Currently, the earth is rotating around its axis at a rate of 1000 miles per hour, leading to day and night cycles. Simultaneously, it’s also revolving around the sun and one complete revolution marks the end of a year. The earth is far from stopping, however, there might still be a chance that billions of years from now, it will stop rotating. Even though, the chances of Sun engulfing the Earth before that happening are more, let’s see what will happen when Earth’s rotation stops.
The rotation at the poles is slower than that near the equator. It is known that billions of years ago, our planet spun at a much higher speed. However, due to a collision of a large celestial body with earth, in the beginning of our young Solar system, its rotation slowed down. This is also when the moon is known to be formed. Like Earth, the moon used to spin at a very high speed as well, but eventually, its spin slowed down, and it became tidally locked with earth.
Tidal locking is a name given to the situation when an objects orbital period matches its rotational period. Initially, the Earth and Moon rotated independently, however, Earth’s gravity got a hold of the rotation of the moon and caused it to drift away – 230,000,000 miles from our planet. Moon has the same effect on Earth and is slowing down it’s rotation. However, the changes are minuscule to cause any disturbances any time soon. To compensate, the moon is continuing to drift away, a few centimeters each year.
If Earth’s tidally locked to the Sun and it stops spinning, we’ll have day for 6 months and night for the remaining 6. However, let’s see the catastrophe that’ll hit our planet if it isn’t tidally locked to the Sun.
- The Earth spins at the rate of 1000 miles per hour at the equator. A sudden halt in its movement will cause everything on it to jolt forward with a speed of over 1000 mph in a sideways direction. The force would rip buildings right off their foundations and send them flying forwards along with anything else that’ll come in their way. Since the escape velocity- velocity required to escape Earth’s atmosphere, is around 28000 mph, everything would stay on the surface. This will cause a big river of solid debris to flow through the planet, destroying everything that comes in its path.
- The oceans would also slosh sideways across the planet causing waves that’ll be higher than mountains, moving at a very high speed. Imagine a wall of water, as high as you can see, rushing towards you with a speed of 1000 mph, destroying everything in its way. The two disasters will pretty much be the end of all life on Earth.
- Although the earth will stop spinning, it’s atmosphere will still be moving at the same speed. This will cause very strong winds, leading to high and powerful storms. Tornadoes will begin rising up and wipe everything from the face of the earth.
The strongest tornado recorded on Earth was El Reno Tornado of 2013, with gusts of about 253 mph. The tornado was disastrous and led to 8 casualties and 150 injuries apart from the destruction of land structures. Now imagine what a 1000 mph tornado would do!
- The centrifugal force due to earth rotation creates a bulge at the equator. This bulge holds the ocean water in place. As the rotation stops, the bulge moves back into place and all the water from the equator will rush back to the poles. This will create two different regions of water, separated by a large distance. In the north, Canada, Greenland and norther plains of Siberia, Asia and Europe will be completely immersed under water. In the south however, the water level will be approximately 1.4 kilometers lower than the north and might not immerse land areas. This is because the southern basin is slightly larger and hence has a higher capacity.
- The Earth’s core also spins along the outer surface, but at a slightly higher rate. Even if the surface has stopped moving, the core will still be spinning. This will disrupt the tectonic forces from above and below and lead to mega volcanic eruptions. This massive volcanic activity will most likely burn the remaining life on the planet to crisp. These eruptions would be larger than the biggest ones on earth!
- Since our planet will not be spinning anymore, one half of the Earth will be facing the sun and the other will always be facing away. This will cause extreme weather conditions on either side. The temperatures will rise on one side and probably fall below the freezing point on the other.
Currently, Earth is in a Goldilocks zone or the habitable zone, i.e. it’s at an optimal distance from the Sun and the environmental conditions are favorable for life to thrive. However, that won’t be the case once it stops spinning.
- The side facing the sun would not burn instantly, but its environmental conditions will start to degrade. The increasing temperatures will lead to heavy rains and increased weathering. Atmospheric gases will start building up creating more heat, leading to runaway green house effect. Clouds of gas covering the Earth would create so much heat that the oceans will begin to boil. The land would eventually become so hot that it would be impossible for life to survive on it.
- On the other hand, the absence of heat on the other side of the Earth will change the atmosphere into a dense gas. This will condense into liquid and eventually into solid, forming ice that’ll cover the entire surface. The repetitive condensation will create a vacuum, making hot gasses from the other side to flood in. This might make the planet livable, but the exchange of hot and cold air will lead to massive storms. There will be super storms on both sides of the planet, eroding even solid rocks to sand.
- In between the two extremes, there will be a twilight zone. This will have both the hot and cold regions and might be the only area on Earth that’ll be habitable.
- Apart from this, Earth will lose its magnetic field- generated as a result of a dynamo effect that involves earth’s rotation. As the magnetic field decays, cosmic rays will be able to reach earth. Cosmic rays are a form of high energy radiation. Showers of these highly energized particles will fall on earth, burning down everything and leading to massive fires throughout.
In conclusion, humans might be able to make through different catastrophes but there is nothing that’ll survive the disasters that Earth’s immobility would bring.