NASA: Global warming is now changing how Earth wobbles

Melting ice sheets, especially in Greenland, are changing the distribution of weight on Earth


WASHINGTON — Global warming is shifting the way the Earth wobbles on its polar axis, a new NASA study finds.

Melting ice sheets, especially in Greenland, are changing the distribution of weight on Earth. And that has caused both the North Pole and the wobble, which is called polar motion, to change course, according to a study published Friday in the journal Science Advances.

Scientists and navigators have been accurately measuring the true pole and polar motion since 1899, and for almost the entire 20th century they migrated a bit toward Canada. But that has changed with this century, and now it’s moving toward England, said study lead author Surendra Adhikari at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab.

“The recent shift from the 20th-century direction is very dramatic,” Adhikari said.

While scientists say the shift is harmless, it is meaningful. Jonathan Overpeck, professor of geosciences at the University of Arizona, who wasn’t part of the study, said that “this highlights how real and profoundly large an impact humans are having on the planet.”

Since 2003, Greenland has lost on average more than 600 trillion pounds of ice a year, and that affects the way the Earth wobbles in a manner similar to a figure skater lifting one leg while spinning, said NASA scientist Eirk Ivins, the study’s co-author.

On top of that, West Antarctica loses 275 trillion tons of ice and East Antarctica gains about 165 trillion tons of ice yearly, helping tilt the wobble further, Ivins said.

They all combine to pull polar motion toward the east, Adhikari said.

Jianli Chen, a senior research scientist at the University of Texas’ Center for Space Research, first attributed the pole shift to climate change in 2013, and he said this new study takes his work a step further.

“There is nothing to worry about,” said Chen, who wasn’t part of the NASA study. “It is just another interesting effect of climate change.”


NASA: Global warming is now changing how Earth wobbles

  1. I am not sure how your story works as the earths weight is the same today as when created, there is an exception to that rule and it will apply to newly created lifeforms as these weights are always changing with birth and death. The ice and water make up the same weight, even the machinery is made of the materials of the earth therefore they will equal the mass weight of the earth. Only birth and death will have an affect on the mass weight.

    • It’s not the total weight that matters, it’s the distribution of that weight that is changing

  2. There is always a leap here that articles like this hope readers will ignore. The article reads: “The planet is warming up, causing ice to melt – LEAP – see what man is doing to the planet?” Scientists are virtually all in agreement that the planet is warming up, however, that is where the consensus ends. Climate changes. The ice age didn’t melt because Barney Rubble was driving a car.

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