A study published in Geophysical Research Letters of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) indicates that due to the significant melting of glaciers due to the increase in global temperature, the axis of rotation of our planet is moving more than d habit since the 1990s.
Rising sea levels, heat waves, melting glaciers and storms are some of the well-known consequences of climate change. New research has added another impact to this list – marked changes in the axis along which the Earth rotates.
A study published in Geophysical Research Letters of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) indicates that due to the significant melting of glaciers due to the increase in global temperature, the axis of rotation of our planet is moving more than d habit since the 1990s. Although this change should not affect daily life, it can change the length of the day by a few milliseconds …
Displacement of the Earth’s axis
The Earth’s axis of rotation is the line along which it spins around itself as it spins around the Sun. The points on which the axis intersects the surface of the planet are the geographic north and south poles. The location of the poles is not fixed, however, as the axis moves due to changes in the distribution of land mass around the planet. So the poles move when the axis moves, and the motion is called “polar motion”.
According to NASA, 20th century data shows that the axis of rotation has drifted about 10 centimeters per year. That is to say over a century, the polar movement exceeds 10 meters. In general, polar motion is caused by changes in the hydrosphere, atmosphere, oceans, or solid Earth. But now climate change is increasing the degree of pole wandering.
What the new study says
Since the 1990s, climate change has melted billions of tonnes of glacial ice in the oceans. This caused the poles of the Earth to move in new directions.
According to the study, the north pole has moved in a new direction eastward since the 1990s, due to changes in the hydrosphere (i.e. the way water is stored on Earth). From 1995 to 2020, the average drift speed was 17 times faster than from 1981 to 1995. In addition, over the past four decades, the poles have moved about 4 meters apart.
The calculations were based on satellite data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) mission, as well as estimates of glacier loss and groundwater pumping dating back to the 1980s, according to Science Alert.
“The faster melting of the ice under global warming was the most likely cause of the change in direction of the polar drift in the 1990s,” the study said.
While the melting ice is the main factor behind the increase in polar motion, the depletion of groundwater also adds to the phenomenon. While millions of tons of water from the subsoil are pumped each year for drinking, industries or agriculture, most of it ends up reaching the sea, thus redistributing the mass of the planet.
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