5-speed listening (Earth's Axis - Level 6)

Groundwater pumping by humans has tilted Earth's axis



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Perhaps it's only geophysicists who are aware of the importance of underground reservoirs on maintaining Earth's balance. Geophysicist Ki-Weon Seo from Seoul National University has discovered that humans have extracted so much groundwater from under our feet that they have changed the tilt of Earth's axis. This shift has been significant enough to physically relocate the geographic North Pole. The mass of polar ice is drifting by 4.36 centimetres a year. Professor Seo calculated that we extracted more than two trillion tons of groundwater between 1993 and 2010, causing Earth to wobble. Seo added that the pumping of groundwater has caused sea levels to rise by 6.24 millimetres.

Professor Seo explained how groundwater affects Earth's gravity. He said: "Every mass moving around on the surface of the Earth can change the rotation axis." Scientists have only recently discovered how groundwater can change Earth's axis. They previously believed water-driven shifts were caused by melting glaciers and ice caps. Seo and his colleagues were puzzled at how this could cause such a tilt. They concluded that the depletion of underground water was also a factor. Much of the extraction of groundwater is due to irrigation, especially in north-western India and western North America. Another researcher said: "The very way the planet wobbles is impacted by our activities."

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