Scientists trace link between the moon and rain

Image: TRMM
Readings from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission, shown in this artist’s conception, provided evidence to support a link between lunar tides and rainfall patterns. (Credit: NASA)

When the moon is high in the sky, its gravitational pull warps the atmosphere enough to reduce rainfall ever so slightly. At least that’s the conclusion that researchers from the University of Washington reached after reviewing 15 years of detailed rainfall data.

The evidence is laid out in a paper to be published in Geophysical Research Letters.

Readings from the U.S.-Japanese Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission, collected between 1998 and 2012, suggest that rainfall is reduced by about 1 percent if the precipitation falls when the moon is directly overhead or underfoot.

Those findings are in sync with a 2010 study that laid out a similar link between phases of the moon and precipitation. Both papers show that lunar tides have an effect on the atmosphere.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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