Weather Watch


On Saturday I went to my daughter’s home at the beach about 3 a.m. to pick up her dog. She was on her way to La Jolla with Life Rolls On/They Will Surf Again. As I went to the car, I realized how really dark it was. The streetlight was on, along with a few porch lights, but it was still incredibly dark. When I looked to the sky all I saw was the marine layer – no moon. It was a long drive to the beach so I had a lot of time to think about there being no moon.

I thought it must have been a new moon; but nope – on Sept. 23 the moon was in the phase called Waxing Gibbous. This is when the moon is over 50% illuminated but not quite a full moon; that next occurs on Sept. 29. But because of the really thick marine layer the sky was a dark blue glow. I had a lot of thoughts while driving; one, of course, was this was perfect weather for an alien force to land. Humans who might be awake at the time would just talk about the weird bouncing lights they saw that morning in the sky; however, no one would really think it was an alien invasion unless they were, well, someone like me with science fiction brain turned on at all times.

Other thoughts that danced across my mind included trying to figure out where the moon actually would be in the early morning sky, how pleasant it was to have the 2 Freeway to myself and then where the heck were all these people going on the 5 Freeway? As traffic increased and I went around the bend onto the 110 Freeway through downtown I realized how absolutely beautiful downtown LA was with its buildings reflecting the soft glow of all the city lights.

The soundtrack to all of these thoughts was “No Moon at All.” This 1947 song, written by David Mann and Redd Evans, is my go-to melancholy tune. There have been a lot of artists who have covered this song but I am always torn between the Diana Krall and Julie London versions.

As I continued my drive those words – “No moon at all, what a night. Even lightnin’ bugs have dimmed their light. Stars have disappeared from sight. And there’s no moon at all” – stuck with me. The song goes on about the perfect night for “parking” and that you can “fall in love” even with “no moon up above.” So that is a nice statement – people don’t have to go with stereotypical scenes and can just “go with it” – but for me I started thinking what would happen if there was actually no moon at all.

“The brightest and largest object in our night sky, the moon, makes Earth a more livable planet by moderating our home planet’s wobble on its axis, leading to a relatively stable climate. It is this that causes tides, creating a rhythm that has guided humans for thousands of years,” according to NASA in an article titled “Earth’s Moon.”

Earth’s moon is the fifth largest of the more than 200 moons orbiting planets in our solar system. Earth’s only natural satellite is simply called “the moon” because people didn’t know other moons existed until 1610 when Galileo Galilei discovered four moons orbiting Jupiter.

If there was actually no moon at all the Earth would survive but it would be a very different place. According to the Royal Museum of Greenwich in the United Kingdom, Earth’s oceans would have much smaller tides, about one-third the size of what they are now.

Tides allow coastal ecosystems to thrive. Animals in these environments, like crabs, mussels, starfish and snails, rely on tides for survival. And as we all know, or should know by now, when one of us fails to thrive it affects us all.

This would not only affect sea animals but land animals as well and that could cause mass extinctions. In addition, tidal movements help stabilize the Earth’s climate. If you thought we had wacky weather recently, that’s nothing compared to what would happen to us without our moon.

“Temperatures could potentially be more extreme on the Earth without this [moon’s] influence,” stated the Royal Museum.

Without our moon it would be very dark, which would cause confusion for animals – especially predators that rely on the darkness of night to hunt. This means prey would likely thrive … anyone thinking of “Willard,” because I am. No, thank you.

“Probably the most worrying, the Earth’s seasons could change substantially should the moon disappear. We experience seasons on the Earth – spring, summer, autumn and winter – because the Earth is tilted. Relative to the plane we orbit the sun, Earth’s tilt is about 23.5 degrees. It is the pull of the moon’s gravity on the Earth that holds our planet in place. Without the moon stabilizing our tilt, it is possible that the Earth’s tilt could vary wildly. It would move from no tilt (which means no seasons) to a large tilt (which means extreme weather and even ice ages),” according to the Royal Museum. 

According to several studies, it appears that life would survive on Earth but not even be close to what we are used to. And come to find out, this may be something humans might have to deal with in the very, very, very distant future.

“The fact that the moon is slowly moving away means that its effect is slowly shifting over time. So, in the past when the moon was closer, it was causing Earth’s axis to process faster, so the Earth has a tilt, but which direction that tilt points changes over time and the Earth’s axis processes every 26,000 years,” according to an interview between astronomer Jason Barnes and National Public Radio’s Ira Flatow on Nov. 18, 2011.

Yep, the moon is slowly moving away from Earth.

In fact that’s the reason the equinox and the solstice keep shifting around the calendar. So it’s about one day later every century, Barnes stated.

So it’s not quick environmental changes, like human-caused climate change, but still a change.

“And so, as the moon moves further away calculations have shown that, in fact, the moon will, as its influence decreases, Earth – sometime in the future, probably about a billion and a half years from now – will enter an unstable phase where the moon is no longer able to stabilize Earth’s axis tilt and we’ll probably enter into one of these situations where our axis tilt and the intensity of the seasons changes quite intensely over hundreds of thousands of years,” he stated.

Okay, we still have some time to contemplate the moon. We still have time to look up and wonder, and still have time to take those strolls in the moonlight and marvel at how it reflects on the sea. We still have time to look up … but time is ticking and although the evolutionary clock clicks kind of slowly we still need to take time to appreciate what we have.

I agree with Oscar Wilde: “With freedom, books, flowers and the moon, who could not be happy?”

Sept. 29 is not just a full moon it’s the last supermoon of 2023. It is known as the Harvest Moon because it’s the full moon closest to the start of autumn. A supermoon occurs when the moon passes its closest point to Earth in orbit, according to the Weather Service.

The best time to view the supermoon is around moonrise, about 7:05 p.m. The moment of full moon is 1:59 a.m. As an extra sighting bonus, the moon will be joined by two giants, Jupiter and Saturn.

Saturn is up in the east as the sun sets then rises high in the sky throughout the evening. Jupiter is very bright and rises in the mid-evening eastward and is easy to see as it climbs higher in the sky as the hours pass, according to the Planetary Society.

There is a slight chance of showers on Friday but the full moon should still be able to shine through. Temperatures will be in the high 80s today but will steadily cool through to next Tuesday with the coolest temperatures on Saturday and Sunday with highs near the mid 60s.

There is a regular seasonal low-pressure front that may bring some moisture along with the colder weather. As of Tuesday, the chance of rain may bring one-tenth to a quarter-inch of rainfall, according to John Dumas, NOAA meteorologist.