Earth’s inner core may have started spinning in the other direction
Planet Earth’s inner core may have stopped turning and could go into reverse, according to a study published this week.
Earth is formed of three layers: the crust, the mantle, and the core.
Made almost entirely of metal – specifically, iron and nickel, its inner core rests 3,200 miles below the crust, separated from the mantle by the liquid outer core which allows the inner core to rotate at a different speed from the planet’s rotation.
Researchers studied seismic waves from repeating earthquakes that have passed through the Earth’s inner core over the last six decades to infer how fast the inner core is spinning, Xiaodong Song and Yi Yang of China’s Peking University published Monday in the journal Nature Geoscience.
The study’s authors said they found that the inner core’s rotation “came to near halt around 2009 and then turned in an opposite direction.”
Since then, the authors said, seismic records – which previously changed over time, showed little difference.
“This globally consistent pattern suggests that inner-core rotation has recently paused,” they wrote. “We show surprising observations that indicate the inner core has nearly ceased its rotation in the recent decade and may be experiencing a turning-back.”
When you look at the decade between 1980 and 1990, Song said, you see clear change but when you look at 2010 through 2020 you don’t see much change.
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What effect does the inner core have on people?
There is little to indicate the inner core’s rotation has much effect on humans.
But both researchers said that they believed there are physical links between all Earth’s layers, from the inner core to the surface.
“We hope our study can motivate some researchers to build and test models which treat the whole Earth as an integrated dynamic system,” they wrote.
Natalie Neysa Alund covers trending news for USA TODAY. Reach her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @nataliealund.
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