Climate Change Has Shifted Earth's Axis, Study Finds

We often say that climate change is altering the trajectory of the world, but it turns out that might literally be true. A new study has found evidence that climate change is changing the axis that the earth spins around.

The poles that the earth spins around are always changing slightly. But, scientists do not fully understand the process. New evidence suggests that glacial melting due to climate change may be involved.

The polar wandering accelerated in the mid-1990s.


Melting glaciers could have accelerated the shift. The melt would have redistributed a substantial amount of water, enough to have changed the spin of the earth.

As glaciers melt at the poles, it changes the weight distribution across the world. This has created an acceleration in the north pole's eastward drifting.

Earth’s mass distribution is important to how it spins.


Water seems to play a big role in the distribution of mass across the earth. In addition to the glacial ice at the poles, groundwater is also being redistributed. A lot of water is stored as groundwater.

But human activity is draining those resources far faster than they are being replenished. This, too changes that mass distribution across the globe.

The researchers concluded that water redistribution is the likely cause of accelerated polar drift.


“The faster ice melting under global warming was the most likely cause of the directional change of the polar drift in the 1990s. The other possible causes are TWS change in non‐glacial regions due to climate change and unsustainable consumption of groundwater for irrigation and other anthropogenic activities,” the authors concluded.

They also noted that further evidence of polar drift in 2005 and 2012 supports this theory.

Do we need to worry?


Yes and no. The amount that the earth is drifting is small enough that it will not affect us in our daily lives. Nor will you be able to sense the slight shift in the axis. In other words, all the stars in the sky will remain where you expect them to be.

But, this new information about how we are impacting the world is still alarming. It will have long-term impacts on the world that we cannot foresee at this time. Our actions have a lasting impact on the world, well beyond our lifetimes. We need to start carefully considering the ramifications of our actions.

h/t: Science Alert, & Advancing Earth and Space Science

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