Six-Month Day & Continent-Sized Tornadoes: What Would Happen If Earth Stopped Spinning
The Earth is constantly spinning: that is why day turns into night, seasons change, and our magnetic field keeps us shielded from harmful cosmic radiation. This is how things have gone for four and a half billion years, but what if that was to change?
Our planet keeps spinning because there is essentially nothing that can stop it, since it is floating in space, unbothered by any kind of surface or air flows. However, should anything change that and stop the Earth from spinning, it would dramatically alter our home planet.
Jacco van Loon, an astronomer from Keele University in the United Kingdom, has elaborated on just what that would entail. For example, should the Earth stop spinning but continue to orbit the Sun, our day would last for half a year - and so would the night. Moreover, the "days" could be much warmer, while the "nights" could bring much colder weather - something that would seriously affect the planet's climate.
Such temperature differences would also trigger strong winds that would move the air towards the cooler side of the Earth - the "nighttime" side.
"The eastwards and westwards winds, and the winds towards the poles, would meet. They could possibly create huge swirls of wind the size of entire continents", the astronomer notes, according to Space.com.
This would not be the last of our problems. Should the Earth stop spinning, our magnetic field would essentially stop working because it is the planet's spinning that triggers the magnetism in the molten iron contained in the Earth's core.
Without the magnetic field, we would be exposed to dangerous radiation from space coming from solar particles and cosmic rays. This would not only damage people's health, but also strip animals and birds of their natural navigation system, since they use the magnetic field to find their way.
Among the less disturbing changes we would face in case the Earth stops spinning is that the night sky would always offer the same group of constellations instead of the astronomical diversity that we have the pleasure of observing as our planet continues to revolve.
What Could Cause the Earth to Stop Spinning?
While there are currently no obstacles that would theoretically prevent our planet from spinning, the Moon - our satellite - is capable of slowing it down.
Since the side of the Earth that faces the Moon and its opposite side are not balanced by gravity, this causes the ocean tides. These tides move across the surface of our planet like a wave, pushing against the Earth's spin.
"This slows down the Earth's spin. It means that Earth's day lengthens by one second every 50,000 years", Van Loon explains.
The Earth could theoretically stop spinning if another planet or large cosmic object crashed into it. Yet, the astronomer noted, even if it happened it would probably significantly change the way the planet spins, but not stop it entirely.