The Grapevine

Climate Change Will Lead To Powerful Storms, Scientists Claim

One of the more controversial claims about the effects of anthropomorphic climate change is this human-induced phenomenon is now causing the Earth to rotate faster on its axis with dire future consequences for humans and every living thing on the planet.

Unfortunately, this assumption isn’t pseudo-science but is grounded in fundamental physics. In 2007, a team of German scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, Germany led by Dr. Felix Landerer Ph.D. used a computer model to determine the effect the expansion of warm ocean water will have on the distribution of water around the globe.

Researchers looked only at heating and not at the melting of the ice caps. As a result, the change was not in the total mass of water in the ocean, but in the water's density and distribution. As the ocean expands and water creeps into the shorelines, the net effect is to transfer mass away from the central ocean and towards the shore.

Ocean warming will mean the water's mass will move away from the Equator and towards the Poles. The result will be a faster spinning Earth.

"It's like a figure skater doing a pirouette," Landerer explained. "When the arms are close to the body, you turn quicker than when they are stretched out."

"It highlights how massive a change (in climate) is going on," Richard Gross, an expert on the Earth's rotation working at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said. "The Earth is such a large body that it takes a huge change in mass distribution to show up in rotation."

The warming of the world's oceans will also shorten the day by 0.12 milliseconds over the next 200 years, the researchers said. But the biggest effect of this redistribution of mass away from the Equator where the Earth rotates the fastest and towards the poles will be to cause the Earth to rotate faster.

A faster rotating Earth means more energy will be imparted to cyclones and hurricanes, which are now getting stronger and stronger.

Steve Hench, a retired computational science and physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, said the coriolis effect, which is the influence of the Earth’s rotation on the movement of large-scale atmospheric and ocean currents, will be stronger. “This might result in more intense and smaller-scale cyclonic behaviors.”

In 2002, a group of researchers argued that climate change might make the day longer by 0.1 millisecond a century because of an increase in winds blowing from west to east, which is the opposite direction of the planet's rotation.

Heat Deaths Expected To Rise With Climate Change, Aging Population More Europeans and others will die of heat-related illnesses as global climate change brings more days with extreme temperatures. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

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