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How do celestial bodies influence our weather?

by Martin Morin

Shutterstock

The moon, the sun, comets, asteroids… Our weather and the behaviour of planet Earth’s components are influenced by everything that goes on around it. And by “around,” we’re talking millions of kilometres…

The moon

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We obviously need to start with the moon. This satellite’s gravitational field influences our oceans and, when combined with Earth’s centrifugal force, creates waves all over the planet.

The sun

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This is really basic stuff, but without the sun there would be no life on Earth. Our favourite celestial body heats Earth’s surface, its oceans and its atmosphere. All other weather follows.

Solar flares

NASA / GSFC / SDO

Although solar eruptions don’t exactly influence the weather, they do have an effect on planet Earth. They are capable of causing power outages, interrupting radio communications systems and disrupting aircraft navigation systems.

Dangerous for astronauts

NASA / SDO / Goddard

While they cannot harm humans on Earth’s surface, solar eruptions may be deadly for astronauts. On the other hand, when they disrupt Earth’s magnetic field, solar flares create a beautiful aurora.

Meteorites

USGS National Map Data Download and Visualization Services

A meteorite crashing into Earth has the potential to create an enormous crater — in an extreme case, for example, a 10-kilometre-wide (six-mile) asteroid may create a 145-kilometre-wide (93-mile) crater!

Dust in the sky

TTLSC / Shutterstock

The impact of a meteorite hitting Earth sends up a huge quantity of dust that may block the sun’s rays and modify local weather for a period of time. There’s also a huge impact on the ground with Earth’s crust being disturbed.

Blame it on the moon

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Research has shown that it snows and rains slightly more in the days leading up to a quarter-moon.

Umbrella optional

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No need to carry an umbrella just because the moon is rising — the rainfall increase might be as little as 1%. However, research findings will be useful in long-term climate change modelling.

Under the sea

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When an object falls from the sky into the ocean, the impact sends large quantities of water vapour into the stratosphere and into the higher levels of the atmosphere.

The greenhouse effect

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This may, in extreme cases, cause an increase in global temperatures, as this steam produces a greenhouse effect.

The influence of Venus and Jupiter

NASA / JPL-Caltech

Recent studies have shown that Earth’s orbit has been influenced by the gravitational pull of Venus and Jupiter over the past 215 million years.

Powerful forces

NASA, ESA, A. Simon (Goddard Space Flight Center), and M.H. Wong (University of California, Berkeley)

According to research from Columbia University, “The climate cycles are directly related to how the Earth orbits the sun and slight variations in sunlight reaching Earth lead to climate and ecological changes.” Venus’s influence is felt because of its proximity to our blue planet, and Jupiter, while much further away, is the biggest one in our solar system.

Earth’s thin crust

NASA

The gravity of the sun and the moon has the potential to alter the shape of our planet, given how thin its crust is. This perceivable phenomenon is known as the “Earth tide.”

Too bad!

CarlaVanWagoner / Shutterstock

Think your zodiac sign and star alignment influences your behaviour? “If you want to believe in astrology, go right ahead,” states the plain-speaking scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson. “Just don’t base any decision that relates to your health, your wealth, or your security on it. […] Basically, it’s all bullsh*t.” Sorry, astrologists!

Moods

lenic / Shutterstock

And finally, moods. A full moon or a sunny day are “extraterrestrial” events that influence — poetically speaking — the weather in our souls.

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