Earth’s axis is being shifted by the human activities causing the current climate emergency and the redistribution of water resources through the pumping of groundwater for irrigation.
An international team of researchers says the shift started in the 1990s when global heating began to melt glaciers, sending much of the runoff into the oceans. Earth’s axis naturally drifts a little bit each year due to changes in winds, ocean currents and atmospheric pressures. But the redistribution of water from land to the oceans accelerated the drift between 1995 and 2020 by about 17 times. Vincent Humphrey of the University of Zurich says the drift is tiny and imperceptible to humans.
Boulders and rocks long frozen in place high across the world’s mountainous regions are now tumbling downslope due to the glacial melt brought on by global heating.
A tragic example occurred in February when rock and ice broke loose from a Himalayan peak, killed more than 200 people and destroyed a hydroelectric dam. Researchers in Switzerland have begun releasing “test rocks” from high in the Alps to better understand the dangers posed to humans and the landscape by the growing phenomenon. “Where a rock will land, how it will bounce, how high it will jump … we can answer all that,” said physicist Andrin Caviezel, one of the scientists involved in the experiments.