Groundwater Pumping May Tilt Earth’s Cycle, Affect Climate: Study

Groundwater thrusting may have caused the Earth to tilt nearly 80 centimeters to the east between 1993 and 2010 alone, affecting our planet’s climate, according to a study.

The research, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, found that during the study period, more water was redistributed in western North America and northwestern India.

Scientists previously estimated that humans pumped 2,150 gigatons of groundwater between 1993 and 2010, equivalent to more than 6 millimeters of sea level rise. However, that estimate is difficult to verify.

„Earth’s rotation pole is actually changing a lot,” said Ki-Weon Seo, a geophysicist at Seoul National University in South Korea who led the study.

„Among climate-related causes, our study shows that the redistribution of groundwater actually has the greatest impact on the drift of the circulation pole,” Seo said.

The researchers noted that water’s ability to alter the Earth’s cycle was discovered in 2016, and until now, the specific contribution of groundwater to these cycle changes had not been investigated.

A recent study modeled observed changes in Earth’s spin pole drift and water movement—at first, only ice sheets and glaciers were considered, then added to different scenarios for groundwater redistribution.

Once the researchers added 2150 gigatons of groundwater redistribution, the model only matched the observed pole shift. Without it, the model is disabled by drifts of 78.5 centimeters or 4.3 centimeters per year.

Efforts by countries to slow rates of groundwater depletion, especially in those sensitive areas, could theoretically reverse the drift, but only if such conservation approaches persist for decades.

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The circulation pole typically shifts several meters within a year, so changes due to groundwater forcing do not run the risk of changing seasons. However, on geologic time scales, polar drift can have an impact on climate, they said.

„This is a good contribution and certainly an important document,” said Surendra Adhikari, a research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the US who was not involved in the study.

Officials published a 2016 paper on water redistribution affecting cyclic drift.

„They have calculated the role of groundwater pumping in polar motion, and it is very significant,” the official said in a statement.

(This story was not edited by DevDiscourse staff and was generated automatically from a syndicated feed.)

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