A study has found that the ongoing climate crisis has caused the Earth’s axis to shift.
The shift is thought to be as a result of the planet’s glaciers melting from global warming, demonstrating the devastating impact humans continue to have on Earth.
Previously, only natural factors such as ocean currents are thought to have affected the Earth’s axis, but this new research shows that since the 1990s, the hundreds of billions of tonnes of ice we’ve lost to climate change each year – which then falls into our oceans – has ultimately caused the north and south poles to shift.
While the magnetic poles are not in a fixed position, they sit at the point where its axis of rotation intersects the surface. With this in mind, if there are changes in how the Earth’s mass is distributed around the planet, both the axis and poles are moved a result.
In the past 40 years, the poles have moved four metres in distance, The Guardian reports.
Part of the summary of the report, which was first published last month, reads, ‘Generally, polar motion is caused by changes in the hydrosphere, atmosphere, oceans, or solid Earth. However, short‐term observational records of key information in the hydrosphere (i.e., changes in terrestrial water storage) limit a better understanding of new polar drift in the 1990s.’
The study goes on to detail that there were two scenarios suggested in how to quantify the contribution from changes in terrestrial water storage by comparing its drift path.
These two scenarios were: the assumption that the terrestrial water storage change throughout the entire study period of 1981 – 2020 is similar to the more recent observations between 2002 – 2020; and to assume that the terrestrial water storage changed due to glacier ice melting.
The study concluded:
Only the latter scenario, along with the atmosphere, oceans, and solid Earth, agrees with the polar motion during the period of 1981–2020. 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. This new finding indicates that a close relationship existed between polar motion and climate change in the past.
In a worst case scenario, if the north and south magnetic poles completely shift, more poles may be created. It’s previously been recorded that at one point in time, the Earth had up to eight poles at once, Insider reports.
If this were to happen again, it’s believed that it would weaken Earth’s protective magnetic field by up to 90% – the field is what protects us from harmful radiation from space.
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