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Inner Core of Earth Began to Decrease Its Speed around 2010, Study Suggests

by News7

Movement of the inner core of our planet has been debated by the scientific community for two decades, with some research indicating that the inner core rotates faster than the planet’s surface. The new study provides unambiguous evidence that the inner core began to decrease its speed around 2010, moving slower than the Earth’s surface.

Wang et al. demonstrate that the inner core of Earth gradually super-rotated from 2003 to 2008, and then from 2008 to 2023 sub-rotated two to three times more slowly back through the same path. Image credit: USC Graphic / Edward Sotelo.

“When I first saw the seismograms that hinted at this change, I was stumped,” said University of Southern California’s Professor John Vidale.

“But when we found two dozen more observations signaling the same pattern, the result was inescapable.”

“The inner core had slowed down for the first time in many decades.”

“Other scientists have recently argued for similar and different models, but our latest study provides the most convincing resolution.”

The inner core is considered to be reversing and backtracking relative to the planet’s surface due to moving slightly slower instead of faster than the Earth’s mantle for the first time in approximately 40 years.

Relative to its speed in previous decades, the inner core is slowing down.

The inner core is a solid iron-nickel sphere surrounded by the liquid iron-nickel outer core.

Roughly the size of the Moon, the inner core sits more than 4,828 km (3,000 miles) under our feet and presents a challenge to researchers: it can’t be visited or viewed.

Scientists must use the seismic waves of earthquakes to create renderings of the inner core’s movement.

Professor Vidale and colleagues utilized waveforms and repeating earthquakes in contrast to other research.

Repeating earthquakes are seismic events that occur at the same location to produce identical seismograms.

In the study, they compiled and analyzed seismic data recorded around the South Sandwich Islands from 121 repeating earthquakes that occurred between 1991 and 2023.

They also used data from twin Soviet nuclear tests between 1971 and 1974, as well as repeated French and American nuclear tests from other studies of the inner core.

“The inner core’s slowing speed was caused by the churning of the liquid iron outer core that surrounds it, which generates Earth’s magnetic field, as well as gravitational tugs from the dense regions of the overlying rocky mantle,” Professor Vidale said.

“The implications of this change in the inner core’s movement for Earth’s surface can only be speculated.”

“The backtracking of the inner core may alter the length of a day by fractions of a second.”

“It’s very hard to notice, on the order of a thousandth of a second, almost lost in the noise of the churning oceans and atmosphere.”

The study was published in the journal Nature.


W. Wang et al. Inner core backtracking by seismic waveform change reversals. Nature, published online June 12, 2024; doi: 10.1038/s41586-024-07536-4

Source : Breaking Science News

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