If we assume that some unknown force stopped the Earth instantly, the immediate effect would be disastrous. Buildings would be leveled by winds exceeding the speed of atomic blast shockwaves. Humans, animals, and cars would become billions of individual ballistic missiles. The momentum and sudden lack of gravity near the equator would create enormous kilometers-high tsunamis that could sweep across landmasses in minutes.
When the solar system formed, a cloud of matter formed into a disc that circled the sun. Over time, this material came together to form planets, moons, and everything else. This initial force translated into a rotation of the earth when it began, but it’s also thought that. In the early stages, a large object around Mars collided with the Earth and spun much faster. One full day on earth would only have lasted 6 hours back then.
Usually, an object in space with no friction should retain its momentum forever. But the earth IS subjected to friction from the gravitational pull of the sun and the moon. The moon has a much bigger influence, which can be seen in how it causes oceanic tides. As a result, measurements have shown that the Earth’s rotation slows slightly. In 100 years, one day will be two milliseconds longer than today.
What would happen if the earth stopped spinning?
The world would suffer from massive droughts; most of all, water would be gone or far away. There would be no way to support life for an extended period. The immediate aftermath of this planetary breaking is severe and would likely put every species on Earth. The oceans would boil or evaporate entirely on the planet’s dayside and freeze at night.
People would experience half a year of sunlight and half a year of darkness, allowing for slightly more livable conditions. It would likely ruin agriculture and plant growth cycles as there would be no natural transition between seasons. One very gradual change would be the planet’s change from its current globe shape to a perfect sphere.
One day, billions of years from now, the earth could start to a standstill. But the chances are good that other events will occur before that, such as the Sun swallowing up the planet. There isn’t a chance that the earth will suddenly stop spinning anytime soon. But let’s assume for a moment that the earth suddenly stopped rotating!
- Earth spins 1,000 miles per hour at its equator as it orbits the Sun, but the rotation is slower as you get closer to the poles.
Without this rotation, life wouldn’t be possible. It is said that billions of years ago, the earth spun faster than it does now. At the beginning of the young solar system, an unknown planet or large celestial body collided with the Earth. The Earth’s alignment and rotation have also changed the formed moon in that collision. Since then, the Earth’s rotation has been slowing down.
It is said that the moon also used to spin faster than it does now before it became tidally locked with the Earth. Tidal locking is when a moon or planetary object’s orbital period matches its rotational period. Coincidentally, fate affects every large moon that orbits a planet.
A great example of this is the moon. Both the Earth and the moon rotated independently in the early solar system. But the Earth’s gravity grabbed the tidal bulges and slowed the moon’s rotation.
The moon drifted from the Earth to its current position about 230,000 miles away to compensate for the system’s lost momentum. But the moon has the same impact on the Earth. Those same tidal forces that caused the tides on Earth slowed down the Earth’s rotation bit by bit. The moon continues to drift away a few centimeters a year to compensate.
There are two different scenarios if the earth stops spinning. But it wasn’t tidally locked to the Sun. The planet would experience six months of sunlight and six months of darkness.
- A sudden pause would cause everything on the earth’s surface to suddenly move at over 1,000 miles per hour, 1,600 kilometers per hour in a lateral direction.
Since the velocity needed to escape the Earth’s gravity is over 24,000 800 miles per hour. Everything would stay tacked to the Earth’s surface.
Imagine everything suddenly moving across the planet at 1,000 miles per hour. It wouldn’t matter what it was. Everything would experience a sideways deceleration of three-quarters of the Earth’s gravity. Suddenly down would be at an angle of 38 degrees from vertical. The force of suddenly stopping would rip buildings right off their foundations.
Send them flying across the ground with anything else that isn’t solid bedrock destroying everything in a giant, deadly debris path. But that’s not all. It would also include the oceans suddenly sloshing sideways across the planet. Waves are miles and miles high, moving at the same velocity. Imagine tsunamis so high you couldn’t see the top.
Both of these two calamities would be the end of most life. Although the Earth would stop spinning, the atmosphere would continue to spin at the Earth’s same velocity. It would create very high winds and very nasty storms. Because the Earth rotates, centrifugal force forces the planet to bulge along the equator with no rotation. Without a bulge, all the extra water in place along the equator would rush back toward the poles.
If the earth stops spinning, the earth’s inner core is spinning faster. The surface has slowed, which doesn’t mean the earth’s core has stopped. The volcanic eruption will occur dangerously. The tectonic forces above and below enter into a new conflict. Supervolcanoes would likely erupt across the entire planet.
Tidally locked Earth would have half of the planet facing the Sun and the other half in permanent darkness. It is called a Goldilocks zone or Habitable zone where it is the perfect distance from Sun to support life.
There might still be places on Earth where the climate would be habitable. But on the two extreme sides, it might prove difficult for life to survive, assuming that anything survived the previous catastrophes. If any appreciable amount of life were left on the planet’s surface, it would now have to survive in the twilight strip of land between the two halves.
The atmosphere on the hot side of the planet would start to erode. The portion of the earth always in direct sunlight would receive more direct sunlight. Resulting in more heat, and these high temperatures would cause heavy rain and increased weathering.
Normal weathering regulates the climate on the earth. But now, one side of the planet is hotter and another cooler. Atmospheric gases would build up on the hot side, creating even more heat. It is called the runaway greenhouse effect.
Clouds of gas could significantly increase the temperature so that the oceans would boil, much like what has happened to Venus. The planet’s middle facing the Sun on its equator or the substellar point would end up hot. That almost nothing could survive. On the other hand, the cold side of the earth would have a different situation. The loss of the sun’s heat on the dark side of the earth would turn the atmosphere into a dense gas.
- Then condense into a liquid and then further condense into solid ice.
It is doubtful that the atmosphere on the planet’s dark side would become a solid form. Instead, it would keep condensing and creating a vacuum. It would pull air from the hot side of the planet, where the atmosphere’s gases would expand.
With this happening, it might be possible that the atmosphere would make the planet livable. But the storms from this exchange of hot and cold air would be unimaginable.
Length of day-night
There’s far more at stake here than the day and night cycle. If it were to happen, it could spell the end of our planet as we know it! Currently, the Earth spins at about 1037 miles (or 1668km) per hour, which means one day, or the time to complete one full rotation, is 23 hours, 56 minutes, and 4.1 seconds long. It hasn’t always been the case.
The next thing that would likely happen is that the earth’s magnetic field would stop regenerating and slowly decay over time. A dynamic rotation effect generates the earth’s magnetic field. The magnetic field plays a huge role in keeping the atmosphere intact. This magnetic field also protects the Earth from cosmic rays.
The Earth and Moon settled into a gravitational relationship. One of the Moon’s effects causes tides on the Earth. But with every tide cycle, the sloshing of Earth’s water exerts some friction on the Earth’s surface. Also, it slows the planet’s rotation ever so slightly.
Every time the Earth’s rotation slows, the Moon moves further away. Tidal friction could eventually slow the Earth significantly, while the laws of physics won’t allow it to stop completely.
Antarctica would be fully submerged, and everywhere lying north of Spain. With the increasing temperatures, all remaining water pools would evaporate and end up in the polls due to the new wind patterns. The only viable place for life would be a thin strip of land on the coast. That is, if life were still possible under other harsh circumstances.
Destroying the earth
Recent studies have shown that the cellular circadian clock controls all living things. Even species that don’t rely on sunlight, like mussels, show more gene expression based on the circadian cycle than the rising and falling tides that drive their muscular activity. Plants and things like plankton, the bottom of the food chain that needs sunlight for photosynthesis, probably wouldn’t stand a chance in the six-month-long nights.
The friction alone caused the now-stopped Earth to collide with these winds. It would cause massive fires, unparalleled erosion, and damage to anything strong enough to stay put after the initial braking. The Sun would seem to freeze in the sky as days became not 24 hours long but 365 days long. Minor changes in mass distribution on Earth are caused by earthquakes, melting ice, or human-made dams.
Some predict that it will happen in about 50 billion years. So the chances of life on Earth experiencing a complete rotation stop are small. However unlikely, if something were to cause the earth to stop immediately or within a few minutes or hours, we would be in serious trouble.
Everything not attached to the earth would continue to have momentum, so the atmosphere and oceans would scrape the surface clean of all topsoil, trees, and buildings and release it into space. Even if this happened over a short period, everything would experience such a large deceleration force that they would all fall over.
The earth’s rotation is a key component in making it an ideal environment for life to thrive. Without the weather, atmosphere, and life formation, the entire structure of the earth’s surface would change and become inhospitable for humans.
Petsko, Gregory A. “The blue marble.” Genome Biology.
Simon, J.L.; Bretagnon, P.; Chapront, J.; “Numerical expressions for precession formulae and mean elements for the Moon and planets.” Astronomy and Astrophysics.
“Useful Constants.” International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service.
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