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The Moon’s Wobble That NASA Has Warned Us Against

Team StoryWeavers|August 07, 2021, 09:01 IST|

You may have learnt about the relationship between the moon and the tides in the seas. 

The tides in the oceans are higher and lower based on the gravitational pull and the position of the moon, as it goes around the earth. As a result, new moon and full moon days cause higher or lower tides than normal.

But what you may not know is that the moon also ‘wobbles’ sometimes. This causes the tides to fluctuate even more. This is a regular phenomenon and happens occasionally for a few years. 

It turns out that currently, the moon is in one of those phases and NASA has assessed how that will affect the tides and overall sea levels globally, with more focus on the coastal areas in the USA.

The new study from NASA and the University of Hawaii, published recently in the journal Nature Climate Change warns that upcoming changes in the moon’s behaviour could lead to record flooding on Earth in the next decade. 

What’s a moon’s wobble?

When the moon revolves around the earth, it takes an elliptical orbit. In its course, the elliptical orbit causes the velocity of the moon to change. The change in velocity causes the moon to sway in its orbit. That’s called a wobble!

This movement happens once every 18.6 years. It’s similar to the vibrations of a spinning coin just before it falls flat. This causes a fluctuation in the gravitational pull. As a result, a wobble can either suppress or amplify tides on Earth.

The tides are impacted by the position of the moon and movement of the moon.

In half of the moon’s 18.6-year wobble- cycle, Earth’s regular daily tides are suppressed: High tides are lower than normal, and low tides are higher than normal. In the second half (which is expected to happen in the next decade), the high tides are higher, while low tides are lower. 

Why is the wobble causing more impact now?

If the wobble is a regular occurrence, why are we expecting record floods in the 2030s? That is a consequence of climate change, global warming and the overall rise in the sea levels. 

With already higher sea levels, the wobble effect may cause higher tides and the highest level of floods ever.  We need to be prepared for worse flooding, especially those of us living in the coastal areas. 

You all know that floods cause drastic damage to lives and property and these are just a few of the consequences.  Coastal cities across the globe like Florida, Hawaii etc which already see severe flooding are bound to see an exponential increase in the number of floods. 

There could be floods everyday, if climate change goes unchecked.

One of the experts from NASA, Ben Hamlington, who is also one of the authors of the study adds that vulnerable cities can see as many as 10 to 15 floods a month! 

They can also occur in clusters that last more than a month and depending on the position of the moon, floods could happen as frequently as every day.

That is scary and certainly concerning, right?

However, there may be days that may not witness drastic flooding, depending on the way the moon wobbles. It is very important for us to know the good and bad days well in advance, so that we can plan and design our lives accordingly.

That being said, it is equally important for us to be aware of the possible consequences of global warming and prevent it from becoming worse. 

Which do you think are the potentially vulnerable areas in India and how can we reduce flooding and higher tides? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below. 


About the Author

Aparna is a mom, singer and dreamer. At BYJU'S, she writes stories about learning for children. She believes in the power of music, especially ghazal, the magic of the universe and happy learners. When not writing or singing, you will find her intensely engaged in conversations about life and the power of words.

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