Home » Climate/Climate Change » Q. Could the melting of ice at the poles affect the tilt and rotation of the Earth?

 
 

Q. Could the melting of ice at the poles affect the tilt and rotation of the Earth?

 

A. Melting ice from Polar Regions is one of numerous processes that affect the speed of Earth’s rotation, said James Davis, Lamont Research Professor at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University. It also affects the tilt of the axis of rotation, by about one degree per million years, he said, and NASA has measured alterations in the gravity field as well.

“Melting polar ice enters the oceans as water,” Dr. Davis said, “and one effect of this process is to move mass around on Earth’s surface.” The shifting weight also causes material to move around inside the planet, thereby changing its shape. The combined effect of these motions, he said, “is to make Earth less round and more squished from pole to pole, compared to the Equator.”

This net mass shift slows the Earth’s spin rate, just as a spinning ice skater pushes out her arms to slow down, Dr. Davis said. That has the effect of lengthening the day: Recent calculations indicate that loss of mass in Greenland and the Antarctic makes the day about 0.6 milliseconds longer per century.

At the same time, however, Earth is still changing shape in response to the massive melting from 23,000 to 10,000 years ago — coincidentally decreasing the day by about the same 0.6 milliseconds per century.

Source: Click http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/18/science/does-melting-polar-ice-affect-earths-tilt-and-spin.html?_r=1&ref=science

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