However,
this synodic temperature modulation has an extremely small amplitude (0.02 C)
which is three orders of magnitude lower than the daily cycle of air temperature
which is modulated by an energy income that is five orders of magnitude greater.
In addition, the 0.02 C modulation is one order of magnitude smaller than that
found by Best. Finally, a 0.02 C modulation is so small that it cannot have any
practical impact, and cannot be detected by weather stations.
Studying the precipitation series at Vigevano from 1827 to 1864, Schiaparelli
(1866a,b) discovered a correlation between precipitation, cloud cover and lunar
phases on the synodic month (29.53 d). He observed that clear days were more
frequent one week after the New Moon and less frequent one week after the Full
Moon. A similar link was observed by Bradley et al. (1962), Adderley and Bowen
(1962), and Brier and Bradley (1964) who noted that extreme precipitation events
recorded by 1544 weather stations for the period 19001949 in the United States
occurred less frequently a few days prior to the Full Moon, and more frequently a
few days after. In addition to the monthly variations, there were fortnightly vari-
ations in precipitation (Brier and Bradley, 1964) and cloudiness. Less than average
LUNAR INFLUENCES ON CLIMATE 105

sunshine is found during the first and third weeks of the lunar month and more than
average sunshine is observed during the second and fourth weeks. Although this
lunar period is significant in most statistical tests, the possibility that its appearance
is due to a combination of the smoothing procedure and the temporal and spatial
correlation among the observations cannot be ignored (Lund, 1965).
Hanson et al. (1987) found another precipitation pattern linked to the synodic
cycle, but concluded that the observations were not supportive of a casual mechan-
ism that creates tropospheric response simultaneously over global or continental-
scale regions. They suggested that the mechanism by which the Moon may mod-
ulate precipitation is the lunar tidal force, that acting over a number of days, may
give rise to measurable displacement of the anticyclones. Lunar tidal cycles were
found to be connected with hurricane and tropical storms (Carpenter et al., 1972).
An analysis was performed for northern Italy to record monthly, bi-monthly, tri-
monthly and quarter-monthly oscillations in precipitation data. Tidal influence does
not appear to be strictly constant with time, as the possible result of a modulation
effect of lunar-solar cycles which have similar periods. The combined effect of two
or more lunar cycles (e.g., nodical 27.21 d, anomalistic 27.55 d, and synodic 29.53
d) possibly leads to a contamination effect, splitting the periodicity in higher order
harmonics as a consequence of their interaction (Cevolani et al., 1986, 1987).
Time variation of daily precipitation data as a function of some particular cycles
showed that gravitational tides do indeed affect heavy rainfalls more than mean
precipitation values. From this point of view, Toaldo in the 18th century was correct
in studying the occurrence of extreme events, and not only the average values.
Lunar distortion of the Earths magnetic tail (Lethbridge, 1970; Markson, 1971),
cosmic rays (Lethbridge, 1981) and meteoric dust (Adderly and Bowen, 1962)
such as condensation nuclei have been proposed to explain a possible relationship
between thunderstorm frequency and lunar phase and declination. However, the
observational evidence is unable to confirm the expected global-scale impacts.
In some cases the tidal oscillation of the underground water table may induce
a variable supply of water to the roots of plants. This fact may explain some
particular events in which Moon phase and farming appear related.

3.3. T HE LUNAR NODAL PRECESSION , THE J UPITER S ATURN AND THE


DOUBLE SUNSPOT CYCLES

Irregularities in the solar orbit generate cycles that have periods ranging from a few
years to several hundred years. All planets are responsible for perturbations, but
Jupiter and Saturn generate the most powerful influence. The Suns orbit around
the barycenter ranges between about 14 yr and 26 yr, with an average period of
19.9 6 yr. Short solar orbital cycles around the barycenter of about 1517 yr
are usually followed by longer ones of 2224-yr cycles (Fairbridge and Saunders,
1987).
106 DARIO CAMUFFO

The 18.6 yr lunar nodal precession (that is socked into a nutation of the Earths
precession) determines changes both in the gravitational force (tides) and latit-
udinal shifts in insolation. The fractional increase in radiant energy is too small
(1 105 ), compared with the solar energy reflected by the Full Moon (Bonnet,
1985). The regression of the node defines how the angle of the Moons orbit to
the Earths equatorial plane combines with, or partially cancels out, the tilt of the
Earths axis. The result is that when the declination is greatest, the tidal forces at
high latitude are greatest (Burroughs, 1992). The overall change causes a variation
in the gravitational attraction of the Moon that is 3.7% that of its daily component
(Bryant, 1997).
The 11-yr cycle, which is often found in the analysis of long series of climate
data (Vines, 1984), is typically solar and is more easily distinguishable from the
8.85-yr period in the advance of the longitude of the Moons perigee. The latter
determines the times of alignment of the perigee with the Earths perihelion. The
11-yr cycle is very common and widespread in climatic analyses, whereas the 8.85-
yr cycle is basically obscure.
An analysis of 525 air-temperature and pressure records yielded world-wide
evidence of the 18.6-yr lunar nodal cycle, as well as weaker evidence of a weak 11-
yr solar cycle (Currie, 1987). In the case of borderline conditions characterised by
semiarid to marginally humid regions, the effect was strengthened. This situation
was found in North America by analysing the tree rings and other series resulting
from severe drought in western North America (Currie, 1979, 1981b, 1984b,c).
Analysing the long-term historical records of rainfall at Beijing, an alternation of
drought and flood was found in north-eastern China (Hameed et al., 1983; Cur-
rie and Fairbridge, 1985). Long-period tidal forcing of Indian monsoon rainfall
was similarly assessed (Campbell et al., 1983) as well as the 18.6-yr regular-
ity in floods induced by monsoon precipitation in India (Currie, 1984a). How-
ever, the same phenomenon was also strictly linked with the solar 22-yr cycle
too (Fairbridge and Sauders, 1987). The air pressure in Japan, and the meteoro-
logical events associated with it, were also affected by this cycle (Currie, 1982).
In North Africa droughts and famines are frequent, and the Nile floods can be
considered as a well-documented global climatic proxy, recorded for about ten cen-
turies. These droughts and famines are matched up with 18.6 tidal cycles, but half
of the peaks match also with periods of sunspot maxima, and some with sunspot
minima (Fairbridge, 1984a).
We should mention that the 18.6-yr period has a slightly better correlation with
a certain number of geophysical events than the 22-yr cycle, and this seems to
displace attention from the Sun to the Moon. However, the study of anomalies in
precipitation has lead to the conclusion that many of the droughts in the Northern
Hemisphere are affected by the 18.6-yr cycle and are controlled by resonance
from the planetary Rossby wave that is locked topographically into position by
the Tibetan Plateau and the Rocky Mountains. On the other hand, in much of the
LUNAR INFLUENCES ON CLIMATE 107

Southern Hemisphere, associations between climate and astronomical cycles are of


minimal practical significance (Bryant, 1997).
However, other statistical analyses, or other series of data, seem to indicate a
stronger solar influence. Several authors have fairly extensively studied the same
droughts in the High Plains regions and the mid-western states of North America,
rainfall anomalies, temperature and air-pressure cycles in relation to the 22-yr solar
cycle (Herman and Goldberg, 1978). Also in the long series of central England
temperature records in the period 17581950 the power spectrum has shown a
peak corresponding to 23 yr which was related to the heliomagnetic cycle (Mason,
1976; Burroughs, 1992). The power spectrum of a Lapland tree ring series, con-
nected with the Finland summer temperatures, for the period 1463 to 1960 gave
clear evidence of a 23-yr peak and minor evidence of an 18-yr peak (Lamb, 1972;
Burroughs, 1992).
In the long precipitation series of Padova, Italy, (1725today) the application
of the Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) and the Maximum Entropy Spectral Analysis
(MESA) has proven that the 8.3 yr return period was largely dominant for the
precipitation amount and the 25.7-yr for the frequency (Camuffo, 1984). Rome
(1782today) shows peaks at 7.8-yr and 12.7-yr for the amount and 3-yr and 33.8-
yr for the frequency. Colacino (1986) found the same results, but filtering the Rome
data before applying the FFT, the 11-yr period emerged in the spectrum of filtered
precipitation amount as well as in the Rome temperature series (Colacino and
Rovelli, 1983).
Not always does the nutation of the precession cycle emerge from a periodical
analysis applied to long time series, because the effect is weak and is often covered
by local factors and others, the main effect is expected at the tropical latitudes
10 (Fairbridge, 1984b). At the mid-latitudes, the 18.6-yr nutation cycle can be
confused with the 19.9-yr Jupiter-Saturn or the quasi-regular 22-yr double sunspot
cycle. However, the problem does not always consist in a fine resolution in the
power spectrum, but often both solar and lunar influences are possible, or operate
simultaneously.
The problem is not to establish whether the climate is affected by solar or lunar
influence. In practice, the Solar influence sometimes seems to be, or is, domin-
ant and well proved by observational data, sometimes the Moon influence seems
stronger. Both exist, but they are generally weak and an indubitable attribution is
often difficult, or even impossible.

3.4. L ONG - TERM CHANGES CONNECTED WITH LUNI - SOLAR FORCES OR


SOLAR ACTIVITY

The long series of environmental data in our data bank allowed us to check the
Eddy (1976, 1977, 1981) hypothesis that climatic anomalies and natural hazards
occurred with higher frequency every time solar activity was reduced to minimum
levels in the last two millennia.
108 DARIO CAMUFFO

Exceptionally high sea surges, flooding Venice, and locally called acqua alta
(i.e., high water) are generated by storms of the Sirocco wind, and their intensity
is also affected by the distribution of the high and low pressure over the Medi-
terranean basin, the oscillation of the sea level that changes in the pressure field
generate in the Adriatic Sea, and the luni-solar attractive forces, that in the syzygy
(i.e., EarthMoonSun alignment) combine together to exert maximum influence.
The tidal force of the Moon increases with its declination and is greatest when
its perigee position coincides with its maximum declination. At the higher latit-
udes the greatest tides occur when the Sun and Moon are both at their greatest
declination, and the Sun reaches this situation at the solstices. All these conditions
occurred in A.D. 1433 with similar conjunctions in A.D. 1424 and 1442. This was
a unique case of such an astronomical combination in the past two millennia (Lamb
(1972). The analysis of the sea surges at Venice from A.D. 782 to 1990 (Camuffo,
1993; Enzi and Camuffo, 1995) has shown a secondary peak in the increase of
occurrence of flooding tides exactly in that period of strongest astronomical forces,
and other, more relevant peaks due to increased frequency in Sirocco storms over
the Adriatic Sea. An important peak was found (Camuffo and Enzi, 1995) during
the Wolf and the Sprer Minimum, but not during the other periods of reduced
sunspot activity. The Sprer Minimum was characterised by many meteorological
perturbations and natural hazards. The peak corresponding to the exponentially
increasing trend in the 1900s is particularly dominant for two reasons. The main
reason is the subsidence generated by the exceeding extraction of water from the
phreatic stratum for industrial purposes, the second the greater exchange of sea
water after the excavation of new channels for the passage of oil-tankers. Except for
this peak of an anthropic nature, all the others have demonstrated that the frequency
of surges triggered by meteorological factors are largely dominant over periods
in which the tidal level was particularly affected by the combined luni-solar tidal
forces.
The analysis performed to pinpoint climatic anomalies in northern Italy during
the periods of low solar activity (Camuffo and Enzi, 1995) has shown that the
Sprer Minimum was always perturbed, and the Maunder Minimum only rarely.
For instance, the frequency distribution of the freezing of sea water in the Venice
Lagoon had a secondary maximum during the Sprer Minimum, and nothing oc-
curred during the other Minima. The same is true for gale winds, storms, hail-
storms and heavy rains. The invasion of locust swarms (Camuffo and Enzi, 1991,
1995), which were transported from the Hungarian plain by the Bora wind, had a
maximum frequency during the Sprer Minimum, and another peak preceded the
Maunder Minimum. Such an occurrence just before the sunspot activity is merely
coincidental, not an indication of a cause-effect relationship. There is no evidence
of the particular luni-solar conjunctions from AD 1424 to 1442.
The frequency distribution of the floods of the main Italian rivers was also
investigated (Camuffo and Enzi, 1995, 1996). The river Tiber, which has been
documented for 2,400 yr, had a peaked maximum during the Sprer Minimum,
LUNAR INFLUENCES ON CLIMATE 109

and another peak preceded the Maunder Minimum; no other relevant periods of
increased flooding frequency were found in coincidence with periods of low sun-
spot activity. The return periods over the 90% confidence level (CL) determined
with the FFT are: 14, 22.4, 24.5, 27, 31, 35, 51, 76.6, 153 and 188-yr. Only the
last three exceed the 99% CL. Similarly, in the last 2,200 yr the river Po and its
tributaries presented a major peak during the Sprer Minimum followed by the
Wolf Minimum, but no other relevant peaks were found in coincidence with periods
of low sunspot activity. The return periods exceeding the 90% CL are: 42.2, 55.7
and 188-yr, the last again exceeding the 99% CL. Finally, the river Adige had a
peak during the Sprer Minimum, and a secondary peak at the beginning of the
Maunder Minimum; the other peaks are not linked with the solar activity. The
MESA was unable to establish the main lunar or solar cycles. The most recurrent
return period is 30 yr, with its multiples. The return periods exceeding the 90% CL
are: 14, 19.8, 22.6, 27, 50, 56, 135, 316-yr, where 50 and 135-yr exceed the 99%
CL.
In reality, the analysis of climatic data and natural hazards showed that the
Sprer Minimum was characterised by several anomalies, while the Maunder Min-
imum passed without any particular influences.
As far as the lunar 18.6-yr and the two solar 19.9-yr and 22-yr periods are
concerned, the river Tiber presents only the 22.4-yr recurrence interval close to the
heliomagnetic cycle, the river Adige two interesting recurrence intervals, one close
to the Jupiter-Saturn (19.8-yr) cycle and one close to the heliomagnetic one (22.6-
yr); the river Po had none. In practice, the solar influence seems stronger, but does
not always emerge. We should consider that every river has its own return periods
because the catchment basins and the meteorological situations leading to flooding
(e.g., spring or winter rains, melting glaciers in spring, melting snow because of
the foehn or sirocco wind in winter) are not the same. However, the diversity of all
these return periods seems to indicate that none of these forcing factors is really
dominant, and that a harmonic analysis may point out the one or the other of these
weak factors as a consequence of a combination of certain coincidental, synergistic
effects.

4. Conclusions

An understanding of the astronomical forcing and solar activity is precious in


clarifying the basic mechanisms that govern the climate and the causes of past
climate changes on the long-time scale. On the short-time scale climatic forcing is
minimal and is of little help in forecasting the weather.
The Moon, changing its orbital eccentricity, the distance from the Earth, the
angle and direction between its orbital plane and the plane of the ecliptic, can exert
a very weak influence on the weather and climate. Infrared emissions from the Full
Moon surface, or reflected solar radiation, and nutational changes in insolation
110 DARIO CAMUFFO

have also been considered, although their influence is very weak. Magnetospheric
disturbances, cosmic rays and meteoric dust have been held responsible for ex-
traterrestrial ice nuclei, cloudiness, precipitation and thunderstorm anomalies, but
the observational evidence discourages a cause-effect scenario capable of causing
real global-scale impacts. The most effective mechanisms for lunar influence on
the climate seems to be attributed to the modulation in the gravitational field with
changes in transport of heat as a consequence of the tidal movement of the water
masses.
In practice, it is very difficult to distinguish between the anomaly in solar-heat
supply, lunar-tidal influence and other external factors. In the past, many attempts
have been made to explain, statistically, climate change in terms of a single global
forcing factor, e.g., the Moon. Although some statistical analyses have given ap-
parently good results, we are far from establishing general laws. The Moon does
not affect weather variables in the same way, simultaneously, over the Earth or over
broad regions of the Earth. The physical problem is that the climate system is gov-
erned by many non-linear interactions, feed-backs and synergisms that mask the
primary causes of influence. In addition, many local factors may intervene to cover
or mask the influence, especially when this is weak, and the results often seem
contradictory. In practice, in one case study attention is displaced from the Moon
to the Sun, or to other causes, in another. A mathematical problem is that certain
lunar and solar cycles have similar periods (e.g., the 18.6-yr lunar nodal, the 19.9-yr
JupiterSaturn and the 22-yr heliomagnetic cycle), and when the climatic event is
not strictly cyclic, or is affected by perturbations, the spectral power analysis gives
broad maxima, or the peak might be slightly displaced. Consequently, it is possible
that some results attributed to the Moon might be more appropriately attributed to
the joint influence of Jupiter and Saturn or to the Sun, or vice-versa.
Sunspot influence will be proved only after the simultaneous verification of
two conditions: (i) all the periods affected by reduced sunspot activity are really
anomalous with respect to the whole climatic context; (ii) such irregularities occur
each time the solar activity is anomalous. Only with these two conditions can we
distinguish between mere statistical coincidence and a general physical rule.
In practice, in Italy it has been proven that the Maunder Minimum did not
coincide with the coldest, or the worst part of the Little Ice Age, and that only the
Sprer Minimum was characterised by the occurrence of many catastrophic events.
This may be interpreted in one of the following ways: (i) the anomaly during the
Sprer Minimum was fortuitous, so that any teleconnection between solar forcing
and the Mediterranean climate remains unproven; (ii) during the other periods
(Early Medieval, Oort, Wolf and Maunder) of minimum solar activity, the forcing
was weak and was overcome by other factors; (iii) in the Mediterranean Basin,
solar forcing is masked by other local factors. As a teleconnection seems probable
during the Sprer Minimum, one, or a combination of the last two hypotheses
seems possible.
LUNAR INFLUENCES ON CLIMATE 111

In conclusion, climatic impacts of the Moon are far from being understood and
are so small that they are difficult to verify and quantify.

Acknowledgement

Special thanks are due to Dr. Giordano Cevolani, CNR-ISAO for making available
his results.

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