Global warming: Melting of Greenland and Antarctica is moving the North and South poles - TomoNews

PASADENA, CALIFORNIA — New research suggests that the melting of the ice sheets is shifting the location of the Earth's spin axis, meaning the North and South poles are moving.

"If we lose mass from the Greenland ice sheet, we are essentially putting mass elsewhere. And as we redistribute the mass, the spin axis tends to find a new direction. And that's what we mean by polar motion," Surendra Adhikari, a researcher with Caltech and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory who conducted the research with his colleague Erik Ivins, told the Washington Post.

The Earth's North and South poles are moving due to the redistribution of mass on the planet, similar to the effect when a twirling skater extends or retracts arms or a leg. This is known as the conservation of angular momentum.

The poles head towards where mass is being reduced. For example, if Greenland is the only region that is losing mass, then the North Pole will move towards it.

Adhikari points out that in addition to the melting of Greenland and Antarctica, the changing pattern in water storage on the continents also affects the direction of the polar motion.

He estimates that 40 percent of polar movement is affected by the loss of ice mass in Greenland, 25 percent is due to the loss of ice mass in Antarctica and 25 percent influenced by changes in water storage on the continents.

Up until 2000, the North Pole was moving slowly toward Canada at a speed of around 8 cm per year. Now the North Pole is moving toward the U.K. and Europe at a speed of up to 18 cm per year.


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