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Climate Change Causing Shift in Earth’s Axis

A new research has discovered that a change in climate can cause shift in axis along which Earth rotates.

  • Climate change can cause various types of consequences such as heat waves, glacier melting, rising sea levels and storms.

Key Findings

  • Our planet’s axis of rotation has been moving more than normal due to excessive melting of glaciers as a result of global warming.
  • The change may not affect the daily life of individuals but can cause length of the day to increase by few milliseconds.
  • The location of poles is not fixed as it depends on the axis. The points of axis shift due to changes in Earth’s mass distribution.
  • The poles move their positions as the axis changes. This is majorly observed when mass movement changes and is known as “polar motion”.
  • The spin axis moved by 10 centimetres per year leading to a centurial shift of 10 metres. This process was natural earlier but now increasingly influenced by climate change.

The new study 

  • The north pole of the Earth has moved eastwards since 1990s due to changes in glacial mass. The average speed of movement was about 17 times faster than natural phenomenon.
  • The study was conducted based on the satellite data provided by NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) mission.
  • Glacial melt remains the primary reason but secondary reasons also include groundwater depletion.
  • Excessive groundwater is extracted for purposes such as drinking water, agriculture and industry that ultimately reaches sea and causes redistribution of mass.
  • Axis of rotation: The imaginary line along which Earth rotates along itself as it revolves around the Sun is known as the axis of rotation.

GRACE Mission

  • The Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) was a joint mission of NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR).
  • It took detailed measurements of Earth’s gravity field anomalies from its launch in March 2002.
  • The mission came to an end in October 2017.
  • The Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO) is a continuation of the GRACE mission, launched in May 2018.
  • GRACE-FO tracks Earth’s water movement to monitor changes in underground water storage, amount of water in large lakes and rivers, soil moisture, ice sheets and glaciers, and sea level caused by the addition of water to the ocean.

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