A new study suggests that the Earth's inner core may have temporarily reversed its rotation
By: April Carson
Burrowed in the center of our planet is the inner core, which expands across 746 miles and consists predominantly of pure iron. After years of hypotheses and research claiming it rotates, a recent study suggests that its spin may have even reversed itself or come to an abrupt halt. According to NASA, this has never been recorded before. Scientists believe the inner core’s unique spin could be a result of its slow solidification, which causes fluctuations in its rotation.
The liquid outer core surrounding the inner core is responsible for generating Earth's magnetic field; so says NASA. This happens as a result of the electrical current created by the movement of molten iron and nickel. Additionally, it allows for our planet's inner core to spin independently, Nature adds.
By researching seismic data, the study's authors were able to get a better understanding of what happened. Their findings indicate that the Earth's inner core may have briefly reversed its rotation 580 million years ago.
To study the Earth's inner core, scientists can't track it directly; however, seismic waves caused by earthquakes and Cold War-era nuclear weapon tests can be analyzed as they reach its depths. This was the method employed by Yi Yang and Xiaodong Song - seismologists from Peking University in Beijing - to create their recent research published this Monday in Nature Geoscience journal.
The data suggested that the inner core reversed its rotation by about 5 degrees over a period of 10,000 years. It is likely that this change was driven by an external force, most likely caused by changes in the Earth's magnetic field at the time.
After analyzing seismic wave data from earthquakes since the 1960s, Yang and Song discovered that Earth's inner core may have halted its rotation between 2009 to 2020, or even experienced a slight reversal. This is an unprecedented event, and further research is needed in order to understand why this occurred.
It seems this isn't the first time our inner core has slowed down. Instead, scientists theorize that there is an approximate seven-decade cycle of turning back and forth at work. This oscillation may be associated with the observed changes in speed.
Yang and Song's research appears to suggest that the trend of rotation around early 1970s is reversing or slowing down. This could mean that the core is taking much longer to complete a rotation than it was before.
The research team also suggests that this change in the inner core's rotation may be related to changes in Earth's magnetic field and seismic activity.
According to seismologists, their discovery of a difference in the velocity of seismic waves through the inner core corresponded with modifications seen in multiple geophysical observations. These included both length-of-day and magnetic field, two aspects that have been connected with motion inside the inner core based on past studies.
The team believes that this could be evidence of the inner core temporarily reversing its rotation for a short period of time. They suspect that this may have been caused by differential motion in the solid iron material due to thermal convection or magnetohydrodynamic forces.
Even though Yang and Song's findings are substantiated, the actual events occurring in our planet's depths may not be accurately reflected. John Vidale--a professor of Earth Sciences at USC who was unaffiliated with the study--told The Wall Street Journal that there exist "several competing ideas" surrounding our core. He believes that the Earth's inner core may contain more than just solid iron, which could have an effect on its potential for movement.
Yang and Song originally theorized that the inner core rotated every 70 years, yet modern research suggests this number is much smaller. Some scientists even suggest it has completely ceased its rotation in recent times.
As Vidale pointed out to The New York Times, whichever model you prefer, there will be some evidence that does not support it. The truth may lie somewhere in between.
It is clear that the Earth's inner core has undergone numerous changes of direction over its lifetime, and further research is needed to understand the reasons behind these shifts and their implications on our planet’s structure.
Vidale recently collaborated on a study that unveiled the inner core of our planet has been shifting its spin every six years, fluctuating by up to two kilometers. Fascinatingly, this shift was discovered to have begun as early as 1969 and is ongoing. This means that Earth’s inner core may have reversed its direction of rotation temporarily at least once in the recent past.
This type of research is essential for better understanding the Earth’s magnetic field and its role in protecting life from solar winds and other cosmic radiation. It also provides important insights into how much this field has changed over time and the impact this has had on life. The team’s findings could even have implications for predicting future changes to the Earth’s magnetic field.
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April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
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