If Earth stopped rotating around its axis: Hypothetical changes to our world
Today, with the rapid development of technology, stars seem closer than ever. More aerospace startups appear each day: one space company is developing innovative fuel, the other is working on satellite launch cost reduction, and so on. The funny fact is — we now know more about space than about the bottom of our own ocean. This raises another question — what would happen if the Earth stopped rotating around its axis?
The bad news is that such an event would be cataclysmic. The good one is — it is highly improbable. On the other hand, Earth rotation speed is gradually slowing down — fortunately, not at a cataclysmic rate. So, let’s fantasize a little and see exactly how our planet would change if the Earth rotation was put to an end.
What would happen if the Earth stopped rotating around its axis?
For starters, if the Earth rotating would stop abruptly, the inertia and gravitational force would be enough to knock most of the building down. But let’s suppose we did not just ruin most of our buildings and see — strictly hypothetically — how Earth would look like if it were standing still.
Without Earth rotating around its axis, half of the planet would always face the Sun, while the other half would always remain in shadow — pretty much like the dark side of the Moon. However, differently from the Moon, the half facing the Sun would soon grow baking hot. The other dark side of the Earth would remain freezing cold.
However, let’s not forget that the Earth rotating around the Sun would go on — just like the Moon is moving around the Earth today. This would create a narrow twilight zone around the equator and, technically, life could go on there — at least, for a time.
Most likely, such annual Earth rotation with one side exposed to the Sun would evaporate all oceans on one side and freeze them on the other. But let’s imagine this did not happen. How would Earth change in this case?
You probably know that the equator is the thickest part of our planet. This is not an inherit shape but the result of Earth rotating around its axis. The matter from the poles was slowly moving toward the middle in response to the outward spinning force. This process took billions of years and fattened our home planet around the middle.
Now, if the Earth rotating would suddenly stop, the matter would start creeping back to our planet’s poles. Remember, this results from rotation around the axis, not the Earth orbit around the Sun. Since liquid is far more mobile than solid matter, oceans would make their move first. Right now, the abnormal bulge around the equator is about 8 km. On the other hand, the deepest part of the ocean in this area is only 5,75 km.
This means that eventually, all water would move from the equator to the Earth’s poles, exposing a solid piece of land around the equator. As a result, we’d get a belt-like continent around our planet’s middle. But since the water would move, this ‘belt’ would separate two different bodies of water around the Earth’s poles.
Geographically speaking, every part of the Earth north of Spain and south of Canberra would be covered in water. Africa would merge with Madagascar, and Australia (what’s left of it, anyway) would merge with Indonesia and New Guinea. Another curious fact is that the southern sea would be 1.4 km deeper than the northern one.
One more changing factor to consider is gravity. Remember the 8 km equator bulge we mentioned earlier? Well, this means that today’s poles are almost 10 km closer to the center of the Earth. This, in turn, means that gravity is also stronger there. This factor is another reason why water would move toward the poles — not only a stop in the rotation of Earth around its axis.
Obviously, a stop in Earth rotation would eliminate life as we know it. The good news is — there is no force known to us that could lead to such a cataclysmic event, stopping axis rotting altogether.
On the other hand, the Earth rotation is gradually slowing down, and this is a solid fact. Billions of years ago, the equator’s bulge was even higher than it is now because the rotating speed was faster. Consequently, billions of years from now, the bugle will diminish as rotating slows down.
If you ever wondered about time conversion, rotation speed slowing down is the primary reason. Adding an extra second to our clock every 500 days does the trick and helps us stay up-to-date with the Earth rotation cycle. How fast is the Earth rotating now? A bit quicker than the 24-hour day we’ve set for ourselves.
Luckily, time conversion is the scariest thing that happens from a decreasing earth rotation speed. Gloomy fantasies aside, we can stay certain that our home planet will keep rotating around its axis.