Wednesday, August 10, 2022
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HomeFact CheckWill ‘Aphelion Phenomenon’ Cause Colder Temperatures Till August? Viral Claim Is False

Will ‘Aphelion Phenomenon’ Cause Colder Temperatures Till August? Viral Claim Is False

A social media post warning users of what  is being called the ‘aphelion phenomenon’ which sees a drop in global temperature to below normal levels, and will remain so until end of August, is going viral on social media. 

According to the post, “From today 23th June till August 22 this year, it will be colder than previous years. They call it Aphelion phenomenon starting from tomorrow @ 05.22, we will experience the Aphelion phenomenon where the Earth will be very far from the sun. We cannot see the phenomenon but we can feel its impact. This will last until August 2022, we will experience cold weather which will have an impact on flu, cough, shortness of breath etc.Therefore, let’s all increase immunity by drinking lots of vitamins or supplement so that our immunity will be strong.The distance from Earth to Sun is 5 light minutes of 90,000,000km. The phenomenon of Aphelion to 152, 000,000 km  66  % further. Protect your body  from cold, wear warm cloths, drink vitamins & supplements to boost your immunity.”

The post has been shared on Facebook by a Facebook page called ‘Bakossi Gottalent’ which is a Cameroon based Facebook page with 6,800 followers on the platform.

Courtesy: Facebook/Bakossi Gottalent

The post is available here.

Newschecker found similar claims with different dates on Facebook and Twitter.

Courtesy: Facebook/igbegiebiye.kingsley.5

Facebook posts are available here and here.

Also read: Did Anna Hazare Extend Support to Devendra Fadnavis? No, Tweet By ‘Parody’ PTI Account Goes Viral

Fact Check /Verification

We started by performing a keyword search with the words “aphelion phenomenon” on Google and found an article by Africa Check titled Are you affected by ‘aphelion phenomenon’? Almost certainly not uploaded on 26th April, 2022.

According to the article, as Britannica explains, an object’s aphelion is the point in its orbit around the sun when it is furthest away from the sun. This happens because these orbits are not perfectly circular.

As a result, Earth is sometimes closer, and sometimes further away from the sun. The closest point is known as the Earth’s perihelion.

Both perihelion and aphelion happen once a year, and there is nothing unusual about Earth’s aphelion in 2022. So the southern hemisphere won’t be experiencing “cold weather more than the previous cold weather” as it enters winter.

The US Navy has noted that in 2022 perihelion occurred on 4 January and aphelion will take place on 4 July.

The report further states that the message posted on social media gets a number of facts about aphelion wrong. It claims: “The distance from Earth to the Sun is 5 light minutes or 90,000,000 km.” But the Earth is roughly 150 million kilometres from the sun, according to the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or Nasa.

This is approximately the distance that light can travel through a vacuum in eight minutes, or eight “light minutes”. It is much further than the viral message claims.

The message also claims that during aphelion Earth moves up to 152 million kilometres away from the sun, or “66% further”. This is also wrong, on multiple counts. 

An increase from 90 million to 152 million kilometres would be an increase of around 69%. But the actual difference between the earth’s aphelion and perihelion distances from the sun, the difference between 152.1 million and 147.3 million kilometres, is only an increase of around 3.3%.

Upon further investigation, Newschecker found a report by University of Southern Maine titled “How much does aphelion affect our weather? We’re at aphelion in the summer. Would our summers be warmer if we were at perihelion, instead?”

According to the report by Steven C. Rockport,Aphelion does affect our weather, but not in the way that one might think. We should begin by explaining that Earth’s orbit is not perfectly circular. If it were, Earth’s distance from the Sun would never change. However, it is a slightly elongated ellipse, so its distance varies continuously throughout the year. Its distance veers from its minimum distance (perihelion), which it reaches in early January, to aphelion, which it reaches in early July. It is logical to assume that Earth would necessarily be hotter at perihelion than aphelion. However, the difference in the amount of the Sun’s energy we receive (called the solar constant) doesn’t vary considerably between perihelion and aphelion. After all, the distance difference between perihelion and aphelion is only about three million miles,* a small fraction of Earth’s average 93 million mile heliocentric distance.

The report further states, one would think that southern hemisphere summers might be a little warmer. However, the southern hemisphere is predominantly water (the land/water ratio is 4/11). Water has a higher heat capacity than land, meaning that it requires more heat energy to increase its temperature than land needs. Consequently, the meagre solar constant increase is offset by the higher water to land ratio.

The way aphelion does affect our weather is duration. Earth is farther away from the Sun in summer. Therefore, its orbital velocity is at its lowest and it requires more time to travel from the summer solstice point to the autumnal equinox than it needs to move between the winter solstice and vernal equinox. The winter is about 89 days; the summer is approximately 92 days long. 

Having more large land masses and less water causes the northern hemisphere to experience both warmer summers and colder winters. These are factors which influence weather patterns – not the Earth’s distance from the sun.

Conclusion

Newschecker’s investigation reveals that the claim that the aphelion phenomenon will cause temperatures to be lower than normal is false.

Result: False


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Vaibhav Bhujang
Vaibhav Bhujang
Vaibhav is a part of Newschecker’s English team, where he spots and debunks all kinds of misinformation, making the rounds on the internet. A Journalism graduate from St. Xavier's College, Mumbai, he holds an M.A degree in Philosophy and an M.Phil from Delhi University.
Vaibhav Bhujang
Vaibhav Bhujang
Vaibhav is a part of Newschecker’s English team, where he spots and debunks all kinds of misinformation, making the rounds on the internet. A Journalism graduate from St. Xavier's College, Mumbai, he holds an M.A degree in Philosophy and an M.Phil from Delhi University.

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