Study Suggests Earth’s Core May Be Reversing Direction

Earth’s inner core may have stopped spinning, suggesting a seven-decade cycle: study

A study published this Monday (01.23.2023) in Nature Geoscience suggests the Earth’s core – a hot sphere the size of Pluto – might have reversed the direction of its rotation.

This “planet within a planet”, made up essentially of iron, is some 5,000 km from the surface. The results come from the analysis of dozens of earthquakes and small changes in geophysical observations, such as the magnetic field or the increase or decrease in the duration of the days.

The study is signed by Xiaodong Song and Yi Yang, from Peking University in China, who were “quite surprised” by their results. They suggest the inner core is rotating in one direction and then in the other, like a swing, with a complete cycle taking around seven decades. Based on their investigations, this transition last occurred in the early 1970s, and the next one will take place in the mid-2040s.

These findings link the inner core to broader geophysical phenomena and could help to deepen our understanding of how deep Earth processes affect its surface. According to the researchers, however, these results are just the latest installment in a long effort to explain the unusual rotation of the inner core, and more research is needed.

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