What if the Earth Stopped Spinning?

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What Happens if Earth Stops Rotating?

We generally don’t wonder much about the small things that mother Earth does. One such thing is the Earth’s act of spinning. The Earth keeps on spinning and spinning. Have you ever thought what if Earth stops rotating? This seemingly simple phenomenon of Earth’s rotation is actually extremely crucial for the survival and well being of all the organisms and things on Earth. If the Earth suddenly stops spinning, there will be both short term and long term destruction. The Earth will not be hospitable anymore. However, suppose that instead of suddenly coming to a halt, the Earth’s rotation slowly decreased to zero. What would happen then? In this case, you wouldn't see the sudden destruction, but the long term effects of this would still be deadly. Read on to know in detail what happens when earth stops rotating.


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Earth’s Rotation and the Law of Inertia

Issac Newton formulated three laws of motion. The first law says that every object moving at a constant speed will stay in motion unless it is stopped by an external force. This tendency is called inertia. That is why when a moving bus suddenly stops, the passengers inside it tend to fall forward because their bodies are still in motion.

This same thing happens on a larger scale too. As the Earth rotates, the objects inside it - the rocks, the mountains, the houses, animals, humans - everything rotate with the planet. So when the planet suddenly stops spinning, the effect will be felt on every single thing existing on Earth.


What if Earth Stops Rotating Suddenly

Here is the answer to- ‘what if Earth stopped spinning’-

  • The law of inertia will do its work. The Earth spins at around 1000 Miles per hour and everything in it spins at the same speed. So when the Earth suddenly stops spinning, the objects inside it will still be moving at the speed of 1000 Miles per hour. Everything that is not strongly rooted to the bedrock would be displaced at a deadly speed. The building would be uprooted, the monuments,  the tees - every man-made structure would be uprooted and thrown far far away.

  • As Neil deGrasse Tyson says, “People would be flying out of the windows.” They would smash with other structures. Other structures would come right towards the people. It would be a tragedy.

  • The water in the oceans has inertia too. So what if the earth stops rotating? Giant waves will come crashing towards the side submerging everything in the path. The waves will be deadlier than the tsunami. The four major oceans will merge and form two super oceans.

  • Suppose the Earth stops but the atmosphere in it sustains its motion. In this case, the winds will be moving at 1000 Miles per hour resulting in catastrophic storms.

The Effect on Day and Night

Now that you know the general answer to the question - what if the earth stopped spinning? - let’s delve deeper. Students at first would think that if the Earth stops rotating, the part of the facing the sun will permanently have daylight and the one facing away from the sun will have permanent night. But remember, the Earth has not stopped  revolving. So in this case, one half of the Earth will have 6 months of daylight and the other half will have 6 months of night’s darkness - and vice versa. This will have a deep effect on the climate. Some places will be so hot or so cold that they will become inhospitable. The climate variation will create destructive storms.


No Equatorial Bulge

Earth’s rotation creates a centrifugal force and this creates a bulge in the oceans near the Equator. Because of this bulge, there is more water in the oceans near the equator. Once the earth’s rotation stops, the equatorial bulge will cease to exist. The water there will have no less space. So it will move towards the Arctic and the Antarctic poles. This will disturb the status quo there.


Volcanic Eruptions

Suppose the inner core of Earth keeps on spinning despite Earth’s zero rotational speed. In this case, the inner core of the Earth will move vigorously. The lava in the core will try to find any crevice, any gap to keep its momentum. This will result in unorganized volcanic eruptions even from craters that have not erupted for long.


The Decay of the Earth’s Magnetic Field

The formation of Earth’s magnetic field is the result of a dynamo effect created by Earth’s rotation. So here’s another interesting answer to what if the earth stops rotating- the magnetic field will start decaying. As a result, we will be vulnerable to the sun’s harmful rays and solar winds.

It is highly improbable that the Earth is going to stop spinning suddenly. What will happen is - the Earth will gradually stop spinning and the Earth’s rotational speed will be decreasing. In this case, the immediate catastrophic effects will not be there. However, when the rotational speed becomes too low, the long term effects will still be deadly. But that too would happen after millions of years. We  would have become way advanced by then to come up with a solution to survive the event. 

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What is the Speed of Rotation of the Earth?  Why Don’t We Feel the Earth’s Rotation?

Ans: The earth rotates roughly at a speed of 1000 miles per hour. It takes precisely 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4 seconds for the earth to complete one rotation along its axis. The earth revolves around the sun while rotating at the same time.  

Despite the continuous movement, we, or for that matter, any creature don’t feel the earth’s spin because the planet’s gravity or the “pull” generated from its centre keeps us grounded on its surface and we also rotate at the same speed as that of the earth. It is this movement that causes day and night on the earth’s surface. 

2. Why Do We See Only one Side of the Moon if the Earth is Spinning Continuously?

Ans: We, from the earth’s surface, see only one side of the moon even though the earth is continuously rotating along its slanted axis because the speed of the moon's rotation and revolution around the earth is the same. Since, both the speeds are the same, it seems static to us facing the same surface all the time. Now, why does the moon’s surface appear lit up at night? - This is because the moon reflects the sun’s rays falling on its rocky surface and what seems like moonlight is actually the reflected sunlight that we see from the earth. 

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