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Sam Asano's Let's Invent: Earth's rotation a key to global warming?

October 22. 2017 10:33PM

 (Courtesy/Sam Asano)

I have been writing about the Earth and its frequent earthquakes in the last and current century being somewhat related and potentially caused by global warming. In the scientific world, that phenomenon has been recognized as real. Even a global alliance — the Paris Accord — has been established to deal with and prevent any further deepening of the trend by attempting to emit carbon dioxide as little as possible.

The three earthquakes in Indonesia, Northeast Japan and the latest near Mexico City killed hundreds of thousands of people. In Japan it caused a massive tsunami, which attacked the seashore towns and destroyed four large nuclear reactors. Two of those reactors exploded, and the Tokyo Power Co. has been struggling to clean up the massive radioactive debris, which needs to be constantly cooled by water.

Additionally, the large area of the seaside region, which used to contain many towns, is now off-limits to humans. The overall damage to the regional economy has been astronomical. It includes loss of life, loss of property, nuclear aftermath cleanup, and reconstruction work that covers the entire region, including the high walls on the seashores for hundreds of miles to protect the population in case of another tsunami.

My premise is fueled by my uneducated fantasy, wondering whether frequent earthquakes through the past century might have been driven by global warming, resulting in the increased carbon dioxide and associated water vapor in the atmosphere. One reader pointed out that the melting ice on the both north and south pole regions might have shifted the weight distribution on the Earth, which is nothing but a large spinning top.

The response from our readers has been overwhelming this past week. Contrary to my worry that I shouldn’t have opened my mouth on things I knew nothing about, I was gratified by reading many email reader comments that they didn’t think what I wrote was dumb and ill-placed.

I do not know the way to solve this moment of inertia, but if any reader could shine the light into a way to solve this, I would appreciate it.

Here it is: The Earth had massive layers of ice on both north and south pole regions. And both are in process of melting fast. When ice melts, it becomes water. Since ice at both poles are sea ice, the resultant water is seawater, which is 1.03 times heavier than fresh water. The total ocean area of the earth is 362,900,000,000,000 meters square. If the depth of the whole ocean increases by 1 meter, the total weight added to the ocean area is 372,757,000,000,000 tons. That is 3.72 x 10 to the power of 14 equal to 3.72 quadrillion tons.

This is predicted to happen sometime around 2040, a mere 13 years from now. The ocean level rise of 1 meter is really a rough guess, and it could be more or less. I presented you this figure of 1 meter because it is easy to calculate.

Fig. 1 shows the situation in graphics. Fig. 1A is a top (the Earth) spinning with heavy weight at the north and south poles. Fig. 1B shows the ice melt decreases the top and bottom weight, and the resultant water is now spread in the ocean at the peripheral of the earth. The mean distance of the surface of the earth from the center is 6,371 kilometers.

My question to our readers is “If the Earth’s north and south poles continue to melt, and the Earth’s ocean surface would result in rising by 1 meter, what would happen to the Earth’s revolution speed? Just imagine an attractive figure skater spinning in her final portion of her brilliant presentation. She would pull her arms in and spins her body faster and faster, and then at the music’s crescendo, she would spread her arms and her spin suddenly slows down, and she would stop. She raises her arms and bows to the wildly applauding audience.

Does this happen to our Earth? How slow would the Earth’s spin be when the melting sea water of 3.72 quadrillion tons is at the surface of the Earth, just like the skater’s both arms are stretched out?

My question is “Could we measure accurately how much the net effect of the global warming by measuring the spin speed (or rotational cycle) of the Earth?

That has been my perennial question for some time. I am sure some scientists must have worked on this question, and I am the only one who didn’t learn their accomplishment. Any readers? Please send your thoughts. Don’t hesitate to send your thought against your feeling that your idea might be laughed at. Nobody should laugh about any ideas on such an important subject.

Shintaro “Sam” Asano of New Castle was named by MIT as one of the 10 most influential inventors of the 20th century. Write to him at

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