A new study finds that the Earth’s inner core may have “stopped” its rotation and flipped

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(NEXSTAR) — Deep in Earth’s center lies the inner core, which stretches about 746 miles and is made up mostly of pure solid iron, NASA explains. Although we’ve long believed – and studies have shown – that the inner core is spinning, a new study suggests that it may have “paused” its spin and may have reversed.

The liquid outer core surrounding the inner core causes Earth’s magnetic field. According to NASA, as molten iron and nickel move through the outer core, they create electric currents that create a magnetic field. The outer core also allows the inner core to spin on its own, Nature explains.

Although scientists can’t track the core directly, they can analyze seismic waves caused by earthquakes – and Cold War-era nuclear weapons tests – as they reach the core. Co-authors Yi Yang and Xiaodong Song, seismologists at Peking University in Beijing, did just that for their new paper, which was published Monday in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Based on their analysis of seismic waves caused by similar earthquakes dating back to the 1960s, Yang and Song said they found that the rotation of the inner core appears to have “paused” between 2009 and 2020 and may have reversed “a small amount.”

Looks ominous, right? Don’t worry, this probably isn’t the first time our inner core has shut down. Instead, they believe the change is “related to a gradual reversal of the inner core during an oscillation of about seven decades”.

According to Yang and Song, their study results also point to “another reversal or slowdown in circulation around the early 1970s.”

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The seismologists said their findings — changes in the speed at which seismic waves pass through the inner core — coincided with “changes in many other geophysical observations, particularly day length and magnetic field,” two areas affected by the movement of the inner core. . Studies have shown.

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While the changes are “valid,” what Yang and Song found may not be exactly what’s going on in the depths of our planet. Jon Vidal, a professor of earth sciences at the University of Southern California who was not involved in the study, pointed out “many competing ideas” about the Earth’s core for the Wall Street Journal.

This includes theories that the inner core reverses its rotation more frequently than the 70 years identified by Yang and Song and that it stopped rotating in the early 2000s.

“No matter which model you like, some daters don’t agree,” Vidale said. New York times.

Vidal recently co-authored a study that showed the inner core changed its rotation between 1969 and 1974, appearing to oscillate “by a few kilometers every six years”.

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