Studies have recently suggested that the core of the Earth may have stopped spinning faster than the rest of the planet at some point in the last decade. Located thousands of kilometers below the surface, this inner core could possibly have unique properties that scientists are still trying to understand (Source: Alexandra jokes).
Has the inner core of the Earth slowed down
Seismologists Yi Yang and Xiaodong Song of Peking University have discovered something remarkable about Earth’s core in their latest study, published in Nature Geoscience. This finding could provide insights into the mysterious nature of the inner core and its important role in maintaining Earth’s magnetic field as well as its rotation speed – which ultimately affects how long a day lasts. Even though this is a major breakthrough, it may not be the final answer to explaining the strange motion of Earth’s inner core.
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According to the data, the inner core may even be in the process of moving back toward slower rotation. In this case, the magnetic and gravitational forces that drive the rotation of the inner core would probably have to change. This could also have effects at the Earth’s surface and could be related, for example, to the increase or decrease in day length.
Earth’s inner core is constantly in motion, rotating slightly faster than the Earth’s surface. This movement is visible as a “stop and reverse” motion, which is also seen when looking at other planets such as Mars. Though it appears to be stopping and changing direction, the actual inner core does not stop; instead, the outer layers appear to speed up or slow down relative to the core. This has been an intriguing phenomenon in scientific circles.
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How was the inner core discovered?
In 1936, researchers made a remarkable discovery while studying how seismic waves from earthquakes propagate through the Earth – they found that the planet’s core was solid. Located around 7,000 kilometers deep, the inner core is mainly composed of iron. This is encased by an outer core of liquid iron and other elements, whose density shifts as it crystallizes on the surface of the inner core and creates swirling motions that give rise to our planet’s magnetic field (Source).
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How did seismic waves contribute to the discovery of Earth’s core?
The Earth’s inner core, a dense, solid ball of iron and nickel at the center of our planet, remains largely a mystery despite decades of study. However, by studying the strength and duration of seismic waves from earthquakes over a thirty year period, scientists were able to infer that the inner core rotates faster than the mantle around it – one tenth of a degree per year faster. The liquid outer core creates an isolation between the inner core and the rest of the planet which allows it to rotate at its own pace.
Not all experts share this view
Other work suggests that superrotation may occur primarily during specific periods, such as the early 2000s, and is not a continuous, smooth phenomenon. Some experts even argue that there is no such thing as superrotation and that the differences in earthquake travel times are instead caused by physical changes at the surface of the inner core.
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What happens if Earth’s core stops spinning?
What would be the consequences if the Earth’s core stopped spinning? In 2009, researchers from China Peking University declared that this phenomenon had occurred. The core is located deep within the Earth and consists of a solid metal inner layer and a liquid outer layer. The exact cause of why the core has halted is still unknown but more research is being conducted to gain further insight. It is possible that the rotation of the Earth may have changed direction as a result, altering day length by fractions of milliseconds. Currently, no dangers to living things on Earth have been reported due to this halt in activity (Source).
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