Q & A with controversial "moon man" Ken Ring
TOP DEBATE: Have your say...
He's a regular contributor to the comments section at WeatherWatch.co.nz and Ken Ring of www.predictweather.com often causes controversy when he talks of his predictions.
WeatherWatch.co.nz wanted to find out more about the man behind the moon....so presented him with 10 questions for him to answer for our readers.
1. What lead you to using the moon to predict weather patterns?
It was my experience living beside the sea for 10 years during the 1970s and noticing that the highest tides in the months where accompanied by storms. It happened so often it was obvious to me that there was some connection. I started keeping records and planning ahead to have perishables undercover when the next one arrived. Then I started noticing that the perigees, which created the highest tides, seemed also to be responsible for many increases in earthquake activity, droughts, floods, you name it. It took me about four years to come up with a reliable system.
2. How does the moon affect our weather?
As with all bodies in space, the moon has a gravitational effect on the earth and everything on the earth. That means it has an effect on movable bodies such as the mass of water, the flexible land, and the air, which alone has more than 10 times the amount of water in it than all the rivers of the world at any one time. The moon has no eyes nor brain so cannot sort out where the water is, nor land from water or from a heavy gas such as air, which weighs 5000 million million tons. The size of the atmosphere is incredible. On a hot afternoon the atmosphere can pick up water from a gulf at the rate of 5.5 billion tons an hour, hoist it up and carry it, later to release it as rain. A single small fluffy cloud can hold up to 1000 tons of potential moisture. A summer thunderstorm can unleash as much energy as a dozen Hiroshima-style bombs, and 45,000 thunderstorms are brewed around the earth every day. Yet one hurricane releases almost as much energy in one second. The atmosphere shelters us from the fierce heat of the sun and from the cold of space. The height of the air at any one time increases or decreases that shielding. Weather is what results. By its pull on the air, the moon daily changes the atmosphere's height and brings particular weather patterns to particular locations, varying as to the geographical nature of those locations, in the same way as the tide varies according to the shape of a coastline. It would be more weird if a huge planet that was between a third and a quarter the size of our own, at only 10x Earth circumferences away, did not have any affect. It is like a dwarf person running round and round you all day. If you do not think that would have an effect on you, ask the mother of a two-year-old.
3. What makes your forecasts different to "main stream" weather providers?
Mainstream forecasters can only see rain when it arrives on their radar. Their technology is designed to photograph the tops of clouds from satellites and to measure changes at sea and ground level, and at the height weather balloons float to. The assumption is that what is happening now may continue to happen over the next day or so. For half of the month that proves to be correct, which is when the moon's orbit is moving slowly relative to the Earth's orbit. But when the moon speeds up, weather systems also speed up and can change much more quickly. That is when forecasters are the most wrong, and these times are over new moon, perigee and lunar equinox. The difference between my work and that of the regular forecaster is like this: the regular person might stand in the water at the beach and shout Hey everyone, our instruments tell us it's the month's highest tide! Whereas I am the one staying at time who has worked out and published the tide tables that predicted that tide to be highest on that particular day. Simply, I have a long-range system, the others do not. I do not have the technology to say exactly what is going to happen and where over the next 24 hours, and they do not have any lunar programs that detect weather reliably beyond three days. In fact the New Zealand Metservice honestly claims that after three days a cyclonic system can be 1000 km out, and for every day after that this error factor doubles. Which makes the 5-day TV forecast a little suspect.
4. How accurate are you compared to main stream weather providers?
We all seem to claim about 80-85%. This is because weather is not an exact science. There is an overshoot factor with rain falling over a wide area. You will hear forecasters often give a single day’s report that stretches from Kaitaia to Taupo, taking in Taranaki and Hawkes Bay. Yet all these places will not have exactly the same weather at the same time. I aim for a window of trends that give a 1- 3 day potential of opportunity. For my almanacs, which are written two years previously to cater for publishers timetables, I figure 1-3 days from two years away should be acceptable.
5. If you think you're on to something accurate, why don't MetService and other forecasters subsribe to your beliefs?
There are many reasons for this, and it is not quite true to say that there are not forecasters who believe what I am saying is valid. Many of the old forecasters would admit they generally kept an eye on what the moon was doing. Brendon Horan, the previous TV1 weather anchor was a firm believer in the moon, coming as he did from a Maori background and mindful of what he already knew from his elders. Augie Auer and I did many trips together and he, although initially a sunspot cycle man, knew of weather cycles and was slowly coming around to lunar possibilities. The old nautical almanacs for Mariners mentioned the perigees as storm producers. In all non-Western countries the moon is still regarded as the harbinger of weather. So it is only the west that has gone a different route. They did this 150 years ago with the establishment of the British Meteorological Society, as a matter of politics and religion, because they wanted to rid themselves of lunar astrologers like one Lieutenant Saxby who were gaining high public profile issuing very correct advance storm warnings to mariners. But there are other reasons, too. Metservices depend on government funding, and this increases when metservices are less correct. This is not saying that they try to be incorrect, but if they keep getting things right all the time then there is no reason to throw large sums of money at them so they can update their computers and increase their staff. The upshot is that there is less emphasis on improving techniques, and more emphasis on finding ways to increase funding, whatever that takes. So the new research into different techniques is just not being done.
6. The weather is a mix of pattern in chaos - how do you predict chaos?
I do not believe that weather has any chaos in it. The weather knows what it is doing, and as with all the rest of nature is patterned, cyclic, and therefore somewhat predictable to us humans struggling to come up with workable measurable systems. The attitude of meteorologists is like saying, we can tell you what the tide is doing for today and tomorrow, but after that random takes over and the water comes in and out whenever it feels like it. Just because forecasters do not employ a long-range system, does not mean that there might be one if they wanted to look for it. By definition you cannot predict chaos, but I had this conversation some time ago with Bob McDavitt. He claimed that weather is 20% pattern and 80% Chaos. I asked him which 20% was pattern. He replied it is uncertain. I asked how uncertain? He said 100%. And that illustrates the circularity of that line of questioning. My understanding is that Chaos Theory actually came out of Princeton University in 1976, and originated as a way of fudging uncertainty in weather forecasting and went on to become its own branch of science.
7. What is our winter going to be like this year
I believe it's going to be a cold winter, perhaps on a par with 1939 which was one of the coldest we have recorded. However I think we are coming to the end of our cold run and that next year will see a change in pattern, especially for the South Island. This winter will probably extend later, into a cold wet and cloudy spring, which will affect the growers. This will mean that due to the need to import food to stock supermarket shelves, food prices may disproportionately increase over January 2011.
8. How is it you can predict earthquakes too?
The air tide matches the sea and land tide as well. The earthquake in Samoa that produced the tsunami occurred almost exactly on their high tide. Whatever is pulling the water is pulling everything else as well. Just look at the new moon of a day or two ago, producing the current king tides around our coasts, and the concurrent timings of yesterday’s Chinese earthquake and today’s Iceland volcano. Anyone who bothers to Google "earthquakes and Moscow research", will find a Russian study that has shown that full moons bring most earthquakes. Like full moon, new moon is exerting strong gravitational pull, especially when that new moon is at a northern or southernmost point, because it is pulling laterally, just as if you were standing to the side holding a rope attached to a full bucket of water and pulling on it. The moon is at its northernmost point in about two day’s time. Predicting earthquakes requires a lot of calculation, which I did a few years ago one month ahead for three earthquake events in this country. I informed Morning Report and TV3 beforehand and when they came about, it became a TV3 Nightline Item with Amanda Gillies and a small crew arriving at my home. Sean Plunkett also interviewed me after the event but called what I did a fluke. I guess you can't win 'em all. The point is, it is possible but it would require cooperation between geologists, astronomers, and probably astrologers, but I doubt that anybody would fund such an enterprise.
9. Why do you think moon forecasting is so controversial?
The moon has always been the symbol of paganism, because to the early Christian church it represented cycles and prediction, and the original edict was that only God was allowed to know what was going to happen. That meant that anybody who prophesised anything was classed as a heathen. It also explains why the West moved away from the lunar calendar, which is still effective in the East for predicting monsoons. There is also a gender issue involved, because women were the Keepers of the Faith, and the goddesses were feminine, but the early church was patriarchal and still is. Many women still think the moon is in their domain because of menstrual (which comes from the word moon) cycles and because of this gender-war history. The situation has been muddied by all the migration that has occurred over the last century or so. Weather-stories were taken out of their locations of applicability, which being location-specific sometimes did not work in the new locations. In this way some of the old adages were distrusted, disregarded and forgotten, and much was lost that was also of universal value. I guess not enough was known from a scientific viewpoint that could sort the wheat from the chaff.
10. Anything else you want to say?
Thanks for this opportunity, and I would like to think moon forecasting might be of help to those who are already making planning decisions for their farming or other operations, like when to book hay, shearing or building contractors, or weddings, and may as well consider weather conditions as part of the mix. I also would like to see others apply these methods for themselves. I would like to see the day when what I am doing gains more of a running parallel to what Phil and other forecasters are doing, because we are employing different systems that should not be compared. Although I do name particular days on which I expect weather events, they are more points of focus of within three-day windows, and should be more regarded as trends rather than certainties of outcome. I have a free 230-page book on the whole subject available from my website called Predicting Weather By The Moon, which explains the air tide article more fully and will get people started if they want to use the moon method for themselves. I realize many people will be hearing about all this for possibly the first time, but this is only because our education system has also distanced itself from anything lunar, largely because the first schools were run by the church, which had a vested interest in denying the moon as I have explained. The most important thing I would like people to consider is that the weather may be more predictable than they have been led to believe, and in the same way as the tides, to which weather is connected, a certain amount of measurability is not only possible but should be, to a nation that embraces the outdoors in almost everything we do, our ongoing national focus.