Our planet’s rotation goes on almost unnoticed in our day-to-day lives, but what would happen if it stopped rotating altogether? Or span in the opposite direction?
Earth rotates at around 1,670 km/h, but how important is this rotation to our lives?
Momentum is everything on the surface of the Earth. You’re held down by gravity and you’re moving through space at a speed of 1,670 km/h. You can’t feel it because of momentum. Just like you can’t feel that you’re moving inside a train or if you throw a ball while you’re sitting on the train because it will fall in the same way as if you would throw it outside. Or how you can’t feel that you’re moving in a car going down the highway. But you feel the effects when you stop or get into an accident. And so, if the Earth suddenly stopped rotating, everything on Earth at the equator would suddenly be moving at more than 1,670 km/h sideways.
If you are in a building, you’d be thrown into the closest eastward wall and experience 47 times the gravitational acceleration of our planet. The good news is that this might not kill you. But everything else eventually will.
The winds would be four times faster and stronger than the fastest wind ever recorded (408 km/h). And then you’ll experience a huge tsunami wave, which will destroy anything the winds didn’t.
No rotation? No seasons! Half of the planet would remain in darkness for 6 months while the other half would have nothing but light, and a single day would last an entire year. Gradually the oceans would migrate towards the poles from the equator.
Eventually, there would be a huge mega-continent wrapped continuously around the Earth at the equator. You could travel around the Earth on the equator and stay entirely on dry land- ignoring the freezing cold on the night side, and the searing heat on the day side.
Where does that leave us? Humans are an adaptable species with powerful technology at their disposal, but survival in this new environment would be a challenge. Sure, we could try to light our homes in the darkness and heat and cool them (at great cost) during wild temperature swings, but not everything would be under our control. Could crops survive the extremes of this new world? Could any plants? If not, the entire food chain would be in danger. Perhaps we could find new crops or modify existing ones to tolerate this new environment.
As if all that wasn’t enough, Earth’s magnetic field might go away, too. Even if any living creatures would have survived such cataclysmic changes would eventually succumb to cosmic radiation flux.
Although, we don’t have to imagine the slowing down of Earth. The Earth is already slowing down in its own, but in a very very slow pace, as in the last century, the length of an average day has increased for 1.7 milliseconds. The main braking effect comes from tides caused by the moon’s gravity.
For those longing to have an extra hour a day, be prepared for a long wait. With this pace, a day will not last 25 hours for about two million centuries more. Whereas, to have a day as long as a year, it will take 16.5 billion years.