What if the Earth suddenly stopped rotating?

Hypothetical questions are so much fun in science because they make us think about what we know in a different light, which can help us better understand the sheer size of our planet. So let’s stop the Earth from spinning and see what happens.

First, imagine that the rotation stops in one second. At the equator, it’s like being in a car moving at 1,670 kilometers (1,038 miles) per hour and hitting the brakes. If you were in a building, you’d hit the nearest wall to the east and experience a gravitational acceleration 47 times that of our planet. The good news is that this It may not kill you.But everything else will be the same.

The Earth may remain stationary, but everything else will continue to move at the same speed as the Earth was spinning before. This includes the atmosphere and all the oceans. The winds alone will be four times faster and stronger than the fastest winds ever recorded (408 km/h 253 mph). Then you will face a huge tsunami wave, which will destroy anything that the winds did not destroy (which may not be much).

Obviously, the damage would be more devastating the closer you are to the equator, but in the long run, being near the poles won’t save you either. Because of its rotation, the Earth bulges in the middle, so the poles are about 21 kilometers (13 miles) closer to the center of the Earth than the equator. Without rotation, the oceans would migrate toward the poles—where gravity is stronger—leading to devastating earthquakes, a single supercontinent across the equator, and two separate oceans, respectively.

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according to Vitold Frazek According to mapping and analytics company Esri, the Arctic Ocean will engulf most of Europe and Russia underwater. Greenland and all of Canada will be submerged, as will Chicago, Seattle and Boston. New York will still be close to the ocean, but in a different direction. In the Southern Hemisphere, the ocean will cover huge parts of Argentina, Chile and New Zealand, as well as all of Antarctica.

So, if the supervillain’s plan is to slow down the Earth’s rotation, the best place to be would be at the North Pole on a well-equipped floating mobile base. Location would certainly be an advantage. The Earth would experience a “day” every year, so by rotating around it it would be possible to simulate a regular cycle of day and night. But things wouldn’t be so rosy in the long run. A non-rotating Earth wouldn’t have a magnetic field, since our planet’s liquid core would also be stationary. Without a magnetic field, the few organisms that might have survived such catastrophic changes would eventually succumb to radiation.

If you had more time you wouldn’t have to worry about the planet slowing down, the Earth is already slowing down on its own. In the last century, the average length of a day has increased by 1.7 millisecondsThis long-term trend is due to tidal effects between the Earth and the Moon, but the length of a day also fluctuates due to other effects. At this rate, it will take 18.5 billion years for a day on Earth to be as long as a year.

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An earlier version of this article was published in January 2018.

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