Humanity’s impacts on our planet’s climate are so profound that for decades we have been changing without realizing the very axis on which the Earth rotatessay scientists.
In a new study, researchers examined the phenomenon of polar wandering, in which the Earth’s north and south magnetic poles drift around the planet’s surface, wandering relentlessly from the anchored positions of their geographic counterparts.
This mysterious phenomenon is believed to be driven by many factors, including the existence of vast cast iron anomalies beneath the Earth’s surface. But other elements also contribute, scientists say, including, surprisingly, whats effects of man-made climate change.
“The faster melting of ice under global warming was the most likely cause of the reversal of polar drift in the 1990s”Explains lead researcher Shanshan Deng from the Institute of Geographical Sciences and Natural Resources Research in China.
In the new study, Deng and other researchers examined the extent to which changes in terrestrial water storage (TWS) in recent decades contributed to the amount of magnetic polar deviation recorded in the same time period.
Basically TWS includes changes in water levels on Earth resulting from melting glaciers as the world warms, in addition to the changes also produced by the pumping of underground water from underground reservoirs.
The reason these changes are important is because they affect the distribution of mass on Earth, and when it comes to a spinning object, be it a spinning top, yo-yo, or an entire planet spinning in space, the The way its mass is distributed in turn affects the way it rotates.
“It brings interesting evidence to this question”explains climate scientist Vincent Humphrey of the University of Zurich in Switzerland, who was not involved in the study.
“It tells you how strong this mass change is, it is so great that it can change the axis of the Earth”, adds.
While polar drift is a natural phenomenon that scientists have observed for more than a century, ambulation has accelerated rapidly in more recent times, along with a west-to-east direction change at the magnetic north pole first seen in the 1990s.
Over time, drift accumulates, with the poles traveling hundreds of kilometers, which means adjustments must be made to the World Magnetic Model, which underpins navigation systems like GPS.
According to the team’s calculations, based on satellite data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) mission and estimates of glacier loss and groundwater pumping dating back to the 1980s, the main driver of the Polar drift change observed in the 1990s was melting due to climate change.
“The faster melting of the ice under global warming was the most likely cause of the reversal of polar drift in the 1990s. “, the researchers explain in their study.
“The other possible causes are the change of TWS in non-glacial regions due to climate change and the unsustainable consumption of groundwater for irrigation and other anthropogenic activities.”
Although it is estimated that the degree of displacement of the axis experienced so far is so slight that humans could not perceive it in daily life, the results suggest, however, another alarming side effect of humanity’s unsustainable use of Earth’s resources: massive rearrangements on a planetary scale significant enough to measurably affect the revolutions of the world in which we live.
Another question is how much the ongoing and locked ice melt, and the continued plundering of groundwater resources, could affect the future axis shift, and what ramifications could result from that. But for that we will have to wait.