The Guilfordian

Earth’s axis potentially wobbles due to humans

According to research by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, “Human activity increases the wobbling of the Earth’s axis as the planet is spinning.” The main way humans affect the wobble of the Earth is through the increasing temperatures of the planet causing glaciers to melt, which transfers mass to different parts of the planet.

Most people know that the Earth spins, but why it spins and wobbles is not as widely known.

All of the planets when they first formed were rotating about once every 10 hours,” said Glaxo Wellcome Professor of Physics Thom Espinola. “The Earth’s been rotating since it first formed. It has slowed down because it’s slowly transferring angular momentum to the moon, it is now down to 24 hours.”

There are also shifts in the rotation of Earth. The shifts are best compared to the wobble of a top where the axis moves in a circle as it is spinning. There are two wobbles that the Earth does, a large wobble that occurs every 26,000 years and a smaller one that occurs more frequently.

“The big wobble of the Earth is caused by the gravity of the moon,” Espinola said.

Human activity affects smaller wobbles. The main causes of these wobbles are the melting of glaciers and the convection of Earth’s mantle. Taking these factors into account has been effective when calculating how much the Earth’s axis should move.

“The new study suggests that a significant part of the polar reorientation might be caused by recent melting continental ice sheets, a direct result of global warming,” said Professor of Geology Dave Dobson. “It is a good example of yet another thing we didn’t predict, that’s happening to the planet we cannot leave, because of our rampant use of fossil fuels,.”

Although the increased wobbling of the Earth has little to no effect on the day to day lives of people, it showcases just how much climate change has affected the planet. In the 200 years since the Industrial Revolution, humans have already altered a process which started since the beginning of the planet 3.5 billion years ago.

“Even though the wobbling isn’t necessarily harming us, it’s interesting to actually see the scale of human impact on Earth, considering how large of a mass the planet is,” said Early College student Andrew Zeng.Peter

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