Climate Crisis Causing Earth’s Axis To Move
With climate change causing the glaciers to melt faster than they ever have before, scientists now warn that there have been shifts in the rotation of the Earth’s axis. This could mean the Earth as we know it – with its currently logged equator – could change dramatically. And at a much faster rate than we are currently prepared to deal with.
What Caused The Earth’s Axis To Change?
Over the past 20 years, glaciers across the world have been rapidly declining in size and density. In fact, this is happening at a rate of nearly double the entire time before this period. In other words, the past 20 years have led to the glaciers melting, faster than they ever have before. Indeed, between 2019 and 2020, 267 gigatonnes (Gt) of ice was lost. This equates to roughly 21% of sea-level rise, according to a paper released by Nature. In the paper, the authors note that this is the equivalent to 2m of England being covered in rising seawater, every year.
The poles themselves – located at the point of which the Earth rotates – are not geographically fixed. Instead, the point of rotation depends on how Earth’s mass is distributed across the globe. In the past, the natural shifting of tectonic plates, the convection of magma under the surface and ocean currents have all affected this.
However, the changes noted are worth billions of tons, in a short space of time. As such, the melting glaciers are redistributing the weight of the globe. Therefore altering the point on which Earth rotates, more quickly than ever before.
What Could This Mean For The Rest Of The World?
We already know that the changing surface of the Earth could lead to multiple different problems. From the increased risk of malaria in more northerly parts of the world, through to rising sea levels. The latter of which are destroying low-level islands such as the Maldives. And the shifting axis of the world could mean that we may be dealing with the immediate effects of this, sooner than we think.
As the world changes its point of rotation, the glaciers will move closer to the sun, as a new equator is created. Which means the melting glaciers could cease to exist at all. Especially when we consider this in combination with our carbon footprint. Prof Jonathan Overpeck, at the University of Arizona, US, told the Guardian previously that changes to the Earth’s axis highlighted “how real and profoundly large an impact humans are having on the planet”. Indeed, the changing axis is a concrete indication of how much we can affect our world.
The Impact Of The Changing Earth’s Axis
While some may not be bothered by the idea of some distant ice melting into the ocean, it’s worth remembering the knock-on effect this can have on the rest of the world. After all, glaciers aren’t just present in the North and South poles. In fact, many are based in the mountain ranges across the world, such as the Alps, Himalayas and Andes.
Without the water run-off from these in the summer months, droughts are much more likely. Which could lead to the millions of people who live off of this to suffer from water shortages and famine. Not to mention that these mountain waters feed the rivers of Yangtze, Mekong, Salween and Brahmaputra. And they, in turn, ensure the wellbeing of those who live downstream.
According to Romain Hugonnet, of the University of Toulouse, states that “How fast depends on different climate scenarios, but at current speed, 80-90% will be gone by 2050. That means we will lose almost everything, except the biggest glaciers.” At this point, it would seem that only through lowering our carbon footprint, the glaciers will be able to regrow. But, what we’re currently seeing is long-term destruction caused by humans.