Can the Earth’s Core Really Rotate in the Opposite Direction?

Recent research from Peking University indicates that the Earth's core may have stopped and has even begun to reverse its rotation. However, there are still more doubts than certainties about the interior of the planet.

Earth seen from outer space

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LatinAmerican Post | María Fernanda Ramírez Ramos

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Leer en español: ¿En verdad puede el núcleo de la Tierra girar en sentido contrario?

A group of researchers from Peking University published an article in the prestigious journal "Nature Geoscience" about the observation of changes in the inner core of the earth. Specifically, the research concludes that the rotation of the inner core of the Earth has slowed down and that it could now be reversing. This news has gone around the world and generated concern. However, although it may seem surprising, it is a phenomenon that has been studied for years and about which there are no certainties.

Xiaodong Song and Yi Yang, the researchers of said article, based their conclusions on the observation of the patterns of hundreds of earthquakes since the 1960s. Thus, they have concluded that the rotation of the earth's core has slowed down during the last years, approximately since 2009, and that now rotates with a lower speed. These changes could influence the weather, the length of the days, the earth's magnetic field or the sea level.

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Thanks to scientific developments, today we know that the earth is like an onion. That is, it has several layers that make it up. In addition, these layers interact with each other and give rise to many phenomena in our daily lives, such as earthquakes or the mountain ranges that make up the planet. The core of the earth is a huge hot mass of iron, more than 5,000 kilometers deep, which has a constant rotation. It is precisely this movement that causes terrestrial magnetism.

This nucleus was discovered in 1936, and since then scientists have been trying to unlock the mysteries of how it works. However, our closest reality is in the earth's crust, and knowing how the interior of the earth works has not been an easy task. For this reason, there is a debate about how right the researchers who affirm that the rotation of the Earth's core has slowed down could be and, above all, how much real impact this fact would have for humanity in the short term.

This is not a catastrophe at the core of the earth

María Puy Ayarza, director of the Department of Geology at the University of Salamanca, explained to RTVE that, despite the interest of the research published in "Nature Geoscience", there is little data that can accurately determine this phenomenon, as well as the impact it could have on land. Likewise, she points out that if changes were to occur, they would be very slow and that, therefore, the investigation must be taken with prudence. In fact, the expert points out that very specific and infrequent earthquakes are needed to keep making these measurements. "For the last 5 years there have been very large variations in the magnetic change," said Puy Ayarza. However, she also added that there are many possible explanations.

In fact, in 2021 another study was published in the journal "Nature Geoscience" , which also had a high impact on the scientific community, which indicated that the inner core of the earth was growing faster on one side. Thus, it was pointed out that the nucleus is not symmetrical, like a perfect sphere, but asymmetrical. They also determined that the nucleus could be between 500 and 1,500 million years old.

For her part, Alexandra Witze, an expert science journalist, points out in an analysis for Nature Magazine that: "The results could help shed light on the many mysteries of the deep Earth (…) But they are only the latest installment of a protracted effort to explain the unusual rotation of the inner core, and they may not be the last word on it." Thus, the truth is that this finding does not constitute a sudden change for humanity or the earth, but rather an observation on which more studies will be necessary.

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