Climate and the Black Swan

Is the Moon a Black Swan, in understanding climate variability? This question has divided science for more then hundred years. The shadow from the Moon, is still a Black Swan, in understanding the global warming as manmade, or by nature variations.

Old Science and New Science

Old science was influenced by Aristotle.

“EVERYTHING that is in motion must be moved by something. For if it has not the source of its motion in itself it is evident that it is moved by something other than itself, for there must be something else that moves it. Since everything that is in motion must be moved by something, let us take the case in which a thing is in locomotion and is moved by something that is itself in motion, and that again is moved by something else that is in motion, and that by something else, and so on continually: then the series cannot go on to infinity, but there must be some first movement.

–Aristotle. 350 BC. PHYSICS.

This view of science represented a deterministic view of nature. The nature has a first cause, controlled by the solar system, and a final cause, which will influence the nature on Earth. Old science from Aristotle, was a holistic believe system. A believe system, that slowed down the progress of science, in hundreds of years.

The new science from Newton and others was based on a framework of mathematics. From mathematic it was possible to test models of nature, and slowly it was developed a new framework of understanding the variability of nature. The motive was the same, to predict something in nature, to control something in nature. From this new science, we know more about the period relations between the Earth, the Moon and the Sun. From the period relations, we know more about how more about tides on Earth, ocean circulations, the Earth axis oscillation, and more. Based on this new science, we are monitoring data series in time periods of hundreds of years. At the same time, we are learning better methods to understand the nature variability. After monitoring data for decades, the data series shows fingerprints from the Moon, as an unexpected Black Swan. The fingerprint that represents the old science, that goes back to Aristotle. New science is meeting old science.

Lunar nodal periods in nature

The British astronomer Edmond Halley (1656-1742) studied the ancient knowledge of astronomy; he is best known for his studies of comets. Halley visited the physicist Isaac Newton in Cambridge and asked him about gravity’s influence on bodies in motion. The result from Newton was the Principia Mathematica. Halley tried to solve the problem of the determination of longitude and conducted pioneering investigations in geophysics, trade winds, tides, the magnetism of the earth and the relationship between the weather and dynamic air pressure. He estimated the longitude by observing the 18.03-year lunar saros cycle, the cycle that is associated with the time between eclipses. Using this approach, he published a method that he claimed to be accurate within 69 miles at the equator. In 1699 he sailed in the Atlantic and made magnetic maps. In the paperAtlas matitimus et commercialis of 1728 he described the theory of a fluctuating herring stock between the Arctic Ocean and the North Sea, controlled by climate conditions (Wegner, 1993). This is probably the first paper on climate influence on biomasses in the North Sea.

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) needed evidence of tides to prove his theory of the sun-centered solar system. Galileo could not account for the tides without the movement of the earth. Throughout his life he ignored the true cause of tides. He failed to see how a body so far away could exert so much power. To him the idea of lunar influence as was first described by Newton in Principia smacked of occultism and astrology (Sobel, 1999). A mathematical framework for tides was later developed by Edmond Halley, Pierre Laplace, Lord Kelvin, and George Howard Darwin. Feldman (1988) reports that Toaldo (1784) found a correlation between climatic variations and lunar cycles. This is probably the first report of a possible lunar control of climate variability. Hundred years later, George Howard Darwin, the second son of Charles Darwin, studied recorded fluctuations of the sea level at Bombay and was the first to draw attention to how the 18.6-year lunar nodal cycle introduced a long-term tide as well as geological changes (Darwin, 1877, 1879, 1880). The theory from Georg H Darwin, supported the old view of science from Aristotle. Deterministic long lunar periods from the Moon, have future control of nature on Earth. This deterministic view of nature caused a divided science, that has continued up to this day, and which still influences the discussion about of a manmade global warming, or a nature caused global warming.

The Tide Predictor Machine

Lord Kelvin (1824-1907) began studying tide records in London. Using Fourier’s spectrum analysis, he found that the data series had periodic changes, rooted in periodic changes between the Earth, the Sun, and the Moon. The data series had something predictable, so that he could calculate future tides, and then be able to control future seals to London. With this discovery he made a mechanical tide predictor machine in 1872, which calculated the tide over a whole year. In the 1960s, computers and better methods came to analyze the frequency spectrum in data series. Lord Kelvin discovered that if there are stationary periods in a data series, and the periods have a known stationary source, we can predict the future, to control the future.

The Wind Theory

In 1878, the German mathematician Karl Zöppritz (1838-1885) presented a mathematical treatment showing that wind could influence water at the greatest depths of the ocean, provided that sufficient time was allowed for what he considered a slow process (Zöppritz, 1878). The wind theory explained the circulation in the Atlantic Ocean. Later, Nansen supplemented this wind theory. He explained fluctuations of temperature and salinity in the Arctic Ocean as a product of fluctuations of wind and atmospheric conditions. This theory has been generally accepted as the main reason for ocean temperature fluctuations (Svansson, 2002).

Otto Krümmel (1854-1912) was a German professor of geography and considered to be the first research-oriented academic oceanographer in the modern sense. In 1887 Krümmel published the monumental Handbuch der Ozeanographie, which immediately attained status as the standard reference source for physical oceanographic information. The Handbuch contained a global chart of ocean surface circulation that depicted all the major currents in their proper locations. With this handbook Krümmel made a critical comment on long-term tides. The wind-theory from Otto Krümmel became widely accepted, and after Krümmel there has been a divided science between the wind-theory and the lunar-theory, that has influenced science and understanding climate, that has continued up to this day.

Moon-Waves in Oceans

The Swedish oceanographer Dr. Otto Pettersson (1848-1941) was skeptical about Zöppritz’s wind theory. He found that variations in Swedish records occurred on a much shorter time scale than expected from the Zöppritz wind theory. Pettersson considered the temperature and salinity differences between the pole and the equator as the driving force behind ocean circulation. Differences in temperature and salinity made the cooled water sink, which in turn drove bottom water to the south. New, fresh surface water then must be transported from the equator to the Arctic Ocean. This ice- melting hypothesis is later referred to as the thermohaline theory (Svansson, 2002).

In 1909, Pettersson studied the relationship between herring catches and tides in Gullmarfjord on the west coast of Sweden. The study showed that the variation in the lunar perigee was related to fresh water movements and the arrival of schools of herring. As the ocean water presses in toward that inland sea, it dips down, allowing fresh surface water to roll out above it. At that depth, where salt and fresh water come into contact, a sharp layer of discontinuity forms, much like the surface film between water and air. This salt layer has a vertical fluctuation in long time series. Petterson found that the fluctuation correlated with the moon’s phases, long-period tides and long-period herring catches. He explained these fluctuations with a long-period vertical tide that influenced the layers of different water density in the ocean. Fluctuations in these layers then influenced the sea’s surface temperature, the climate and the recruitment of herring. He concluded that the long-period tide cycles of 18.09 and 111 years were the cause of herring biomass fluctuations at Bohuslen (Petterson O., 1905, 1914a, 1915, 1930; Lindquist, 2002).

Pettersson argued that there were two types of tides; the diurnal and the semi-diurnal tide caused by the rotation of the earth under the gravitational field of the sun and the moon, and the parallactic tide. This tide depends upon the varying distance of the sun and the moon and their position with respect to the earth. By analyzing these distances, he found oscillating periods of 9, 18, 93, 111, 222 and up to 1433 and 1850 years. The most important cycle was the 18.09-year saros cycle and the 111-year cycle that he called “The Greater Saros” (Petterson; 1914b, 1915, 1930; Hans Petterson, 1915). Ljungman had presented the theory that long-term biomass fluctuation of herring was related to a 111-year sunspot cycle (Ljungman, 1879). Now Pettersson found a 111-year cycle that matched the 111-year cycle in the herring records from Ljungman. Pettersson saw the relation between the long-term waves and extreme climate events and biomass fluctuations. He found a close relationship between the winter temperature at the Ona light house at the Norwegian west coast and the climate in Sweden (Pettersson, 1914a; Helland-Hansen and Nansen, 1909). Based on these estimates he argued that hydrographic changes affected the weather in Scandinavia. Variations in lunar-tidal effects in the Atlantic Ocean influenced climate fluctuations in the Scandinavia (Sanders, 1995).

The parallactic tide theory from Otto Pettersson and Hans Pettersson was not accepted by other scientists. The theories of tides were based on work from Laplace, which showed that the parallactic tide is too small to have any noticeable influence on the sea. Krümmel commented that: “anyone who has the slightest knowledge of the theory of tides must perceive that it cannot be a tide phenomenon”. The famous meteorologist Waldemar Köppen said “this is to give our planet’s satellite in space the blame for catastrophes of which she is absolutely guiltless”. The leading authority in astronomy in America, Professor Charles A Young said, “The multitude of current beliefs as to the controlling influence of the moon’s phases and changes over the weather and various conditions of life are mostly unfounded and in the strict sense of the word superstitious” (Pettersson, 1930). When Pettersson concluded that herring cycles were an astronomical coincidence of lunar periods, he presented his results to Krümmel. Krümmel accepted the reality of the phenomenon, but he declared that such considerable oscillations in the intermediate layer of the sea could not possibly be caused by tides (Pettersson, 1930).

Pettersson did not accept Laplace’s results or the comments from other scientists. He continued to argue that Laplace’s model was based on a homogenous sea. He believed his critics overlooked the fact that the sea consists of layers of different density, which can glide over each other. A long-term vertical tide could then introduce a vertical fluctuation in the layers. A vertical fluctuation in the layers could then explain fluctuations of herring recruitment in Bohuslen, fluctuations in the surface temperature, and fluctuations in climate (Pettersson; 1914b, 1915, 1930).

The Standing Lunar Wave

Russian scientists continued the ”Lunar-wave” theory from Pettersson. In 1930’s the ideas of long- period tides that influenced the water circulation in the Atlantic was investigated by A L Chizhevsky, V B Shostakovich, M S Eygenson, B M Rubashev, T V Pokrovskaya, Lisitzin, Rossiter, Izehevskiand others. Maksimov and Smirnov (1964, 1965, 1967, 1967) estimated a standing 19-year tide in the Atlantic Ocean. They found that this long period wave influences the velocity and circulation of water masses and the sea temperature. The estimated changes in the temperature were about +/- 0.2 degree Celsius in the Atlantic and the Kola section. Maksimov and Smirnov (1970) summarized the investigations by a Standing wave theory.

  1. A Standing wave: There is a global standing 19-years wave in the oceans. In a time series from 1922 to 1960 it is identified a 19-year tidal wave that covers the Atlantic Ocean. This wave has the same cycle time in St. Andrew Sound, Faroes-Shetland Channel, Nordøyane, Skomvær, and Kola median.
  2. A standing node: The standing wave has a maximum at the Arctic pole, a 50% maximum at the equator and a zero node at the 35 degrees Latitude.
  3. A standing “astronomical” current: There is a corresponding long-term “astronomical“ current that fluctuates between the pole and the equator. The current has a maximum at the node.

The 18.6 yr. tidal water temperature in the North Atlantic was expressed by the equation T18.6(t)=0.24°C sin(19.35°t+80°). Where T18.6(t) has a maximum in 1950 and a minimum in 1959. The climate theory from Maksimov and Smirnov was based on the conclusions

  1. A 19-years sea-current oscillation: Small 19-year fluctuations in the Atlantic currents was sufficient to change the vertical temperature distribution and the surface temperature.
  2. A 19-years atmospheric tide: Interaction between 19-years surface of the surface temperature fluctuation introduced a 19-years tidal fluctuation in the atmosphere.
  3. A 19-years weather fluctuation: A 19-years tidal fluctuation in the atmosphere introduces a 19-years fluctuation in the weather.

Maksimov and Smirnov concluded, “The tidal phenomena in the atmosphere are not a consequence of the existence of pressure wave in the atmosphere of high latitudes, but the develop in nature soley as a result of the development in the seas and oceans (especially in high latitude) of a long-period lunar tide which causes modifications in the transport and distribution of the heat in the hydrosphere.” Maksimov and Smirnov (1965) has the following comment in this paper. “Krümmel once commented that any idea that the Moon affected weather was pure superstition. In our opinion, this judgment, which has had a great effect on science, was over hasty.”

A Black Swan in New records

The 1960s brought the development of better computers and better Fourier spectrum analysis algorithms. One pioneers in spectrum analysis was Robert G Currie. He analyzed a large number of time series using maximum entropy spectrum analysis. Using this method, he identified the 18.6-year lunar nodal cycle in a time series of the temperatures in North America (Currie, 1981, 1984, 1987) Nile records since AD 650 (Currie et al., 1995), tree-rings in Africa and North America (Currie, 1991), fish catches, wine harvests (Currie, 1993), and many others. The collected work from Currie shows that the 18.6-year cycle has a global influence on the climate, the agriculture, the biomass in the sea and probably the economy. In 1994 Currie and Wyatt published a spectrum analysis of Lofoten records that showed 18.6-year cycle (Wyatt et al., 1994). This was probably the first time the 18.6-year cycle was identified in the time series of Northeast Arctic cod in the Barents Sea. Currie noticed the cycles had some non-linearities, but he had no explanation for these phenomena (Wyatt, The other problem was that Currie could not explain the reason why he observed the 18.6-year cycle in the time series. This gave the impression that there was a phenomenon that was difficult to identify. Slowly the 18.6-year lunar period from the Moon, started to be visible as an unexpected Black Swan in oceanographic data series. Loder and Garret (1978) and Royer (1989, 1993), Keeling and Whorf, (1997) and Yndestad (1999, 2003, 2006) identified the estimated an 18.6-year temperature cycle on the east and west coast of North America and the Barents Sea.

The Lunar Nodal Spectrum

The Swedish oceanographer Otto Pettersson (1848-1941) is one of the founders of the ICES organization and in 1900 he started to record the North Atlantic Water temperature inflow to the Norwegian Sea and the Barents Sea Kola section. After a period of hundred years, this was the longest oceanographic data series in the world. In 1995 a spectrum analysis of the data series and discovered a lunar nodal spectrum of [18.6/3, 18.6, 3*18.6, 4*18.6] year period in the data series (Yndestad, 1996, 1999). This investigation confirmed the lunar-wave theory from Otto Pettersson, and it showed that the total temperature variability was influenced by a fingerprint from the Moon. Next investigations showed that the 18.6-year lunar nodal spectrum was identified in the Hammerfest sea-level, Barents Sea ice extent, the NAO winter index and the Polar position (Yndestad, 2003, 2006). In 2003 the research was presented at the ICES annual meeting in Tallinn. After a period of hundred years, the analysis confirmed the Pettersson lunar-wave theory, by the data series he started to monitor. After the Tallinn-meeting, started an analysis the to compare North Atlantic Water inflow data series and the Barents Sea Kola-section data series. The wavelet spectrum analysis of the data series showed that both data series was controlled by the 18.6-year lunar nodal period spectrum (Yndestad, Turrell, Ozhigin, 2008). The time-lag between the data series was three years, and the mean period fluctuation of 4*18.6 = 74.4 years. The lunar period temperature variability in North Atlantic Water show that the lunar spectrum in the temperature variability, must have been created before inflow to the Norwegian Sea. The last ten years, the 18.6-year period is identified in a number other investigations.

The Climate Paradox

The comment “the Moon affected weather is pure superstition”, has affected science up to out our time. Thecomment from the meteorologists Waldemar Köppen “this is to give our planet’s satellite in space the blame for catastrophes of which she is absolutely guiltiness”, is not far away from IPCC-reports of manmade global warming. IPCC is connected to UNEP(environment) and WNO(meteorology) under UN. The IPCC principles of governing are: “The role of the IPCC is to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation.”

Understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, is not the same as understanding the scientific basis of natural climate variability. The paradox is that IPCC and natural climate variability represents a different basis of understanding the risk of climate change. IPCC computes the risk of an accelerating global warming, based on expected increased CO2. Spectrum analysis of data series from nature, show the fingerprint of periods from the Earth-Moon-Sun, and the solar system. Predictions, based on the method from Lord Kelvin, show we may expect an upcoming next deep minimum climate period, before 2100. This mean there are two Black Swans in natural variability. One related to Earth-Moon-Sun oscillations and one related to solar system oscillations.


  1. Thesis Yndestad;  Yndestad, Harald. 2004:132. The Lunar nodal cycle influence on the Barents Sea.  Norwegian University of Science and Technology for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. Department of Industrial Ecology and Technology Management Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

2 thoughts on “Climate and the Black Swan

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