Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Groundwater Extraction Alters Earth’s Rotation


Source: TH

Context: A recent study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters reveals that extensive groundwater extraction by humans has had a significant effect on Earth’s rotation.


Between 1993 and 2010, the excessive pumping of groundwater caused the planet’s rotational pole to shift eastward by approximately 80 centimetres. The research indicates that humans extracted around 2,150 gigatons of groundwater during this period, equivalent to over 6 millimetres of sea-level rise.


How groundwater extraction influences Earth’s rotation?

When we take a lot of water out from underground (groundwater extraction), it changes how the Earth spins (called ‘polar drift’).

Imagine spinning a top and then adding or removing weight from one side. The top will wobble or spin differently. Similarly, when we extract groundwater, it shifts the weight distribution on Earth’s surface, causing a slight change in its rotation. This can move the Earth’s axis (the imaginary line it spins around) a little bit.



While it doesn’t affect our daily lives much, scientists study these changes because they can impact the Earth’s climate over long periods of time.

Other factors: Melting of glaciers -Climate change has caused billions of tonnes of glacial ice to melt into oceans. This has caused the Earth’s poles to move in new directions.