The rotating core at the center of the Earth may have recently stopped spinning relative to the surface as part of a seven-decade cycle, scientists say.
A core about the size of Pluto may have stopped spinning around 2009, a study suggests.
This is possible because the inner core is mostly a solid ball of iron floating in a liquid outer core, so its rotation isn’t necessarily linked to that of the rest of the Earth.
The scientists also suggested that the inner core may have started spinning in the opposite direction.
If so, the magnetic and gravitational forces that drive the rotation of the core may have changed.
The research helps improve understanding of how changes in the Earth’s core affect things on the Earth’s surface, such as day length and navigation.
Seismic waves come from earthquake As part of the study, material passing through the Earth’s inner core was analyzed.
Tracking of the waves found that paths that had previously shown “significant temporal changes” had “almost remained unchanged over the past decade”.
The process is part of “approximately seven decadal oscillations,” the study reports.
Scientists from Peking University China believe that “this globally consistent pattern indicates that inner core rotation has recently paused”.
They write: “We compared this recent pattern to the twin-peak seismic record of Alaska’s South Sandwich Islands dating back to 1964, which appears to be related to a gradual turning of the inner core as part of an approximately seven-decade oscillation. , with another turning point in the early 1970s.”
Their observations, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, provide further evidence for “dynamic interactions” between Earth’s different layers, which can affect the magnetic field and surface changes.
The Earth’s core is said to be a solid sphere with a radius of about 800 miles and a temperature similar to the surface of the Sun.
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Previous research has shown that the core is separated from the rest of the planet by a liquid metallic outer core, allowing it to spin independently and at a different speed than the rest of the planet.
Other scientists have taken note of the study but think it may be years before they know for sure if it is accurate.