- the misguided and foolish act of weather forecasting by the moon
Origin: lunar (pertaining to the moon) + lunacy (insanity, extreme foolishness)
Mr Ken Ring (magic clown and co-author of "Pawmistry: How to Read Your Cat's Paws") claims he can use the moon to forecast the weather months, even years, in advance. In his weather almanac he publishes daily weather maps for an entire year at a time - revolutionary stuff, until you realise that the maps are simply the same sequence that occurred 18 years and 10 days ago.
Given that information, the crux of his lunar method for forecasting relies on the fact that long term weather sequences repeat over time - which they don't.
Furthermore, Ring also lays claim to some skill in predicting earthquakes - a topic which rose to prominance following the earthquakes near Christchurch on Sep 4 2010 (7.1 near Darfield) and Feb 22 2011 (6.3 between the city and Lyttelton).
As with his long range weather predictions however, experts in the field rubbish Ring's methods and forecasts.
This page presents a collection of comments by several weather and earthquake scientists and experts, with links to full articles and websites for further reading.
Re: Earthquake Forecasts
Following the devastating and deadly earthquake in Christchurch on February 22 (which Ring claimed to have forecast), there was plenty of comment online and in the media regarding Ring's methods and forecasts. The following is a small selection...
"once you see how implausible his methods are you realise you'd need incredible evidence to believe his predictions and once you see his run of false positives you realise that his "prediction" of last week's earthquake doesn't meet that standard."
Later, in the days leading up to March 20 (the day on which Ring believes there will be another large earthquake) there was widespread coverage of Ring's predictions in mainstream media, including:
Christchurch earthquake: Sceptics take aim at Ken Ring - NZ Herald[WebCite] 13 Mar 2011:
"Nick Smith is the Minister responsible for ACC... the minister, who has has a doctorate in geotechnical engineering, said he took a very dim view of people causing alarm with no scientific underpinning. "I believe in free speech but just as people should not stand up in a picture theatre and scream fire, people should not be making phony predictions of major earthquakes."
"It is important that such nonsense is exposed and people with good science point out the flaws in those who claim they can predict when earthquakes can occur.""
"...a group of prominent New Zealand geologists, earthquake engineers, broadcasters, politicians and sceptics has found the ultimate way to thumb their noses at the prediction by the so-called "moon man". The group has planned a "non-event" lunch in one of Christchurch's highest, oldest, stone buildings on the day."
"Skeptics spokeswoman Vicki Hyde said the event would prove to scared Cantabrians that the prediction was "bullsh**t". "We had to do something to tell the people we're not scared. This is rubbish and we want everyone to know it," Ms Hyde said. "We might get a few aftershocks on the day, as we do every day, but it will have nothing to do with the planets lining up, dolphins beaming signals to the moon ... or any of the other frankly bizarre things Mr Ring has claimed.""
PM's science adviser rubbishes Christchurch quake claim - Stuff.co.nz[WebCite] 16 Mar 2011:
"The Prime Minister's chief science adviser has slammed the prediction of a huge earthquake for Christchurch this Sunday."
"Sir Peter Gluckman, speaking at a press conference about the science response to the Canterbury quake, today said the claims were only causing further "disharmony" for the city's residents. "There is no added risk on March 20 or any other day," Gluckman said. "The pattern of aftershocks of low magnitude will continue on March 20 and most days for the next two weeks.""
"To some, Mr Ring is a prophet, a man whose ideas have been shunned by the establishment like those of Galileo. But to others – as TV3's own John Campbell vividly illustrated – he's a dangerous fool, a charlatan barely a step removed from astrologists and telephone psychics, instilling unwarranted fear into the poor folk of Christchurch."
"So is there any validity at all to his moon-based methods, or is it just lunacy?"
The article goes on to present some comments from experts also referenced above. Furthermore, it includes a brief look at a couple of forecast failures for both earthquakes and weather events - including Ring's expectation that Queensland would have a "mostly dry" January in 2010, but in reality "suffered some of the worst flooding in its history, resulting in 35 deaths". The final word in that article:
"With his dubious track record though, one could hope he singles out popular doomsday date December 21, 2012 for his next 'prediction'. It seems as good an indicator as any nothing will happen."
In addition to the above articles/comments, the Science Media Centre website contains a nice summary page of expert responses to Ring's claim that he predicted the earthquake. The post titled "‘I predicted the earthquake’ – scientists respond" contains comments from:
- Dr Mark Quigley, Senior Lecturer in Active Tectonics and Geomorphology at Canterbury University
- Matt Gerstenberger – Geological Hazard Modeller, and David Rhoades – Geophysical Statistician, both of GNS Science
- Dr John Beavan, Crustal Dynamics Geophysicist at GNS Science
- Paul Nicholls of the University of Canterbury, creator of the website Christchurchquakemap.co.nz
- Dr Marc Wilson, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Victoria University
- Dr Helen Anderson, seismologist
Finally, it was not only local experts rubbishing claims of earthquakes or disaster on March 20. This from NASA on the special lunar event, posted March 16, 2011:
"On March 19th, a full Moon of rare size and beauty will rise in the east at sunset. It's a super "perigee moon"--the biggest in almost 20 years. "The last full Moon so big and close to Earth occurred in March of 1993," says Geoff Chester of the US Naval Observatory in Washington DC."
"...contrary to some reports circulating the Internet, perigee Moons do not trigger natural disasters. The "super moon" of March 1983, for instance, passed without incident. And an almost-super Moon in Dec. 2008 also proved harmless."
Sadly, despite the number and authority of the commenters above, many frightened by Ring's alarmist comments and forecast earthquake for March 20 still chose to flee Christchurch (Stuff.co.nz[WebCite] 19 Mar 2011). As might be expected, the media and various blogs followed up with articles on the 20th, including:
Editorial: Charlatan Ring merits contempt - NZ Herald[WebCite] 20 Mar 2011:
"If another earthquake were to strike the battered Canterbury region today, it would not advance by one millimetre the claim by self-styled Moonman Ken Ring that he can foresee seismic events."
"His success rate as a weather forecaster is barely better than chance and the same goes for his predictions of seismic activity. They are not based on any scientific research but on quasi-medieval superstitions that belong to the days when witches were blamed for crop failures and storms at sea."
"But Ring’s methods don’t work. He can’t predict the weather, he can’t predict earthquakes, he is demonstrably ignorant of basic atmospheric and earth science..."
"Ring is a fool, but he is only influential because a compliant media have made him so. Now is the time to treat him with the respect cranks really merit: contempt. He deserves to be ignored by everyone, and the media outlets that continue to give him a platform should be vilified. And the next time I see his bloody weather almanac stacked in the “science” section of a bookshop, I swear I won’t be responsible for my actions."
"So-called Moon Man Ken Ring is backing away from his prediction that Christchurch will be whacked by a huge earthquake today."
"His back-pedalling comes as the Herald on Sunday reveals his background as a magician and fortune-teller - with expertise understanding a cat's "psychic" influences by studying its paws"
"Scientists are reassuring people that earthquake activity in New Zealand – including three magnitude 4 quakes today - remains normal."
"Geotechnical engineer Nick Smith has hit out at natural disaster claims by Ken Ring as "bogus", saying that future decisions on risk need to be based on rational science.
The Nelson MP said it is "reckless and irresponsible for people like Ken Ring to be speculating on the timing of future major earthquakes with no scientific basis"."
Quake predictor owes people an apology says minister - Radio New Zealand[WebCite] 20 Mar 2011:
"Minister for the Environment Nick Smith says Ken Ring, who claims to forecast weather and predict earthquakes, owes the people of Christchurch an apology."
So what actually happened on March 20? There were no large earthquakes in Canterbury in the morning during Ring's target time and there certainly wasn't a killer quake at anytime of the day - in NZ or anywhere in the world. There were a few quakes in Canterbury during the day, including a M5.1 shake in the evening, but these were all part of the expected aftershock sequence following the large quakes in Sep and Feb. Follow-up media coverage on March 21 included:
5.1 quake but Moon Man link ruled out - NZ Herald[WebCite]
Ken Ring still can't predict earthquakes - Skeptics - National Business Review[WebCite]
And to wrap up this section on earthquakes, New Zealand Skepics Online has an article titles Ken Ring and Earthquake Predictions with plenty of comments along with a few links to some sites included above.
Re: Weather Forecasts
For scientific comment on the lunar forecasting method from an astronomical point of view, BILL KEIR has provided a series of articles for the Auckland Astronomical Society with a critique of Ring's 'ideas'.
"Why do people listen to a man who is so sloppy and manipulative with the facts?"
"Nothing in his writings constitutes evidence that Moon positions are a useful weather forecasting tool, or that they are related to weather at all. Much of his writing is little more than fanciful pseudoscience."
ERICK BRENSTRUM, a senior forecaster at the Meteorological Service of New Zealand, writes a weather column for the NZ Geographic magazine. In the #79 May-June 2006 edition he comments on using the moon for long range weather forecasting, and includes some brief verifications of forecasts produced by Ring using his lunar method.
"If long-range forecasting were as easy as following the same sequence of weather as occurred 18 years and 10 days ago, the veracity of the method would have been clearly established a long time ago and everyone would be using it to great financial advantage. But the method doesn't work very well, as the dismal success rate for forecasting severe-weather events shows."
The short article was titled "Moon dance" and is well worth a read.
Following that article, Ring replied via a letter which was published in the #81 September-October 2006 edition, which also carried a "rejoinder" from Erick Brenstrum and comments from the editor Warren Judd. All are worth reading, but probably the best comments to include here are those of the editor,
"A couple of points in Ring's letter provoke me to comment. He writes that, "One man's view is just that, and can be cancelled out by the opposite view of just one other." Nonsense! Where knowledge is involved - and where isn't it required today? - the voice of the trained expert counts for a lot more than that of the less informed.
Mr Ring also claims that while Brenstrum is entitled to discuss weather systems, it is unfair of him to name Ring! Indeed, he alleges this is bullying! I can't agree. Ken Ring is so strongly identified with long-range lunar forecasts, that to discuss them without mentioning him by name would be as meaningless as talking about Vulcans without reference to Mr Spock. And once you publish a book, you're fair game for public scrutiny of its content and your own competence!"
The website "Silly Beliefs" (formerly "I SEE DUMB PEOPLE") "seeks to examine and expose dubious claims made in New Zealand". There you'll find a detailed discussion on Ring's methods and forecasts, including the following comments,
"Mr Ring's weather predictions fail. When and if he is forced to explain his failures he mischievously reinterprets forecasts, suppresses negative forecasts and simply invents forecasts that were never made, all in such a way as to make it appear that his apparent failure was actually a success."
"Unfortunately the public seldom hear of these failures and when they do they believe they are rare occurrences rather than the norm."
And the final conclusion?
"This is dishonest. This is fraudulent. This is a scam."
Read more at: Silly Beliefs - Ken Ring Weather Forecasting by the Moon
Te-Software, an IT-Services company based in Coromandel Peninsula, also publish the GREEN BLOG on their website - "a monthly column on 'Green' issues which also will appear in the Coromandel Town Chronicle". The June 2006 entry by THOMAS EVERTH contains brief comments on some of Ring's claims.
Click though to: The Court and its Jester - The motley bunch of the 'Climate Science Coalition'
(via the Internet Archive, no longer available at the original source)
The blog "THE SECOND SITE - Rebalancing, realigning, detoxifying and maintaining the skeptical worldview" is another website containing comments on Ring and his forecasts. Click through to the page titled "A True Lunatic" for a read.
For a collection of posts containing comments and comparisons of Ring's forecasts with reality, browse the topic titled "Ringworld" at the blog "ON THE FARM - Truffles & Stuff". One post in particular is worth highlighting which presents the work of JIM RENWICK, one of NIWA's senior scientists who "for his own interest (and in his own time) looked at the maps in Ring's almanac for 2005 and compared them with reality"...
"Since I have all the maps for the last 40 years in electronic form, it was easy for me to score his daily weather maps against reality for all of last year. His scores were slightly worse than those obtained by picking maps at random."
"You can see that the Moon forecasts have a median score about 85 (useless). About two thirds of the moon forecasts score over 80, in the "useless" category, and about 1% are in the less than 30 "perfect" category. The random forecasts do about the same - identically in a statistical sense."
"The best by far are the Met Service two-day forecasts (and one-day ones are better again, of course), where only two of the 365 forecasts are "useless" (about 1%) and about two thirds are "perfect", the reverse of the moon forecast situation."
The full post, All By Yourself In The Moonlight , includes a forecast skill graph, analysis and comments by Jim Renwick.
On 19 Nov 2010 the blog "The Actavism" carried a post titled "Ken Ring can't predict the weather" which took a look at Ring's weather predictions with varifications against actual weather data from NIWA. That post was also syndicated at SciBlogs and contains the following:
"if you just tossed a coin 48 times, calling heads drier and tails wetter, you'd expect to be right about half the time. And would have done better than Ring. His prediction was only on the right side of the average 17 times in 48 attempts, about 35% accuracy and significantly worse that you would expect to get from tossing a coin (if you're one of those p-value fetishists p, in this case, is equal to about 0.03)."