Right now, ‘Frankenstorm,’ a combination of Hurricane Sandy and a strong cold front from Canada, is battering the Eastern United States with heavy rain and violent winds. For people living on the East Coast itself, the storm has been even stronger by an unexpected, astronomical phenomenon: the Full Moon.
Yesterday marked the Full Moon for October, known as the Hunter’s Moon. Regardless of name, the Full Moon can have real-world impact on Earthly goings-on, especially with the oceans in regard to tides.
At Full Moon, the Sun, Earth, and Moon are in a straight line in that order. Result: the gravitational influence of the Moon is magnified. The most obvious manifestation of this extra gravitational pull is higher tides.
Regardless of where it is, the Moon’s gravity pulls on Earth. When the Moon is directly over water, its gravity creates a bulge in the water as the water is tugged toward the Moon. As the Moon orbits Earth, this bulge in the water travels with it until the Moon crosses over to above land. For people living on the shore, this bulge of water created by the Moon’s pull manifests itself as a high tide. Then, as the Moon progresses away from over the water, its pull on the water decreases and the water returns to normal levels.
Moving onto hurricanes.
As in all stormy weather, the air pressure is low, with the worse the weather, thew lower the pressure. Needless to say, a hurricane is about as bad as weather can get. Even people only familiar with hurricanes through television reports have heard of storm surge, the high water associated with hurricanes. Storm surge is caused by the cyclonic motion of winds in a hurricane pushing water out from the center of a storm and toward the periphery.
Now, with Frankenstorm, the storm surge is doubled because, in addition to the storm pushing water out and up, the Full Moon is pulling it above its normal levels, too. Result: surges a lot higher than they would ordinarily be in such a storm if it were to take place at any lunar phase.
As for the storm itself, it has already hit land and is weakening, but much of the East Coast not accustomed to such storms is still underwater. One should stay tuned to the news for further updates as the day progresses.
Locally, Frankenstorm has made quite an impact in the greater Cleveland area, too. Right now, hundreds of thousands of households in the Northeast Ohio area are without power, hundreds of schools are closed, and crews are only now getting out to assess damage as the storm weakens from its peak intensity. Looking to the future, expect wind and rain through Wednesday with the storm only subsiding come Thursday.
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