The term 'Super Moon' was coined by Richard Nolle, an astrologer, in 1979. He believed they were significant and that only he had discovered them, thousands of years after ancient scientists noticed they happened. A Super Moon is a full moon but because the moon's orbit is elliptical, it can look bigger when it's lunar perigee is closer, up to 14% bigger. It does have an impact - the tides are an inch higher or so due to a Super Moon - but it isn't causing floods or earthquakes or volcanoes or nuclear meltdowns of genetically modified food or anything else. While you can see it, unless you have the kinds of instruments NASA has, you can't detect any impact from a slightly closer Moon.
That doesn't prevent people from having a little fun or selling some pageviews when it happens - but that has always been the case. Yet they are happening a lot more, doomsday forecasts are the new Prius - they are quite fashionable. Why have they suddenly taken off? The year I was born there were no doomsday predictions - there hadn't been since three years before I was born and would not be another until 2 years later, when Jim Jones of the People's Temple (which became famous in San Francisco, naturally) said a nuclear holocaust would occur.(1)
Yet by 2012 there were 6 projected dooms that got mainstream media coverage - and I am not even counting the Doomsday Preppers and people who believe every week will bring an EMP or an economic collapse that turns the world into a Mad Max plot.(2)
This chart shows the alarming increase in the number of doomsday forecasts on the left and the year along the bottom:
Hockey sticks don't lie, people.
As you can see, if this alarming trend continues we will be overrun with Apocalypse predictions. Pretty soon, they will be tripping over each other for attention, like how Ferris Wheel Day competes with Valentine's Day on February 14th.
Supermoons, Nibiru, Mayans, Ragnarok, METI, with all of the impending disasters that have been looming on the horizon, why are the same people who believe in all those things (along with astrology,The Cleanse, psychics, ghosts and organic food) instead worried about new ways to regulate how little water is in a toilet flush and suing counties when their creek has too much rain? The world is ending, people, stop worrying about coaxing the EPA into engineering Mother Nature to give you optimal canoing levels.
Even mostly rational people are not immune to hysterical popular nonsense. In 1974, astrophysicist Dr. John Gribbin co-wrote "The Jupiter Effect", which claimed that on March 10th, 1982, all of the planets being near each other on one side of the Sun would cause an earthquake that would destroy Los Angeles. Then he wrote a follow-up in 1982 saying the Mount St. Helen's volcano eruption was due to it, so he was right even though he was wrong. Regardless of those missteps, the Association of British Science Writers gave him a Lifetime Achievement award in 2009. The country that invented and promoted Frankenfood hysteria unsurprisingly is willing to overlook a lot of pseudo-scientific nonsense by its popular people(3) yet we're not immune from crackpottery. Dr. John Holdren forecast all kinds of doom in the 1970s - forced sterilization and mandatory abortions due to no food and a huge population - and President Obama still appointed him as the top scientist in America.
Why do people continue to worry about this same thing, though? No planetary alignment and certainly no full Moon has been a problem. There are no more psychological problems and no more epilepsy seizures during a full moon The moon does have a sense of the majestic, since we got a blue one the day of Neil Armstrong's funeral service, but isn't trying to kill us.
In 2011, for example, there were two Supermoons and no disasters occurred - though one did get attributed to it anyway, an earthquake which shook Japan two weeks prior to the Supermoon. That doesn't really count. Comet Elenin was also supposed to kill us that year and disappointed fans of our destruction.
Multiple failed events for the last few years is not the only reason I say semi-annual Apocalypse in the title. One predicted doom for 2013 already came and went - a solar storm a few weeks ago. Asteroid 2012 DA14 also happened and was a doomsday event but that was not predicted in advance. The solar storm was predicted and we were warned this would be equivalent to one in 1839, called the “Carrington Event”, where supposedly a solar storm caused a telegraph office to catch fire - there is a lot more pollution now so nothing really happened this time. Thanks, global warming!
Some actual science of the Super Moon:
Want to map your potential Apocalypse farther out than this year? When famed psychic Jeane Dixon failed to predict the end of the world in 1962 (that first point on my graph above) she wisely pushed the date to 2020, when she would be long gone. In that year she said Jesus would return and start duking it out with the Antichrist, a fight which will end around 2037.
That stinks for technology psychic Ray Kurzweil, who has predicted that in 2045 the Singularity will occur, which is like an apocalypse for people who have a naturalism fetish - we'll evolve into machines. Since we'll have Biblically ascended 8 years before that, Ray will be wrong but no one will notice.
Enjoy the full moon tonight. No disaster will befall us as a result of it, but it will be pretty. If you miss this Super Moon, don't worry, next summer you'll get another chance to see one.
(1) He did eventually get his holocaust, but he created it himself, in Jonestown in 1978. It wasn't nuclear weapons though, it was cyanide.
(2) 2000 was the real Holy Grail for doomsday forecasts. It had 8. In 2012 there were 2 Christian ones (though one just changed the data so maybe it could be 7 in 2012) and one transmutation and the Mayans, the Supermoon and Nibiru.
(3) "The Scientists" is a good read, though.