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If Earth stopped spinning, everything on its surface would continue to move at hundreds of miles per hour. This would wipe out almost everything on Earth’s surface, and life as we know it would be destroyed.
Continue reading to discover what would happen on an Earth that began to spin faster or slower than its current rate. In addition, find out how stable our rotational speed is and whether we should be worried about Earth grinding to a halt.
What Would Happen To Life If Earth Stopped Spinning?
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If the Earth’s rotation suddenly stopped, we would be in serious trouble. This is because everything not directly attached to the Earth, such as the atmosphere and oceans, would keep spinning – destroying everything in their path.
We might not feel it, but every second we’re traveling along with the planet’s rotation at a speed of up to 1,000 miles per hour. If Earth came to a sudden halt, everything sitting on top would launch eastward at hundreds of miles per hour, clearing the planet’s surface of everything that stood in its way.
Even if Earth gradually slowed down over a number of years, it would be a disaster for human beings. As centrifugal force dissipated, our oceans would gather around the poles. This would mean that all of Antarctica, plus all land north of Spain, would be underwater. Meanwhile, water levels at the equator would drop to below 8 km.
In any scenario where the Earth stopped spinning, all known life would be destroyed. Still, is it possible for life to regenerate on the blue planet after this cataclysmic event? Primitive life, maybe, but human beings could no longer survive in this new world.
Once Earth stopped spinning, a day on our planet would last as long as a year. And with six months of daylight, many areas would heat up to over 100 degrees Celsius. Rivers and lakes would boil away, while fierce winds would blow water to each pole. The only chance for life to exist would be in a narrow area of the coastal landscape.
Is It Possible For The Earth To Stop Spinning?
It is improbable that the Earth would ever stop spinning or become tidally locked to the Sun. Our speed is slowly minutely (it gets about 1.7 milliseconds longer each century), but it will never come to a complete stop.
If you spin a roundabout, it will start fast, slow down, and then gradually come to a stop. This is because air pushes against it to create friction, which slows momentum. Earth continues to spin (at a relatively steady rate) because there is very little to stop it within the vacuum of space.
Space, just as it sounds, primarily consists of empty space. Here, there is nothing, not even air, to slow down our planet’s spin. Still, there is one thing that affects our rotational rate – the moon.
Neither the side of Earth facing the moon nor the side of Earth away from the moon possesses a perfect balance with gravity, which creates tides. These tides lead the oceans to bulge on each side in alignment with the moon.
As the Earth spins, these tides move like waves across the Earth, slowing its spin. However, this effect is minimal and only adds one second to the day every 50,000 years.
The only way that Earth could come to a complete halt would be if another planet crashed into it. This is an improbable scenario but not impossible. Even so, a collision with another planet would be more likely to change our rotational pattern than stop it altogether.
What Would Happen If Earth Started Spinning Faster?
If Earth started to spin faster, it would have several consequences for life on Earth.
The depth of these consequences would all depend on the increase in speed. For example, Earth currently spins at around 1,037 mph; if this speed were increased to 24,000 mph, our crust would shift, the poles would flatten, and our planet would bulge at the equator.
This shift in shape and composition would lead to massive earthquakes that could be catastrophic for life.
Still, even an increase of 1 mph could change our planet as we know it. The increased speed would cause water to move from the poles towards the equator (the opposite effect if we stopped spinning).
With a one mph increase in speed, water would rise by a few inches, but if we increased the speed of our planet’s rotation by 100 mph, everything at the equator would begin to drown.
But, this slight speed change would be less noticeable than a significant speed change, and its effects would take longer for us to notice.
One of the first things that could seem different for life on Earth would be that satellites would go “off track.” Each satellite is programmed to stay at one position based on the Earth’s rotational speed. If we suddenly sped up, these satellites would likely be affected.
Increased speed means a greater centrifugal force. In simple terms, this means that gravity would weaken and, therefore, you would weigh less. In addition, we would experience increased seismic activity, and hurricanes would get stronger.
Earth spins at a perfect speed to support life on Earth. Even slight changes to this speed would cause significant changes to conditions on this planet. If our rotation stopped completely, then life on Earth would be destroyed as the planet plunged into year-long days and extreme temperatures.
The thought experiment: What would happen if the Earth stopped spinning? | BBC Science Focus Magazine
What would happen if Earth stopped spinning? | Astronomy.com
Could the Earth ever stop spinning, and what would happen if it did? | Space
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How fast does the Earth spin? | Popular Science (popsci.com)TwistedSifter