What Would Happen If The Earth Stopped Spinning?

Exploring the catastrophic effects on humans, nature, and climate.

Video of the day January 2nd 2020


Wait, Do We Have To Worry About That?

No, don’t worry, the Earth isn’t going to suddenly stop spinning, and for a very basic reason. Mainly, the reason it was formed. Did you ever wonder WHY the Earth was spinning at all? Because it wasn’t just a random reason that this happened, it was something that was set in motion long before the Earth fully formed.

To put it basically, the Earth was formed when a mass cloud of gas known as the Solar Nebula compressed upon itself. No, really, that’s what happened, and what’s more, this is how all the other planets formed too, and if you notice, they’re all spinning as well. But why? Well, when the cloud was collapsing, the forces that be caused everything to spin. The more the spinning started, the more particles that were around the compressed cloud started to gather, and these forces combined to make our planet.

“But why didn’t the planet stop spinning?” A good question, and one that is also easily answered. Because in space, there are very few things that cause momentum to stop, and for something like an already spinning planet? Especially one the size of the planets in our solar system? Yeah, that’s hard to stop. Friction is something that slows down momentum, but there’s no immediate friction in space because there’s nothing to “rub up against.” Thus, the Earth is still spinning billions of years after it was made.

Now sure, there are certain scenarios and situations where the Earth could stop spinning, and one of them might just happen on their own without outside help. But it’s very unlikely. What’s more, if it was to happen naturally, then it would happen over the course of BILLIONS of years, and by that point, the Earth will already be gone via the sun absorbing us when it turns into a red giant, or the Andromeda galaxy swallowing us whole…it’s very unlikely that it would happen. Not impossible, but very unlikely.

Still, it’s never a bad thing to ask a question. So…what WOULD happen if the Earth stopped spinning in place? What effects would it have on the planet?

Sudden Stop

I want you to think of the Earth as a car. A car that is going a certain clip. Let’s say…65 miles per hour. You know…the speed limit that you’re supposed to follow on the road? I see you getting nervous right now.

Anyway, imagine the Earth is that car, and the movement down the road is the rotation of the Earth. Everything is fine, you’re going down the road and there’s no issues except for the occasional bump, the odd bug that hits your windshield, that kind of thing. But then, out of nowhere, a deer shows up! What do you do? You hit the brakes, right? And you come to a complete stop.

Now, keeping that picture in mind, what happens to everyone in the car if they’re not ready for that sudden stop? The answer is, they get lurched forward, right? The momentum that they had wants to keep them moving forward down the road. Which is why we wear seatbelts, so that the momentum doesn’t send us crashing through the windshield.

So now I want you to imagine the Earth suddenly slamming on its brakes and coming to a stop. The problem here though is that the Earth doesn’t rotate at 65 miles per hour. It rotates at 1000 miles per hour at the Equator. Which means that every single thing on Earth. Man, woman, child, animal, and building, car, truck, train, etc., would be lunged forward at 1600 miles per hour.

I’m honestly surprised that this isn’t a horror movie. Because the effects of that happening would be devastating in every sense of the word. A human being can die by going through a windshield at least than 65 miles per hour, so now imagine the entire human race, and buildings, and vehicles being flung from their standing positions into who know where?

Cities would be ripped up from their roots, even massive skyscrapers. So even IF people were able to survive the initial impact of whatever they found themselves upon, they would have to immediately look out for whatever was next to them falling on top of them with that same amount of force.

Like I said, it would be devastating, and that’s not the only thing that would be moving…

I feel the Earth…move…under my feet…

What, you thought nature was going to be immune from this? Far from it, the forces of nature are moving at the same speed we are, it just doesn’t seem it at times. Which is good, and bad. So when that “sudden stop” comes to pass, that means that nature itself will be moving with us.

Easily theĀ  most dangerous thing about this is the oceans. Don’t forget, water makes up over 70% of our planet, and it’s being held in place by both gravity and the rotation of the planet, so when everything stops? That force holding it back…isn’t holding it back. Have you ever seen a tsunami? Even if it’s only here on Youtube? It’s a devastating force of nature, but they only happen in certain circumstances, in certain places, and they only get to a certain height.

But if the Earth stopped spinning? The places near oceans, and even the places far away from oceans, would find themselves look at tsunamis the height of mountains, or even higher. It’s believed that IF the Earth stopped spinning the tsunamis that would be formed would look as though they touched the very skies, and thus anything that is in their path would be wiped out from the massive power of water that it brings.

Depending on the direction of said tsunamis (as they would go one way via the stopped momentum, the east coast or west coast of most nations bordering a nation would be wiped out. And depending on how much land is in between the two oceans, they could even be permanently flooded and connect with the other ocean. I’m pretty sure we can agree that this is a terrifying thing to ponder, and yet, we’re still not done. Nature still has some rather violent things to show us.


Spinning and Not Spinning

So remember when I told you that the Earth stopped rotating? Well, that’s only partially true. When I said the Earth started rotating, I meant that in the sense that the actual Earth had stopped moving. The problem is that the Earth isn’t just one solid chunk like many believe. It has layers, and the top layer and the bottom layer actually won’t stop moving when the Earth stops rotating.

How does that work? Well, let’s start at the top, with the atmosphere. The atmosphere is a part of the Earth in a big way, and it’s a major reason why we’re alive right now. Because the atmosphere is what traps all the gasses in so that we can breathe, plants can grow, and it helps keep the warmth in from the sun. Speaking of which, the atmosphere is why the suns radiation is only partially given to us, which is good because if we got it on full blast we’d fry in a very painful way.

Why am I mentioning all of this? Because the atmosphere is connected to the Earth…but it’s not attached to the Earth. It’s spinning for similar reasons that it’s spinning, but it won’t stop when it does. The atmosphere will continue to move at 1000 miles per hour, and that will cause problems on the surface.

Such as? Well, how about heavy winds. The wind comes from the atmosphere, and if it’s moving at 1000 miles per hour, it’ll be able to create winds of incredible intensity. What’s more, that massive amount of speed in the atmosphere will cause a ton of storms to be born, and they’ll be very powerful.

Sadly though, that’s not the thing you should fear. What you should fear is what’s going on at the core of the Earth. The core of the planet is where all of this spinning started, and just like the atmosphere it’s not exactly going to stop when the rest of the planet does. The gravity it exudes and the compression that is going on in it will ensure that it keeps spinning. Which is a problem, because now you have a hot fiery ball of energy and moving against a wall of earth and stone that isn’t moving, and friction will be had.

And when this kind of friction is done from within the Earth, a little thing gets made called…Supervolcanoes. Yes, those are a real thing, and they suck. They’ll spew all kinds of magna and fire into the sky, onto the ground, earthquakes will likely be born because of the sudden uprising of the volcanoes from the Earth itself. It’ll be bad.

So between the water, the wind, the earth, and the fire that’s being made, nature is going to show just how unpleasant it can be if the Earth were to stop moving.

Hot and Cold

So, let’s say…just for argument, that somehow, someway, life made it past EVERYTHING that nature has just thrown at it. The momentum shift, the various storms and tidal waves and all the other things that were born from the immediate aftermath of the Earth’s stopped rotation. Would we be safe then…?

No, no we would not, because you forget that the Earth isn’t the only thing that’s affected by the stopped rotation. The sun is affected to, although not in the way you’re thinking.

Because the sun is going to remain in place, and the sun will continue to pull the Earth along its orbit. But if the Earth isn’t rotating…how will the sun affect the planet evenly? It won’t. There are two scenarios that could play out here. One is that because of the orbit of the sun, the Earth would experience 6 month seasons instead of 3 month seasons, and that might be ok in context as it would just be Summer and Winter and things would balance out in a way that MAY support life.

But, the darker side of that equation is being tidally locked to the sun. Tidally locked means that the planet would have one half of its surface always facing the sun, and the other half always facing away from the sun. This isn’t good, because balance is why the Earth is allowed to live, and while there is a 50/50 split here, it’s not ideal.

The side that is facing the sun will slowly but surely get hotter and hotter, it would burn up the atmosphere in a way that would cause a runaway greenhouse effect. If you’ve heard that before, it’s what’s happening on Venus. And that would happen here…for one half of the planet. The Earth’s temperature on this half would rise dramatically over time, and the water on that side of the planet would boil and then evaporate. Eventually making it so that anyone on that side would be burned to a crisp.

On the other side? It would be incredibly cold. The lack of warmth from the sun would ensure that things would drop down to frigid temperatures. However, unlike other tidally locked planets, it wouldn’t theoretically drop down to negative 100 degrees or the like because our atmosphere is so strong that it would actually pull hot air from the burning side of the planet into the cold side…thus creating a small kind of warmth…but…that would also create massive storms that would just wreck everything…so it’s not ideal.

The point is, even if life had survived up to this point, there would only be small stretches of areas that would be livable between the hot and cold sides. Not exactly a paradise if you will.

You know what though? It still gets worse.

Planetary Magnetism

The atmosphere above is comprised of many parts, and one of the things that is looming over our planet is the magnetic field. The magnetic field is comprised of many things, including heat from the Earth’s core, solar winds that are in space, and more. And like the atmosphere, it helps protect us from various things.

It’s the magnetic field that helps shield us from the radiation from the sun, and it helps keep the seasons intact, and protects us from other dangers, etc. But, it actually is one of the things that is dependent on the rotation of the Earth. So, if the Earth stops spinning, the magnetic field would last for a little while, but then it’ll slowly fall apart. And when that happens…it will cause a bombardment of radiation from the sun to hit us, and we’ll get pelted with solar winds, etc.

So all in all, it would be a very bad series of situations should the Earth stop spinning.

Be Glad For The Earth We Got That’s Moving

So when you compile this all together, you end up with an appreciation for everything that goes into making the Earth what it is right now. The Earth has layers upon layers of factors and forces that contributed to it being like it is right now, and because of that, it is a great place to live in the survivable sense.

But not unlike dominos, if something were to go wrong, like the Earth stopping its rotation, it would affect a whole lot of other things. But again, we don’t have to worry about it. Reports say that the Earth is getting its rotation slowed, but not at a rate that would affect us anytime soon. So enjoy your days on Earth, and take heart in knowing that everything is still spinning.

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