Earth’s Core Might Have Stopped Spinning To Prepare for a Rotation Reversal

As scary as it sounds, scientists say this isn’t the first time it’s happened.

Rost-9D / iStock via Getty Images
Rost-9D / iStock via Getty Images

Scientists believe that Earth's inner core has stopped spinning. But as scary as it sounds, they also say this isn’t the first time it’s happened.

In a study published in Nature Geoscience by geophysicists Yi Yang and Xiadong Song of Peking University, the 2 scientists studied seismic wave data from earthquakes that traveled through Earth’s core between the 1960s and the present day. In looking for variations in these seismic waves, researchers were able to observe changes in Earth’s inner layers.

Data collected by Yang and Song shows that, around 2009, standard variations in seismic wave recordings subsided. According to them, this indicates that the rotation of Earth’s inner core has likely paused. They also noted changes from around the early 1970s that could point to another slowdown or rotation change around that time. The 2 geophysicists suggested that the Earth’s core is able to pause its rotation — and may even reverse its direction — in cycles that last approximately 70 years.

Earth’s inner core is composed primarily of iron and nickel, and it is surrounded by a liquid outer core that allows it to spin independently of the Earth’s rotation. Yang and Song believe that these changes in the core rotation have the potential to impact our planet's magnetic fields and the duration of our days. However, they note that such changes likely won’t be noticeable to us or affect our daily lives.