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The Earth's Core: Reversing Direction, Causing Climate Change?

Is the Earth's Core Changing Its Spin? Will This Affect Climate Change?

Earth: Inside: layers, coresAccording to two Chinese researchers at Peking University, the Earth’s inner core may have temporarily stopped rotating relative to the rest of the planet. The research is reported in the January 23, 2023 edition of "Nature Geoscience". Further, the researchers, Dr. Xiaodong Song, a seismologist at Peking University in Beijing and Yi Yang, also a seismologist at Peking University, say the inner core may also be reversing the direction of its rotation or spin.  They say that their analysis of seismic records indicates this happens every 70 years. They base this conclusion on their analysis of earthquake-driven seismic waves as they passed through the Earth.

Implications for Climate Change

This could impact the length of Earth’s days and its magnetic field. The earth's inner core is very dense, made of heavy metals, super heated and about 75% the size of the moon. It is thought to have concentrated there during the early period of earth's formation.  The outer core is more fluid and spins at a slightly different speed.  The outer core is responsible for Earth's magnetic field. The iron inside the liquid outer core spinning produces the electric currents that create the magnetic field. The earth's magnetic field, which shields the earth from much deadly cosmic radiation, such as that from the sun.

The dense core and its spin also help to produce stability of the earth's orbit and rotation, producing the stable days and nights.

The intense heat of the inner core is produced by the massive pressure and nuclear reactions. This heat keeps the outer core and magma liquid and produces convection currents, which are also affected by the earth's spin.  These convection currents result in tectonic plate movement.

See this page for much more information about the earth's layers, core and structure.

Any changes of these, as one would obviously realize, could greatly affect weather and climate.  Any changes can have profound affects on both short term weather and long term climate.  Other researchers say reversal of the inner core rotation would shorten the length of the day by a fraction of a millisecond over the course of a year and would only have a small effect on Earth’s magnetic field

Skepticism from other researchers

A cautionary note: This sounds like the plot of one of the worst sci-fi disaster movies ever made: "The Core", released in 2003.

Other scientists, such as John Vidale, a professor of earth sciences at the University of Southern California, say there, even if the data is accurate, there may be an entirely different conclusion.

 Dr. Vidale said:

“The changes they noticed are valid although what’s actually happening isn’t so clear. They have a very good analysis and the theory they put in the papers is probably as good as anything at the moment, but there are several competing ideas as well.”How Seismic waves travel through the earth

Time will tell if this is accurate or significant. 


Many references are included by embedded links to the sources in the text above. Below are others:

  1.  -  Earth’s inner core may be reversing its rotation. Such a turnaround might sound bizarre, but isn’t likely to have profound effects on life. Scientists have proposed that Earth’s solid inner core (yellow in this diagram) rotates faster than the rest of Earth. A new study suggests the core’s rotation has recently paused, and is reversing direction.
  2. Nature Geoscience - Multidecadal variation of the Earth’s inner-core rotationYi Yang    & Xiaodong Song    Differential rotation of Earth’s inner core relative to the mantle is thought to occur under the effects of the geodynamo on core dynamics and gravitational core–mantle coupling. This rotation has been inferred from temporal changes between repeated seismic waves that should traverse the same path through the inner core. Here we analyse repeated seismic waves from the early 1990s and show that all of the paths that previously showed significant temporal changes have exhibited little change over the past decade. This globally consistent pattern suggests that inner-core rotation has recently paused. We compared this recent pattern to the Alaskan seismic records of South Sandwich Islands doublets going back to 1964 and it seems to be associated with a gradual turning-back of the inner core as a part of an approximately seven-decade oscillation, with another turning point in the early 1970s.
  3. The Wall Street Journal - Earth’s Inner Core May Be Reversing Its Rotation, Study Finds
    The change may shave the length of the day by a fraction of a millisecond over the course of a year.

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