Earth’s Core Has Stopped and May Be Reversing Direction, Study Says
The surprising finding might solve longstanding mysteries about climate and geological phenomena.
Earth’s inner core has recently stopped spinning, and may now be reversing the direction of its rotation, according to a surprising new study that probed the deepest reaches of our planet with seismic waves from earthquakes.
The mind-boggling results suggest that Earth’s center pauses and reverses direction on a periodic cycle lasting about 60 to 70 years, a discovery that might solve longstanding mysteries about climate and geological phenomena that occur on a similar timeframe, and that affect life on our planet.
Of course, it must be noted this is more or less the plot of the 2003 disaster film The Core, but there’s no need to worry about averting an impending apocalypse by nuking the center of Earth. While the core’s rotation influences Earth’s surface environment, scientists think this periodic spin switch is a normal part of its behavior that does not pose risks for life on our planet.
Earth’s inner core is a solid metal ball that is 75 percent the size of the Moon. It can spin at different speeds and directions compared to our planet because it is nestled within a liquid outer core, but scientists are not sure exactly how fast it spins or whether its speed varies over time.
Located some 3,000 miles beneath our feet, the core experiences intense heat on par with the surface of the Sun. Because it is so remote and difficult to study, the inner core remains one of the least understood environments on our planet, though it’s clear that it plays a role in many processes that make our world habitable to life, such as the generation of Earth’s protective magnetic field, which blocks harmful radiation from reaching the surface.
Now, Yi Yang and Xiaodong Song, a pair of researchers at Peking University’s SinoProbe Lab at School of Earth and Space Sciences, have captured “surprising observations that indicate the inner core has nearly ceased its rotation in the recent decade and may be experiencing a turning-back in a multidecadal oscillation, with another turning point in the early 1970s,” ac