We have changed the Earth’s cycle by pumping groundwater

A new study shows that our human pumping and displacement of groundwater has slightly shifted Earth’s mass — thereby slightly altering Earth’s rotation — and increasing the rate at which Earth’s axis of rotation wobbles. In this graph, the red arrow indicates the observed polar motion. The dashed blue arrow represents the model without groundwater redistribution, while the solid blue arrow includes groundwater mass redistribution. Close matching of observations with groundwater distribution tells researchers the magnitude and direction of groundwater’s influence on the Earth’s cycle. via image AGU/ Seo et al. (2023)/ Geophysical Research Letters.

The American Geophysical Union (AGU) had a surprise Notice on June 15, 2023. Earth’s 8 billion humans have pumped so much groundwater that we’ve fueled our planet’s spiral. For example, the withdrawal of groundwater for agriculture, mining, or domestic use has caused a slight—but noticeable—change in Earth’s mass. In turn, Earth’s rotation has caused the pole to wobble by nearly a meter (roughly a yard) over the past two decades.

In particular, the earth has tilted about 31.5 inches (80 cm) to the east due to humans moving large amounts of water. And that was between 1993 and 2010. researchers Published Their review on June 15, 2023 Peer reviewed magazine Geophysical Research Letters.

Groundwater Pumping and Earth’s Circulation

Scientists analyzed climate models that estimated humans pumped 2,150 gigatons of groundwater from 1993 to 2010. Adding this amount of groundwater to the surface would equate to 0.24 inches (6 millimeters) of sea level rise. To verify that estimate, scientists looked at Earth’s rotation pole. A pole of rotation is the axis around which the Earth rotates. The distribution and weight of water can affect that cycle. Lead author Ki-won Seo Seoul National University said:

Earth’s rotation pole actually changes a lot. Among climate-related causes, our study shows that the redistribution of groundwater actually has the greatest impact on the drift of the circulation pole.

Groundwater redistribution factor

In 2016, scientists first discovered that water can change the Earth’s cycle. So exploring how the redistribution of water affects the Earth’s cycle is new territory. Researchers tried two models to explain the observed changes in Earth’s spin pole shift. At first, they factored in ice sheets and glaciers. Later, they added in groundwater redistribution. Finally, the model fit best after redistributing 2,150 gigatons of groundwater.

Seo said:

I am very happy to have found an unexplained cause for spiral polar drift. On the other hand, as an earth dweller and father, I am concerned and surprised that groundwater abstraction is another source of sea level rise.

Ground water is depleting there

Further, Where Groundwater is pumped out of things. Redistribution of ground water Mid latitudes It has a major impact on the Earth’s rotation. It covers most of North America, Europe and Asia. The study found that the mid-latitudes of western North America and northwestern India have the highest water supply.

Efforts to slow groundwater depletion in sensitive areas:

Theoretically change the drift, but only if such conservation approaches last for decades.

Scientists have also said that this shift in the Earth’s rotation pole will not change our seasons. But on larger time scales, this drift can affect climate.

A flat map of the world showing western America and Asia, especially northern India, shaded blue.
This map shows the lowest groundwater levels in the country from 1993 to 2010. Units are in mm of water. via image AGU.
A flat map of the world showing orange where there is water but green and blue areas near the west coast and around India.
This map shows sea level rise from 1993 to 2010. Units are in mm of water. via image AGU.

Future studies of the Earth’s rotation

The team is thinking about studying Earth’s past polar movements. Seo said:

Observing changes in Earth’s rotation pole is useful for understanding continental-scale water storage variations. Polar motion data have been available since the late 19th century. Therefore, we can use that data to understand continental water storage variations over the past 100 years. Have there been any hydrological regime changes as a result of a warming climate? Polar motion can hold the answer.

Bottom line: Humans are drawing groundwater for agriculture, mining, and other uses. This movement of water from underground into the oceans slightly changed the rotation of the Earth.

Source: Earth’s Pole Drift Confirms Shrinking Groundwater as a Significant Contributor to Global Sea-Level Rise 1993-2010

Via AGU

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