Researchers explain how Earth beginning to spin backwards will affect us

Claire Reid

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Researchers explain how Earth beginning to spin backwards will affect us

Featured Image Credit: Zoonar GmbH /Ron Bull/Alamy Stock Photo

Researchers who this week suggested the Earth’s inner core has stopped spinning and could now be turning in reverse, have spoken about the impact it might have on the planet.

In a paper published earlier this week, scientists Yi Yang and Xiaodong Song from Peking University in China say the inner core of our planet temporarily stopped rotating and could now even be ‘experiencing a turning-back in a multidecadal oscillation, with another turning point in the early 1970s’.


The scientists gathered data by observing seismic waves from earthquakes that blasted through the core, with the results published in a paper in Nature Geoscience on January 23.

Speaking to Fox about how they collected the data, the researchers explained: "An earthquake with magnitude greater than about 5.0 can generate seismic waves penetrating the inner core, like making a CT scan on the inner core structure along the raypath.

"For each pair of repeating earthquakes, we compared their results of the ‘CT scan’ (i.e., their seismogram) and infer the inner core rotation from the difference of the two seismograms (waveform shape and arrival times)."

Credit: Zoonar GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo
Credit: Zoonar GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

The pair explained that their research showed Earth's pattern of inner-core rotation has varied over the past several decades, and that it paused around 2009 after which it had a slightly reversing rotation.

They’ve suggested these changes are part of an ‘oscillation’ cycle, likely to last seven decades.

In terms of the impact this will have on us Earthlings, Yang and Song have said it’s unlikely to cause any serious or devastating consequences - so that’s one good thing.

The researchers note that the Earth’s inner rotational pattern ‘coincides with several important geophysical observations’, including making changes to the planet’s magnetic field, which could potentially impact the length of days.

Credit: Tsado / Alamy Stock Photo
Credit: Tsado / Alamy Stock Photo

However, before you start panicking that you’re about to get even fewer hours to get everything done in a day, Yang and Song say the impact on our daily lives is ‘probably small’, but it could have a ‘long-term influence over decades or longer’.

They went on to say that the reversal does have an impact on Earth’s magnetic field and its rotation, meaning it could affect some surface processes such as sea levels and temperature.

The scientists added: "We’d expect it to rotate westwards relative to the surface of the Earth in the coming years and decades.

"It’s quite exciting going forward. Seismic waves are still the best way and continuous operation of high-quality seismic networks is crucial in monitoring the heart of the earth’ in this regard."

Topics: News, Space, Science

Claire Reid
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