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Earth Science

Global Warming Shifts the Earth's Poles 482

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the elves-just-wanted-a-summer-home dept.
ananyo writes "Global warming is changing the location of Earth's geographic poles, according to a study published this week. Researchers at the University of Texas, Austin, report that increased melting of the Greenland ice sheet — and to a lesser degree, ice loss in other parts of the globe — helped to shift the North Pole several centimeters east each year since 2005. From 1982 to 2005, the pole drifted southeast towards northern Labrador, Canada, at a rate of about 2 milliarcseconds — or roughly 6 centimetres — per year. But in 2005, the pole changed course and began galloping east towards Greenland at a rate of more than 7 milliarcseconds per year (abstract). The results suggest that tracking polar shifts can serve as a check on current estimates of ice loss. Scientists can locate the north and south poles to within 0.03 milliarcseconds by using Global Positioning System measurements to determine the angle of Earth's spin. When mass is lost in one part of a spinning sphere, its spin axis will tilt directly towards the position of the loss — exactly as the team observed for Greenland."
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Global Warming Shifts the Earth's Poles

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  • Three Gorges Dam (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ShanghaiBill (739463) * on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @08:53AM (#43730591)

    Part of this shift could be caused by filling the reservoir behind the Three Gorges Dam, since that is on the opposite side of the world from Greenland. But that would only explain part of it, since the reservoir holds about 40km^3 and Greenland is losing about 240km^3 per year.

    • by jhoegl (638955)
      The world is not perfectly spherical and rely on equal opposite weight on each side to stay balanced.
      With that said, why did they change from "centimeters" to "milliarc"?
      What the hell is the ratio?
      • Re:Three Gorges Dam (Score:5, Informative)

        by ShanghaiBill (739463) * on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @09:39AM (#43731033)

        With that said, why did they change from "centimeters" to "milliarc"? What the hell is the ratio?

        A Nautical Mile [wikipedia.org] is one minute of arc. Since a NM is 1852 meters, an arc second would be 1852/60 = 30.87m, so a milliarcsecond would be 3.087. So the ratio is about 3.

      • by gr8_phk (621180)

        The world is not perfectly spherical and rely on equal opposite weight on each side to stay balanced.

        Every object has a natural stable spin axis, no matter how uniform it is or not. Actually, they have 2 stable axis to rotate on. Tape a book shut and toss it in the air spinning, it will be fine in a "flat" spin and will also be fine spinning about the center line of its longest dimension. try spinning it on the 3rd axis and it will tumble in an attempt to reach one of the 2 stable states (the one with lowe

    • Re:Three Gorges Dam (Score:5, Informative)

      by JMJimmy (2036122) on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @09:50AM (#43731159)

      Something about this article just feels wrong. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/True_polar_wander [wikipedia.org] feels more right - just sits better in my gut. ;)

  • by hcs_$reboot (1536101) on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @08:54AM (#43730601)
    What are the implications?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Just like the age of something can be measured by multiple decay products, layer depth, and many other measures of archeological assessment, and when they are in agreement, you know your results are robust, this is another way to measure the loss of ice which, if it agrees with GRACE, land measurements and predictions from models, will indicate that the model results are robust.

      It's even in the FS:

      "The results suggest that tracking polar shifts can serve as a check on current estimates of ice loss."

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by shikaisi (1816846)
      Well if the earth Poles have moved, the government of Poland is going to be out of a job soon.
    • Not much, at least not yet, since polar drift is a common and permanently ongoing event - and full-on polar shifts happen every half a million years or so.

      What it does do however is provide another data set to compare when measuring ice melt, and importantly one of which we have a much longer record.
      Scientists like being able to test their results against other measurements. By using polar shift we can verify satelite data to confirm (or in some case disprove) what the measurements seem to say.
      It's basicall

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Oxdeadface (1968100)
      Santa has to move :(
  • Spinny-Chair (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mystakaphoros (2664209) on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @08:58AM (#43730627) Homepage
    Is this a conservation of angular momentum thing? Because I feel like my high school physics teacher would try to explain this by spinning someone around in a chair with a melting ice cube on their head.
    • by Aardpig (622459)

      How about Natalie Portman in a vat of hot grits spinning on an office chair? When she farts and creates a gaseous void near her well-formed posterior, what happens to the rotation rate of the chair?

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      Actually, yes. If the Earth's mass is redistributed, its rotational axis and/or rate must move, depending on the redistribution. It's the difference between you spinning in the chair holding a lead brick, and spinning in the chair with the same mass evenly distributed about your person.

  • Just curious - since the continental drift we acknowledge is about a cm per year, and we're all floating anyway, could this also be seen as a drift of the whole surface? I.e.: Could it be that the poles are actually stationary and the surface as a whole (as opposed to continents drifting relative to each other) moves?

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      Could it be that the poles are actually stationary and the surface as a whole (as opposed to continents drifting relative to each other) moves?

      A shift in the surface would cause a shift in star positions, including but not limited to the sun's apparent orbit. In addition, we know from looking at iron ore of several instances where the Earth's magnetic poles have completely switched positions in the past.

      Of course, general relativity means there is no center of the universe, and you could just as easily measure the surface in relation to the magnetic poles as the magnetic poles in relation to the surface. But that didn't seem to be what you were im

    • by EmagGeek (574360) <gterich.aol@com> on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @09:27AM (#43730913) Journal

      The crust does drift, and because the crust does not have uniform thickness, crustal drift changes the center of gravity and angular momentum of the Earth, and also shifts the poles.

      Also, if there is a major earthquake that sinks a large portion of crust any appreciable amount, the rate of rotation AND center of gravity change, and poles shift some more.

      There are many many vectors of change for the position of the poles. To assume that all of the observed drift is due to the change in mass of a single ice sheet is ludicrous. But, we're talking about the chicken little global warming narrative here, so anything goes.

  • by burdickjp (2530248) on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @09:02AM (#43730659)
    When you're at the North Pole, which way is East?
  • I traded email with my close personal friend at the University of Texas, Austin, Dr. Dyslexic.
    He is aware of these finding and believes it is clear evidence of the hand of Dog at work.

    • That's funny. I live in Texas, and the University of Houston attendees I queried here say: "Let's test it to be sure!" They suggested that with enough world-wide cooperation we could move enough water with dams to modify the moment of inertia and thus control the movement of the pole -- One small step towards taking the helm of Spaceship Earth. I guess such ideas are to be expected after all those years as the home of NASA's mission control...

      Well, one of them did offer that we should check the south

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @09:03AM (#43730679)

    There was this guy called Adolph that shifted the Poles too

  • GPS reference system (Score:4, Interesting)

    by XNormal (8617) on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @09:04AM (#43730691) Homepage

    I wonder how this affects high-accuracy geodetic GPS measurements. The GPS coordinate system is defined by the Earth's axis.

    • by scsirob (246572)

      Funny you should mention that. The heading says: "Scientists can locate the north and south poles to within 0.03 milliarcseconds by using Global Positioning System"

      Could be me, but I was told that GPS does not work in the extreme Northern and Southern regions due to lack of satellite coverage? Like North of 84 degrees?

      • by Maximum Prophet (716608) on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @09:22AM (#43730847)
        If you had a run of the mill GPS system, and you drove your car very, very, far North, eventually you'd lose signal.

        What I imagine is going on here, is that there is a ring of base stations watching the GPS satellites around each pole. If you know the base stations haven't moved w.r.t. the pole, then you can calculate where the center of spin is, thus where the pole is.
        • by scsirob (246572)

          Sounds plausible, although some of it still doesn't add up. Assuming the GPS satellite track isn't changing in reference to the physical Earth, then how would you determine the magnetic pole position using GPS? Use magnetic compasses at each base station and then triangulate perhaps?

          When the poles move, it is all against a particular reference. Who says the crust isn't moving instead of the core? What is the reference?

        • Your imagination is faulty in this area.

          It does so by noting minute changes in gravitational pull caused by local changes in Earth's mass. Masses of ice, air, water and solid Earth can be moved by weather patterns, seasonal change, climate change and even tectonic events such as large earthquakes. To track these changes, GRACE uses GPS and a microwave ranging system to measure micron-scale variations in the 220-kilometer (137-mile) separation between the two spacecraft, developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion La

      • To use the GPS satellites to determine the poles, presumably there are other ways than actually standing on the pole and getting GPS signals.

        Also, we lump it together and call it GPS, but in fact there are several systems, and as I recall GLONASS (the Soviet/Russian one) is a lot more accurate in polar areas.

    • The Global plates are moving all the time, so this has had to be taken into account when you are doing high accuracy surveying.
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @09:04AM (#43730695) Journal
    It got redistributed, that is all.
  • This is going to cause earthquakes and locusts, people!!!!!! The end is nigh!!!!! Pray to Mother Earth for forgiveness!!!!!!

  • by alen (225700) on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @09:09AM (#43730727)

    i first read about this a decade ago and it has been happening for hundreds of years. scientists are studying ships' logs from the 1700's and earlier and this process started 300 years ago.

    • Are you sure you're not thinking about stars shifting? I have a hard time thinking about a compass from 300 years ago being accurate enough to measure this. I guess if it had a LOT of datapoints, maybe?

    • by ElderKorean (49299) on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @09:42AM (#43731073)

      i first read about this a decade ago and it has been happening for hundreds of years. scientists are studying ships' logs from the 1700's and earlier and this process started 300 years ago.

      Ships used compasses (likely GPS now), which use the magnetic north & south poles - we've known about them moving about the place for ages, and even flipping. This is about the geographic poles which are at different locations - the Earth spins around these..

  • Now you don't have to worry about global worming, because as the world warms you will move closer to the pole.
  • Funny, I mentioned the same thing, with the same end result and whether it is global warming, or my reasoning is that there were other types of gravitational pulls from within further in the galaxy that sort of gave us a 3rd axis, that would eventually change the other 2 pulls of the earth (spinning and orbiting). The galaxies has orbiting solar systems too, so technically these gravitational fields affect the planets (earth) as well, not just our sun....

    In the end the result is the same, I explained in my

  • Awesome in how much of an epic fail this "scientific" research.

    Regardless of global warming, I don't need a geology degree to know the geographic poles shift constantly, and if you measured their location over millions of years, you could realize that there is so much involved in where they are located, like continental drift or earthquakes or ice ages, to realize this is a completely meaningless study.

    But of course retarded greenists are just going to add this to their list of "proof" about how the planet

  • Okay, for the past five years or so I've experience some of the most frigid winters. We had an extremely cold winter. Followed by a winter with record snow (4 ft in two days). Followed by a year with a mild winter but a huge snow in fall and a late frost in April. Then this past winter we've had snow flurries on about 1/2 the days. And now, in the middle of may we had a frost wipe out my second planting of sweet potatoes and peppers.

    This is well past the Farmer's Almanac.

    So seriously, F-GW, F-AlGore, F-I

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      We know the effect of the Fukishima earthquake on the Earth's polar rotation, both through models and measurements (which are in accordance with one another). Actually, the same models used by the authors of this study.

    • by stjobe (78285)

      Okay, for the past five years or so I've experience some of the most frigid winters. We had an extremely cold winter. Followed by a winter with record snow (4 ft in two days). Followed by a year with a mild winter but a huge snow in fall and a late frost in April. Then this past winter we've had snow flurries on about 1/2 the days. And now, in the middle of may we had a frost wipe out my second planting of sweet potatoes and peppers.

      Weather is not climate.

    • by Dixie_Flatline (5077) <vincent...jan...goh@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @10:55AM (#43731773) Homepage

      Congratulations, you just demonstrated how little you know about climate science and global climate change. Colder winters and longer winters are both explainable and predictable depending on where you are. For instance, changes in the currents in the ocean may direct colder water towards the UK and northern Europe, thereby actually making for colder winters and more snow. In North America this year, the melting Arctic icecap (which melted much more than usual last summer) added extra heat to the northern oceans, which affected the jetstream, pushing it south. That dragged cold air from the Arctic down much further south.

      Climate is wild and woolly, and it's hard to know exactly what's going to happen, but we know enough of what's going to happen and what's happening that most of the complaints you're going to come up with can be explained by Science. And not just some random scientist, but peer-reviewed and published science.

      http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/03/25/scientists-long-winter-in-u-s-the-result-of-melting-arctic-ice-cap/ [rawstory.com]

      We know the poles shift. In fact, that's IN THE SUMMARY. You didn't even have to read the article to see that shifting geographic poles are well known. But they're shifting faster, and NASA's GRACE experiment is also helping measure the subtle shifts in gravity associated with shifting mass. It all seems to be correlating well. Someone else here has even already pointed out this comment in the article:

      "The results suggest that tracking polar shifts can serve as a check on current estimates of ice loss."

      Are you interested in science or not? Then sit and read and understand the science. Don't go off on a rant before you know a single damn thing of what you're talking about.

    • by tompaulco (629533)
      But see, that is a perfect example of global warming, as global warming is a theory which encompasses all anomalies and even no anomalies. If the weather is hotter than usual, that is definitely global warming. If it is colder than usual, that is global warming. If it is more violent than usual, that is global warming. If it is milder than usual, then that is global warming. If it is the same as usual, then that is global warming.
  • That candy striped pole in the front of Santa's workshop? Can't they just dig it up and re-plant it where it should be?
  • ... this was going to be an article about emigration due to the cold winters in Poland.

  • by bmo (77928) on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @10:17AM (#43731425)

    galloping east towards Greenland at a rate of more than 7 milliarcseconds per year

    >galloping
    >milliarcseconds/yr

    To put it into english:

    1 arcsecond is 1/3600 of a degree (1/(60x60)). One thousandth of this is 1/3,600,000 degree. There are 7 of these per year.

    I will leave it to the reader to determine how many thousands of years it will take to move one degree from where it is now, excluding normal precession.

    --
    BMO

  • by peter303 (12292) on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @10:48AM (#43731713)
    There have been several papers on the topic every year in the geodesy section of the American Geiphysical Union meetings. Earthquakes, ice sheet melting, mantle convention velocity changes, seasonal ocean storms all cause mass shifts int he earth and a slight change in pole position. Before satellite GPS geophysicists used Very Long Baseline radio telecscope inferometry of quasars to measure pole position. VLBI is essentially a "galactic GPS" but more expensive than satellite GPS methods.

    A closely related geophhyscial measurement is Length-of-Day, that is the time between repeat viewing of stars which varies nanoseconds per day and milliseconds per year. All the same large earth mass-moveoments that shift poles also change Length of Day.
  • by BitZtream (692029) on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @11:45AM (#43732247)

    Is there anything that isn't caused by global warming? It's getting silly at this point.

  • by JigJag (2046772) on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @12:42PM (#43732883)

    I got thinking that many Aztec, Mayan, Egyptian and other nations have left us with structures (pyramids, temples, etc) strongly aligned with stars and other celestial items. Seems they are still aligned, despise 1000s of years. If the Earth has been shifting since eons, how come those are still aligned?

    If you are tempted to say the time scale isn't the same, remember that in only 8 years, it's moved 20cm according to the fine summary and we're not experiencing the first GW.

    The points of this post is not to discredit GW, nor the shift we observe, nor the Grand History of mankind as we know it, but to gather opinions on how to reconcile those 2 seemingly incompatible points.

    JigJag

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