Posts shared on Facebook in Africa and Europe claim that a cosmological event called the “aphelion phenomenon” has caused extremely cold weather on Earth since July 4, 2022, and will continue to do so until August 22, 2022, due to the increased distance to the sun. The posts also claim that the event will cause people to become ill. But this is false: two astronomers told AFP Fact Check that aphelion is an annual occurrence that has no impact on Earth’s temperature or human health.
“They call it the APHELION PHENOMENON. If most of us have noticed the cold weather. This started last month will last until August 22 (sic)“, says a post published on Facebook in Nigeria on July 6, 2022.
Screenshot showing the fake post, taken on July 29, 2022
Aphelion occurs when the Earth is at its farthest point from the Sun – usually around 152 million kilometers away. Usually the distance from one to the other is about 150 million kilometers.
The post adds that because of the aphelion, people will experience extremely cold weather, more than usual, and the fluctuation “may” see flu-related illnesses increase.
The same demand was also shared in Kenya in English and in Europe, in Spanish and Portuguese.
But this is untrue.
The phenomenon has no effect on the temperature
Astronomers Genevieve Soucail and Andrea Sánchez, who spoke to AFP Fact Check in Uruguay, said that the aphelion, an annual event that took place this year on July 4, 2022, has no impact on Earth’s temperature and human health.
Screenshot of the image showing aphelion from 2021. Photo: NASA
Sanchez said that while it is true that the distance between the Earth and the Sun changes during aphelion, “the change is very minimal” and is not significant enough to have an impact on our global temperature.
“Every year we experience aphelion,” said Sánchez, and “there is always confusion: [people] believe that the seasons are affected by the distance between the earth and the sun, but this is not the case.
The transition to aphelion or perihelion (the point closest to the Sun in the orbit of an orbiting celestial body) “generates a slight difference in the luminous flux [received by the Earth]but this is very minimal and is not at all related to weather differences,” said Soucail.
According to the two experts, changes in seasonal temperatures occur due to variations in solar radiation – which is the sun’s energy reaching the Earth – as a result of the tilt of the planet’s rotation axis.
This “determines that during a particular season, [the planet] receives more solar radiation in its southern hemisphere and that during another; [the same phenomenon applies] to the northern hemisphere,” said Sánchez.
Soucail said that “average summer temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere are higher than in the Southern Hemisphere,” even though “Earth is farther from the Sun in Northern Hemisphere summer and … the perihelion is reached in Southern Hemisphere summer.”
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed to AFP Fact Check on 1 July 2022 that it had not published any studies on aphelion and its possible health consequences.