Apocalypse scenario: What would happen if the Earth stopped rotating?13th Apr 2023
For 4.5 billion years, the Earth has been revolving around the Sun and rotating on its axis. Our planet does this thanks to the gravity of the Sun and because nothing in the surrounding space can interfere with it significantly. But what would happen if the Earth stopped spinning? Let’s look at a few hypothetical scenarios.
The Earth’s core is literally the heart of the planet: if it stops doing its job, the Earth will perish. A giant clot of iron and nickel alloy lies at a depth of almost 3 thousand km and heats up to 6000 degrees Celsius. Our knowledge about the core is very superficial, but scientists believe that it is the core that creates the important magnetic field of the Earth. Why is it important? Well, that field protects all life on the planet from harmful cosmic radiation.
Recent research by scientists at Peking University has found an imbalance in the electromagnetic and gravitational forces that they believe could cause the Earth’s core to slow down, stop, or even reverse rotation. Involuntarily, frames of the Hollywood film The Core pop up in our memory, when a similar anomaly turned out to have terrible consequences for humanity — giant tsunamis, malfunctioning compasses, birds disoriented in space, and scorching sun rays that burn everything in their path.
What would people do if the core of the Earth stopped spinning? Nothing. The movie characters managed to create a unique vehicle to get to the core and launch it with nuclear explosions. In reality, humanity does not have such technologies, so it will simply perish from numerous natural disasters. But scientists reassure us that in the next few hundred years, at least, the processes taking place in the core are unlikely to lead to this.
You might be surprised, but this has been happening for a long time. Geophysicists and astronomers from all over the world claim that the Earth is gradually slowing down its rotation, due to which the length of the day increases by about 1.5 milliseconds every hundred years. This effect is caused by the lunar and solar tides. Before, the Earth used to spin faster. Several hundred million years ago, an astronomic year lasted 400 days instead of today’s 365 because the astronomic day has less than 22 hours. So how many years will it take for the Earth to stop spinning? According to NASA, at least a few billion years.
Besides, the middle age of our Sun tells us that its gravity is still strong enough for the Earth and other planets to keep revolving around it for a long time. But what if the Earth suddenly stopped spinning around its axis?
Looking ahead, let’s say that today there are no objective reasons that could quickly and completely stop the rotation of the Earth around its axis. Unless it will be the impact of a giant asteroid, another planet, or an alien attack. The aftermath of the latter scenario was shown in the space movie The Day the Earth Stood Still. In it, the character of Keanu Reeves, the highly developed alien Klaatu, did not destroy the Earth but simply stopped the work of all earth technology for the people’s mistreatment of their planet. Today it seems fantastic, but Jules Verne’s Nautilus was once beyond the bounds of the possible, too. So, let’s imagine that the Earth has stopped.
Unfortunately no. Unless you have time to retreat to another planet. Now the Earth rotates around its axis in 24 hours, and around the sun in 365 days. Now imagine that the day becomes 36 hours, then 48 hours, then a month, and when the Earth stops rotating altogether, we will have 3 months of daylight, 3 months of dawn, 3 months of night and 3 months of twilight.
That is, for six months, the light and heat from the sun will fall only on one side. The temperature on the illuminated side will begin to rise. Ocean currents will stop circulation, disrupting the distribution of nutrients as well as the migration of marine animals, killing many marine lives. Then the water will evaporate, and surface plants and animals will die. On the unlit side there will be constant night and cold, and water bodies will freeze. What would happen if the Earth stopped spinning for a lifetime? The ice age will come.
When the centrifugal force stops, the complex components of the atmosphere will decompose into atoms and ions, they will quickly evaporate, and the atmosphere will cease to exist. But it is the atmosphere, containing oxygen, that provides life for people and animals, and with the participation of carbon dioxide, photosynthesis occurs on Earth. The ozone layer protects all living things from strong ultraviolet radiation, as well as from hypothermia. In addition, the atmosphere is a shield against meteorites. Without it, all living things will die very quickly.
The wind affects the air temperature and the distribution of precipitation over different parts of the Earth. When the planet stops, hurricanes will subside, and this might be the only benefit. The movement of air masses with one-sided illumination of the Sun may disappear completely or lead to the injection of cold/hot air into neighbouring areas.
Rotating around its axis, the Earth creates a gravitational field that attracts all objects to itself. Thanks to this, everything is kept on the surface of the planet: people, equipment, water, and atmosphere. If the earth stopped spinning, what would happen to gravity? It will disappear, and all bodies, including planes in the air, will begin to move in a straight line and evenly, moving away from the planet into space. Moving oceans, mountains, and rocks will provoke earthquakes, and tsunamis, which will grind everything else on the surface.
The International Space Station moves at tremendous speed in low Earth orbit, held in it by the force of the Earth’s gravity. If the Earth’s gravitational field disappears, the ISS, like all its other satellites, will cease to be attracted to the planet and will fly away into outer space. However, this coin also has another side. Near-Earth space will finally be cleared of space debris.
The Earth was formed as a result of particle rotation under the influence of gravitational forces and continues to support the movement around its axis and the Sun for more than 4.5 billion years. There are no obvious forces in space that can interfere with this movement. But if they suddenly appear, then the answer to the question, what would happen if the Earth stopped spinning, will be unequivocal — everything on the surface of the planet will die, and the Earth itself will most likely collapse. But when this happens, humanity will either destroy itself or find a way to move to Mars or other planets that it can terraform.