Previous research had shown that the Earth's core rotates faster than the rest of the planet. However, scientists from the University of Cambridge have discovered that earlier estimates of 1 degree every year were inaccurate and that the core is actually moving much slower than previously believed – approximately 1 degree every million years. Their findings are published today, Sunday 20 February, in the journal Nature Geoscience.
The inner core grows very slowly over time as material from the fluid outer core solidifies onto its surface. During this process, an east-west hemispherical difference in velocity is frozen into the structure of the inner core.
"The faster rotation rates are incompatible with the observed hemispheres in the inner core because it would not allow enough time for the differences to freeze into the structure," said Lauren Waszek, first author on the paper and a PhD student from the University of Cambridge's Department of Earth Sciences. "This has previously been a major problem, as the two properties cannot coexist. However, we derived the rotation rates from the evolution of the hemispherical structure, and thus our study is the first in which the hemispheres and rotation are inherently compatible."
For the research, the scientists used seismic body waves which pass through the inner core - 5200km beneath the surface of the Earth - and compared their travel time to waves which reflect from the inner core surface. The difference between the travel times of these waves provided them with the velocity structure of the uppermost 90 km of the inner core.
They then had to reconcile this information with the differences in velocity for the east and west hemispheres of the inner core. First, they observed the east and west hemispherical differences in velocity. They then constrained the two boundaries which separate the hemispheres and found that they both shifted consistently eastward with depth. Because the inner core grows over time the deeper structure is therefore older, and the shift in the boundaries between the two hemispheres results in the inner core rotating with time. The rotation rate is therefore calculated from the shift of the boundaries and the growth rate of the inner core.
Although the inner core is 5200km beneath our feet, the effect of its presence is especially important on the Earth's surface. In particular, as the inner core grows, the heat released during solidification drives convection in the fluid in the outer core. This convection generates the Earth's geomagnetic field. Without our magnetic field, the surface would not be protected from solar radiation, and life on Earth would not be able to exist.
"This result is the first observation of such a slow inner core rotation rate," said Waszek "It therefore provides a confirmed value which can now be used in simulations to model the convection of the Earth's fluid outer core, giving us additional insight into the evolution of our magnetic field."For more information, contact:
Lauren Waszek | EurekAlert!
New Study Will Help Find the Best Locations for Thermal Power Stations in Iceland
19.01.2017 | University of Gothenburg
Water - as the underlying driver of the Earth’s carbon cycle
17.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biogeochemie
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
20.01.2017 | Awards Funding
20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.01.2017 | Life Sciences