Looking at the human casualty data just three earthquakes, one in Indonesia, one in Northeast Japan and the latest near Mexico City, the death tolls in the hundreds of thousands. The worst aspect of these earthquakes was that in Japan it caused a massive tsunami, which attacked the seashore towns, and destroyed four large nuclear reactors. Two of those reactors exploded, and the Tokyo Power Company, the owner/operator, has been struggling to clean up the massive radioactive debris, which needs to be constantly cooled by water. If you look at the photo of the vast field of hundreds of massive water tanks containing the radioactive coolant water, you can just glimpse how vast this accident will continue to be for years to come.
Additionally, the large area of the seaside region, which used to contain many towns, is now off-limits to humans. The overall damage to the regional economy has been incalculably astronomical. Loss of lives, loss of properties, nuclear aftermath clean-ups and reconstruction work across the region includes high tsunami walls on the seashores for hundreds of miles to protect the population in case of another tsunami, etc. The cost to the society is literally enormous.
The article I started was triggered by my un-educated fantasy. I wondered why such an extraordinary calamity strikes the Earth and its inhabitants including the animal kingdom. Then I thought the frequent earthquakes through the past 100 years might’ve been driven by global warming, resulting the increased carbon dioxide and associated water vapor in the atmosphere. One reader pointed out that the melting ice on the north and south pole regions might have shifted the weight distribution of the Earth, which is nothing but a large spinning top. The response from our readers has been overwhelming this week. Contrary to what I had felt like - “I shouldn’t have opened my mouth on things I knew nothing about,” - I was gratified by reading many readers’ emailed comments that they didn’t think what I wrote was dumb and ill placed. So, my desire to question various matters hasn’t been killed yet.
OK, I do not know the way to solve this moment of inertia (I hated this item in the physics course as it is often very unintuitive, not like common sense). But, if any reader could shine the light onto and way to solve it, I would appreciate it.
Here is it: The Earth had massive layers of ice on both north and south pole regions. And both of them are in process of fast melting. When ice melts, it becomes water. Since ice at both poles are sea-ice, the resultant water is seawater, which is 1.03 times heavier than fresh water. The total ocean area of the earth is 362.9 trillion square meters. If the depth of the whole ocean increases by 1 meter, the total weight added to the ocean area is 372,757,000,000,000 tons. That is 3.72 times 10 to the power of 14 is equal to 3.72 quadrillion tons. This is predicted to happen sometime around 2040 AD, a mere 13 years from now. The ocean level rise of 1 meter is really a rough guess work, and it could be more or less. I presented you this figure of 1 meter because it is easy to calculate.
Figure 1 shows the situation in graphics. Figure 1A is a top (the Earth) spinning with heavy weight at the north and south poles. Figure 1B shows the ice melt decreases at the top and bottom weight, and the resultant water is now spread in the ocean at the peripheral of the Earth. The mean distance of the surface of the Earth from the center is 6,371 kilometers.
My question to our readers is: As the Earth’s north and south poles continue to melt, and the Earth’s ocean surface results in rising by 1 meter, what would happen to the Earth’s revolution speed? Just imagine an attractive figure skater spinning in her final portion of her brilliant presentation. She would pull her arms in and spins her body faster and faster, and then as the music crescendo, she would spread her arms and her spin suddenly slows down and she would stop. She raises her arms and bows to the wildly applauding audience. Does this happen to our Earth? How slow would the Earth’s spin be when the melting sea water of 3.72 quadrillion tons is at the surface of the Earth, just like the skater’s both arms are stretched out?
Could we measure accurately the net effect of global warming by measuring the spin speed (or rotational cycle) of the Earth? That has been my perennial question for some time. I am sure some scientists must have worked on this question and I am the only one who didn’t learn their accomplishment. I just wanted to make sure. Any readers? Please send your thoughts. Don’t hesitate to send your thoughts out of fear your idea might be laughed at. Nobody should laugh about any ideas on such an important subject. You know and I know, we all live on the earth. This is our home.
Shintaro “Sam” Asano was named by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2011 as one of the 10 most influential inventors of the 20th century who improved our lives. He is a businessman and invenÂ¬tor in the field of electronics and mechanical systems who is credited as the inÂ¬ventor of the portable fax machine. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.