Geophysics

Rising sea levels alter Earth's spin

Journal name:
Nature
Volume:
528,
Page:
310
Date published:
DOI:
doi:10.1038/528310d
Published online

Researchers have confirmed that rising sea levels caused by melting glaciers are slowing Earth's rotation.

As ice melts, it redistributes mass across the planet's surface, slightly changing the rate at which Earth spins. But a 2002 study could not explain the observed rotational changes on the basis of its assumptions about rising sea levels. Now Jerry Mitrovica of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and his colleagues say that they have resolved the problem. They used updated numbers for global sea-level rise, which are lower than those assumed in the 2002 study, and recalculated how the geographic poles have shifted over the past 3,000 years.

The work improves scientists' understanding of how Earth's rotation has changed in the past, and how rising sea levels might continue to alter it in the future.

Sci. Adv. 1, e1500679 (2015)

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