Australia, Bushfires, a Lunar Cycle?

In comments at WUWT one Jim Hutchinson quotes an interesting statement relative to the present bush fires in Australia:

Greenies and National Parks came along. The geographic spread and inflicted damage of this 4 day fire are succinctly described as follows:
“After five weeks of hot northerly winds, on the 6th of February,1851 known as Black Thursday, probably Victoria’s most extensive bushfires, apparently started in the Plenty Ranges when two bullock drivers left some logs burning which set fire to long, drought-parched grass. From an early hour in the morning a hot wind blew from the NNW, accompanied by 47C temperatures in Melbourne.
There was extensive damage in Victoria’s Port Phillip district. Huge areas of southern and NE Vic were burnt out. Fires burnt from Mt Gambier in South Australia to Portland in Victoria as well as the Wimmera in the north and central and southern areas including Semour (sic), the Plenty Ranges and much of Gippsland , Westernport, Geelong, Heidelberg and east to Diamond Creek and Dandenong where a number of settlements were destroyed.
There were 1.5m ha of forest burnt out plus vast areas of scrub and grasslands (total land burnt – approx 5m ha [DNRE,Vic]). Farmers at Barrabool Hills were burnt out or ruined; three men perished at Mt Macedon and wholesale destruction of the Dandenong districts was accompanied by similar widespread razings from Gippsland to the Murray (River). Other scorched areas included Omeo, Mansfield, Dromana, Yarra Glen, Warburton and Erica.”
[Source: Emergency Management Australia]

I noted the date. 1851. Something seemed familiar.

I looked up a lunar tide forces graph from here: which references the original paper with the graph.

Cyclical Tidal Forces

I note that 1851 is almost exactly under the intersection of curves B and b.
I note that 2012 is almost exactly under the intersection of curves C and c.
I note that the ‘dark peaks’ on the bottom of tidal forces look about the same.

Things that make you go Hmmmm…..

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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21 Responses to Australia, Bushfires, a Lunar Cycle?

  1. vukcevic says:

    Recently I calculated and plotted spectrum of the Earth’s Magnetic field (unique total flux- secular change)
    After reading your articles on the tides, I was a bit puzzled by the absence of the18.6 years lunisolar precession. On the other hand there is 9.33 years, which could be the tidal ‘double bulge’ on the Earth’s liquid core ( ? ). It should be of some interest how would that work within constrained ‘solid core – crust ‘ spherical enclosure.
    (It’s freezing cold outside, hence blogging)

  2. E.M.Smith says:


    Interesting graph..

    As 18.6 is the whole cycle, and part of it is returning to the starting point, might it not show up as 1/2 that? One have getting from above to below, the other from below to above?

    Maybe cold is more productive than warm? Seem to remember many folks making comments about lazy people in warm beach climates… I think I need to do research… Need to find a warm beach first, though. Even Southern California was cold with frost warnings.

    Maybe Mexico… ;-)

  3. adolfogiurfa says:

    @E.M. & Vukcevic: “Tides” or charge exchange?. The moon varies its “sucking” (cathode attraction of ions, plasma, fire, ya know) according to its orbit´s eccentricity, varying slightly the earth´s -kind of a particle´s- static field.

  4. adolfogiurfa says:

    @E.M. Maybe Mexico… ;-) . Perhaps further south but there you will now find cold waters (in the case you take a sea bath).

  5. E.M.Smith says:


    IMHO, both tides and charge come at the same time. Needs verification / validation. But I think it will be a matter of either one being a proxy for both together.

    Well, I’ve always wanted to see Panama, Brazil, Belize, the Guyanas, maybe even Peru and Chile… (but the last two are on the cold water side ;-) Wonder what the water is like near Uruguay / N. Argentina…

    After careful consideration, Brazil is sounding best. That Samba thing ;-)

  6. crosspatch says:

    Eh … the Australia fires are due to HUGE amounts of rain last season and the season before allowing an astounding amount of fuel growth. Then we had a brief, but significant period of weak El Nino conditions about 1 year ago that allowed things to dry out in that part of the world. We are now heading back into a La Nina – like condition so the rains should begin to pick up again when the wet season returns. This is related to ENSO and fuel buildup more than the moon or the magnetic field, in my opinion. We get spectacular fires in California, too, after a couple of unusually wet years that allow fuel growth followed by a hot dry year.

  7. E.M.Smith says:


    The lunar tidal connection would cause exactly that kind of cycle of colder dry, then warming into a hot dry, then a wet dump as things turn warm in the water, followed by …

    In short: I am describing what stirs the pot, you are describing the lumps floating in it… Those steps do not happen by accident.

  8. Bob Koss says:

    Actually the intersections are about 1844 and 2018.

  9. crosspatch says:

    I honestly don’t believe the lunar tidal connection has anything but a negligible influence. The problem is that El Ninos are so frequent and massive brush fire years are so frequent that for one to happen when the tide is right is probably about a 50/50 proposition.

  10. crosspatch says:

    In other words, look for brushfire years that happened when the tides were wrong.

  11. tchannon says:

    Wondering. Compute how much energy has been wasted by not cutting and burning for power or heat, which we can do better by not leaving so much part burnt.

  12. E.M.Smith says:

    @Crosspatch & Bob Koss:

    There are a couple of very different aspects of tides. The one I think you are thinking of is the ‘typical’ kind of 2 x day and a bit bigger some months. There are also much longer term variations. On the order of years and decades. So, for example, as the moon passes into ascending or descending vs the ecliptic. The whole mass of water gets pulled more N or S. That will have very long term shifts in the average surface mixing over a few years.

    So look at those broad black pyramids at the bottom again. That’s the general amount of tidal mixing force. So as those decades / centuries pass, you get ever more, or less broad pulling of the ocean to one place or another, that shifts ocean heights and tides on very long terms (the daily cycles and monthly cycles continue, just layered on top of slowly shifting background gravity pulling the whole depth off one way or the other and causing generally more or less mixing to depth.

    At the “valley” we have hot times (minimal ocean mixing). At the peaks we have cold times (lots of ocean mixing). So at this “leaving hot headed for cold”, my speculation would be that we get a load of rains in Australia (as the oceans evaporate / cool ) and then the more loopy jet stream sets in with sporadic over heat. Leading to a grand fire year.

    Eventually the oceans cool off, and rains fall off, as we end up in a ‘cold dry’ stage some years later. (Like the California drought of the ’70s ).

    In that context, we don’t need an exact year alignment; just a “that pattern” match. As these are many decade to century scale gradual changes, the specific individual year that ‘crosses the line’ will vary by event (but ought to be close to the same point in the pattern).

    That’s the general muse, anyway… Might be interesting to look for other big fire years and see if they tend to cluster on the “climb out of the valley” part or somewhat near the intersection points. Probably also room to use other measures / proxies. Like tree rings for ‘high water then hot drought’ cycles and dates…

    If you look at the original PNAS paper they say that tidal mixing force is about the same as total mixing from wind (and somewhat more IIRC). That brings a load of cold water to the surface when mixing forces are high (at the peaks) and leaves surfaces less mixed so hotter during the valleys. I’ve got to think that would end up with some impact on Australian rains and fires.


    It all stems (pardon ;-) from the wrong belief that standing wood and forest litter is “sequestered”. Once folks accept that it WILL burn, and on the order of decades not centuries; well, then you might as well get some energy out of it.

    But the PTB have the Green Disease and mistake fire traps for sequestering nature preserves. Then are surprised when it all goes up in (worse than useless) flames in wildfires… Personally, I’d feed it to power plants. Under ideal conditions you can get 10 tons / acre to 20 tons / acre of biomass crop / year. That’s one heck of a lot of power / fuel. Also one heck of a lot of bush fire if not recycled in a controlled way.

  13. p.g.sharrow says:

    That tidal mixing poses an interesting picture. At times of high mixing there would be more energy stored in the oceans and less surface evaporation due to cooler surface temperature. At times of low mixing the surface would warm as the energy mixed deeper would surface to add to the incoming energy. While the incoming solar energy changed little the energy out would change a great deal more due to greater or lesser tidal mixing. pg.

  14. E.M.Smith says:


    You got it! Puts a giant variable capacitor right in the middle of the system…

  15. p.g.sharrow says:

    Energy out of the Oceans is primarily, phase change water vapor, evaporation. So this would mostly effect precipitation, wet and dry periods. Most of that energy is lifted to the Stratosphere by convection of the vapor to cloud creation. Maybe the present Stratospheric heating is caused by the increased wet or condensation and resultant rain/snow on the surface, even with surface cooling. pg

  16. Paul Hanlon says:

    I’m pretty sure Ken Ring (the New Zealander who uses the moon to help him with his weather forecasts) predicted this. He also predicted that about now, Ireland will start to get colder winters and proper summers. The last hot summer I remember in Ireland was 1976, exactly two moon cycles ago. If it’s hot this summer, then we know it is a lunar phenomena, rather than (pick whatever alarmist nonsense you like here)

  17. E.M.Smith says:

    @Paul Hanlon:

    I’ll need to read up on him. Looks like maybe a kind of confirmation. (When several folks end up at similar places starting from different goals and methods I think that tends to indicate there is something to it, whatever ‘it’ is.)

    This discussion of him is interesting (one of several I turned up searching on his name and moon and summer rain):

    “I think I’ve done quite well, or at least the farmers tell me so,” he said. “Of course, weather forecasting is not an exact science and so the best we can come up with are trends that have a few days’ leeway on either side. For instance, I did say summer in Ireland for 2009 was never going to be all that hot — maximum temperatures may not exceed 25 degrees.”

    He forecast that many parts of the country would be dry for the first fortnight in June and that temperatures would reach above 20C before the weather turned unsettled for the rest of the month. While there were some heavy periods of rain on June 6, 12 and 13, he was largely correct and temperatures did reach a high of 27C.


    Ken predicted that July would be a mainly wet month, although parts of the north, west and east would experience dry conditions from July 12 to 17.

    And so it came to pass, with Met Eireann saying it was the wettest July for over half-a- century for many parts of the country.

    His forecast that August would be another wet month has proven largely correct.

    Ken stands by his prediction, made months ago, that September would be the “warmest and most summery month”.

    Meanwhile, Met Eireann meteorologist Joan Blackburn said more orthodox long-term forecasting, such as that used by the UK Met Office, was still in its infancy.

    “If it could be done with a degree of accuracy that would be invaluable, but it’s not happening at the moment,” she said.

    What Ken said:

    June: Many areas will be dry for the first half and temperatures will be above 20C, unsettled for the second half.

    July: Mainly wet month for all. Parts of the north, west and east will have chances of dry days only between July 12 and 17.

    August: A wet month for all. The east has a chance of dry windows from August 4 to 9 and 21 to 25. The south will see some sun from 25 to 30.

    What happened:

    June: First week was largely dry and sunny with temperatures well above normal. Second week was cool and windy with occasionally heavy rain. Rest of the month was unsettled with showers and some thundery downpours.

    July: Wettest July for over 50 years in many places. Very wet at some weather stations in the east and west on July 13 and 14, but July 12, 15, 16 and 17 saw practically no rain.

    August: Started out very wet, particularly in the south. Almost a perfect score for August 4 to 9 in the east.

    So it looks to me like he’s making predictions down to the day. That would imply knowing the context ( longer term cyclic state – like ‘summer average rain on 18 year cycle) and then specific timing from lunar phase in a given place. Rather like the guy here who predicted the Loma Prieta quake using lunar tidal methods. Moon at Perigee and either full or new, I’ve forgotten which.

    As there are also atmospheric tides, I could see it. One stirs the water and mixes / moves the heat at the surface, then the winds are moved / directed over it ( to more or less degree via air tides) and you get your rain probability.

    Maybe those Old Druids with their lunar calendar and favorable / unfavorable times to plant and harvest and all were not so silly after all… I’ll have to start watching precipitation and lunar phase / cycle state to see what I see. IIRC Solstices give you the ascending / descending transition for the sun while eclipses tell you when the moon is crossing the ecliptic. Precession of perigee is relatively slow for the moon but gives us the 18.6 year cycles. They were known to track that.

    An amusing site:

    The Full Moons Of Winter 1986, Alaska Science Forum
    The moon’s orbit around the earth is inclined about 5 degrees from the earth’s orbit around the sun, and it precesses around the earth, much as a tin plate or a quarter dropped crookedly onto a table will flutter about its axis before clattering to a halt.
    The new moon rises in the southeast and sets in the southwest, but as the lunar month wears on and the moon waxes, the rising point swings further and further to the left (east) and the setting point moves further and further to the right (west).
    In about another nine years, or half of the moon’s precession period, you won’t be able to see the full moon for a full 24 hours from anyplace south of the latitude of Barrow. /ScienceForum/ASF7/758.html

    It had not occurred to me that in Alaska you could watch a full moon for 24 hours… but makes sense. A bit eerie to think of, though… big 0l’ full moon just hanging up there doing laps…

    Well, it looks like the monthly tidal and 18.6 year (ish) precession cycle (Metonic or Saros?) cycles likely matter. Then the progression through the various Saros cycles over much longer time scales… Must be a way to simplify all that. So we’ve got a tide chart, and a weather history from 20 years back (and 60 years). Wonder if one could just look for ‘repeats’… I’ve commented that it reminded me of the ’50s all over again. Maybe 3 Saros Cycles back and pick up the present tides / storms alignment?

    I think I’m off to study lunar phases, cycles, and Druid Calendars (lunar and solar mixed… with auspicious and inauspicious markings.) I get the feeling someone (or some many someones) has worked this all out before…

  18. Paul Hanlon says:


    I thought I’d go to the site and get you a link to a free book that he wrote. So I googled him and lo and behold, the top link is an article in the Irish Independent where he says we should have a “scorcher”

    Unfortunately, the free book is no longer free (you have to sign up for a subscription at min $12.50 a month), but I do have a copy on one of my computers, but I’ll have to hunt it down. If I can find it, I’ll email it to you. It had plenty of technical details in it.

  19. Lunar declinational tides in the atmosphere are driving the meridional pulses or Mobile Polar Highs of inductive surges of energy into the mid-latitudes. This is in synch with the ionic surges inducted into the atmosphere due to the rotation of the magnetic poles of the sun driving the North/South declination of the moon in phase, as it bobs up and down on the waves in the solar wind neutral current sheet as it goes by the earth/moon system.

    The dynamics as related to the whole system in my view;
    And of course the maps of the Australian weather forecasts that my method generates, if you look back at how the weather has proceeded down the East coast over the past couple of weeks since the drought, it is following the pattern rather well for an 18 year lead time forecast.

  20. sabretoothed says:

    What about


    These were also big. Personally I think the Ash Wed fires were much bigger then the ones a year or so ago

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