What would happen if the Earth stopped spinning?.. Apr 11, 2005 1:34:57 GMT -6
Post by Chicago Astronomer Joe on Apr 11, 2005 1:34:57 GMT -6
What would happen if the Earth stopped spinning?
I found this to be quite interesting...
This from Starryskies.com:
Earth is rotating at a speed of about 1100 miles per hour. If our planet suddenly stopped rotating, the atmosphere would still be in motion at that speed. The atmosphere would be moving so fast it would literally sweep the land masses clear of anything not anchored to bedrock, this would mean rocks, soil, trees, buildings, people and animals. All would be swept up into the atmosphere.
If the Earth's rotation slowed down gradually over millions of years, and this is the most likely scenario, it would be a very different story. If the Earth slowed down to one rotation every year, called synchronous rotation, every area on Earth would be in either sunlight or darkness for one year. This would be similar to what the Moon goes through where for two weeks the front side of the Moon is illuminated by the Sun followed by the front side being in darkness for two weeks.
But what if the Earth stopped rotating completely? In that case, one half the Earth would be in daylight for half the year while the other side would be in darkness. The second half of the year it would be reversed. Temperature variations would be far more extreme then they are now. The temperature gradient would affect the wind circulation also. Air would move from the equator to the poles rather then in wind systems parallel to the equator as they are now.
Even stranger would be the change in the Sun's position in the sky. In the above scenario, Sun would just have a seasonal motion up and down the sky towards the south due to the orbit of the Earth and its axial tilt. You would see the elevation of the Sun increase or decrease in the sky just as we now see the elevation of the Sun change from a single point on the Earth due to the Earth's daily rotation.
As an example, say we live at 30 degrees North latitude. In the Summer, at a longitude where the Sun was exactly overhead, it would slide gradually to the horizon as Fall approached, but since the Sun has moved 90 degrees in its orbit, it would now be due west. As Winter approached, you would now be located on the dark side of the Earth. You would have to move to a longitude 180 degrees around the Earth to see the Sun 1/2 way up the sky because in the Winter, the Sun is 50 degrees south of its summer location in the sky.
There would be other effects of the Earth's rotation slowing also. The magnetic field of the Earth is generated by a dynamo effect that involves its rotation. If the Earth stopped rotating, the magnetic field would no longer be regenerated and it would decay away to some low, residual value due to the very small component which is 'fossilized' in its iron-rich rocks. There would be no more 'northern lights' and the Van Allen radiation belts would probably vanish, as would our protection from cosmic rays and other high-energy particles. Losing this protection would cause serious health issues.
Be glad for our Earthly rotation, without it we would be much worse off!
Thanks Starrynights for the astronomical tidbit!...