Shifting Earth axis pushes North Pole in ‘dramatic turn’ eastward
Scientists have kept tabs on the shifting of the Earth’s axis since 1899, when the wobble of the Earth was first measured. For 100 years after the first wobble data was documented the Earth’s axis shifted in one direction, sending the North Pole drifting south toward Hudson Bay in Canada. But since the year 2000, the drift is going in another direction.
ABC News reports that scientists have found that the spin axis of the Earth “did a dramatic turn” and instead of the North Pole shifting towards Hudson Bay in Canada as it has since data has been collected, it is now drifting toward Greenwich in the United Kingdom, which is eastward. Dr Surendra Adhikari, a theoretical glaciologist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California, reports, “Since about the year 2000 there is a new drift direction, and this drift direction is along the central meridian.”
So why is this happening? Believe it or not it has to do with the placement of water on Earth and with the polar ice sheets melting this is the major factor in the shift of direction. Both the Greenland ice sheet and the western part of the Antarctic ice sheet are melting and scientists agree this is one of the major factors.
According to News Oxy today, “Explorers and scientists have been reliably measuring the precise positions of the rotational poles since 1899, first by measuring the relative positions of the stars.”As technology advanced and we can now look down at Earth via satellites, the scientists now measure this using satellite telemetry.
The biggest mass on Earth is water and when water shifts it is a major driver in directional shift. Water distribution on the Earth drives the Earth’s wobble, which in turn is shifting the North Pole. Dr Adhikari and his colleague Dr Erik Ivins report in the journal of Science Advances that the “analysis of gravitational data between 2003 and 2015 indicates changes in distribution of water stored on continents also contributed to polar drift.”
Combining the melting ice sheets together isn’t enough to make this dramatic shift, conveys Adhikari. He said something was missing. Using the satellites that measure gravity’s pull on the Earth in different regions, they found that the changes coincide with more water or the absence of water at any given place on Earth.
To put it in layman’s terms Adhikari said, “The logic is very simple. When you see a positive gravity anomaly you are getting more mass in that region in that particular month. And the only material transported on that huge scale is water.”
Adhikari continued explaining that “Over the last 13 years, the hydrological mass has been distributed in such a way that it’s pulling the pole towards Eurasia — India.” This mathematically accounts for the current spin axis making a change of direction when you add this to the impact of the melting polar ice sheets.
“For the first time we have a view that there is another important component, which is related to the pattern of the global scale of land-water storage,” he said. This give scientists a better understanding of climate change.