Climate change has knocked the Earth off its axis

Sinead Butler
Tuesday 27 April 2021 08:25
Science and Tech

Global warming has caused shifts in the Earth’s axis rotation.

(Getty Images)

There have been marked shifts in the Earth’s axis of rotation since the 1990s due to the melting glaciers because of global warming, research shows.

Scientists have said that this research demonstrates the impact humans have had on the planet in recent years.

Earth’s geographic north and south poles are where its axis of rotation intersects the surface, but are not fixed.

Changes in how the Earth’s mass is distributed around the planet have caused the axis, and the poles, to move.

It was thought in the past that only natural factors caused the drifting position of the poles, such as ocean currents and the convection of hot rock in the deep Earth.

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Since 1980, the position of the poles have moved about 4 metres in distance.

But the new research shows that since the 1990s, the loss of hundreds of billions of tonnes of ice a year into the oceans resulting from global warming has caused the poles to move in new directions.

Experts found the direction of polar drift shifted from southward to eastward in 1995 and that the average speed of drift from 1995 to 2020 was 17 times faster than from 1981 to 1995.

“The accelerated terrestrial water storage decline resulting from glacial ice melting is thus the main driver of the rapid polar drift toward the east after the 1990s,” the study from the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research at the Chinese Academy of Sciences read.

“This new finding indicates that a close relationship existed between polar motion and climate change in the past.”

Though this is not the only contributing factor to the shift, the study also noted it is likely that the pumping up of groundwater also “contributed to the movements.”

Vincent Humphrey, at the University of Zurich, Switzerland told The Guardian how the new research shows that human activities have redistributed huge amounts of water around the planet, “It tells you how strong this mass change is – it’s so big that it can change the axis of the Earth.”

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