Earth's Rotation and Atmosphere

  • Thread starter Iseous
  • Start date
  • #76
38
0
Are you claiming that the gravity of such a cloud is so perfectly spherical that there would be no tidal effects on any part of the cloud?
I don't think it really has anything to do with the shape of the cloud. The force of gravity can be simplified to a single point mass acting at a certain distance, regardless of the size or shape of the mass. The main thing that would matter is the size/shape of the object being pulled by this gravity and how much the gravitational force changes over its mass. In most cases the center of gravity will be the same or very close to the center of mass, and thus no spinning would be induced. The only cases where this wouldn't be true is if the object is extremely long or it is in a very strong gravitational field such as near a black hole where the forces change enough to create a center of gravity far from the center of mass. However, even in a case like this, the object would essentially turn into a pendulum, not a spinning ball. The center of gravity of the smaller object being moved would try to align itself with a line intersecting the centers of mass of the interacting objects (because with that orientation there would be no moment formed). So if you had a long rod, it would essentially want to point toward the equivalent point mass where it felt the force of gravity. This would cause the rod to start rotating toward that orientation, but as soon as it passed that orientation, it would be pulled back, thus creating a pendulum motion; not a full spinning motion.

To claim that no differential gravity ever acted anywhere to start things spinning (in various different directions across the universe, averaging to zero) is an extremely extravagant and improbable claim, but that appears to be the claim you are making. You might want to stop and think.
As I just explained above, the spinning would most likely be a pendulum motion rather than the rotation of the planets we see. It would still be possible to get the full rotation if the masses moved in the perfect way to get something moving toward a specific orientation, and then moved far enough out of the way to be unable to reorient it. Regardless, a cloud of dust would not create the conditions for centers of gravity to be very far from the centers of mass of objects. The cloud is huge and not very dense, so obviously the forces of gravity would not change greatly with distance nor would the gas be large, continuous objects like a rod. So induced spinning would be very small, if any.

Why? Why would a mass distribution that doesn't start out as spherically symmetric, become spherically symmetric because of gravity?
Almost all the planets, stars, moons, and asteroids/meteors are spherical or round. They were created by gravitational forces, so it seems to be the natural formation. However, mathematically, since all points on the surface of a sphere would be at the same gravitational potential, there would be more of an equilibrium than other shapes, such as a rod (and since everything tends toward an equilibrium, the sphere would be the natural tendency). Objects would be attracted to the center of mass (to go toward the least gravitational potential), so on a sphere, there are no points that would have lower gravitational potential than another (except if there were different elevations such as a mountain, but that's why things will roll down). On a rod, things would want to roll toward the center, making it even itself out over time so that there was no specific point to which mass would "fall" toward, and hence create a sphere eventually.

This is completely wrong. The big bang was not an explosion and the expansion of the universe is not like normal radial motion. In any case, as Peter has already said, individual parcels of gas (or plasma in this case, see below) can have net angular momentum even though the whole universe has no net angular momentum.
Then what kind of motion is it? For one, big bang sounds like an explosion. For another, it started out as a singularity and expanded outward. If it started out as a point, there's not much else it can do besides radiate outward. And I'm not saying they can't have angular momentum. I am asking how they actually got it in the first place.

That is indeed the case. The spin arises from variations in the density of the hot, dense plasma that filled the very early universe.
I'm not sure how a spin would arise from these variations in density. I'll have to think about that.
 
  • #77
D H
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Insights Author
15,393
683
So a spherical Earth rotating with an initially still atmosphere is nothing like a sphere rotating in an initially still gas?
Why are you holding on to this completely incorrect concept?

The whole planet including the atmosphere originally formed out of a condensing cloud of material including gases, and all of it had angular momentum.
That, too, is incorrect.

I'm not sure how a spin would arise from these variations in density. I'll have to think about that.
That applies to the gas giants but not the terrestrial planets.

The dominant theory is that terrestrial planets formed by little clumps of dust colliding and joining to form bigger clumps of dust, which in turn collided to form little tiny rocks, which in turn collided to form bigger rocks. Eventually this resulted in planetesimals (objects about a kilometer in diameter), then planetary embryos (tens to hundreds of kilometers), then protoplanets (Moon to Mars-sized objects), and finally, planets. Whatever angular momentum the protoplanets had was wiped out by the last few collisions that resulted in the formation of the terrestrial planets.

Per the giant impact hypothesis, our Moon is a result of an oblique collision between the proto-Earth and a Mars-sized object. That collision would have wiped out whatever angular momentum the proto-Earth had prior to the impact, and it would also have wiped out whatever primordial atmosphere the proto-Earth had prior to the impact. The Earth's second atmosphere formed after that giant impact by outgassing from the early Earth. In other words, the atmosphere formed rotating with the Earth.

Note that the Earth was rotating much faster then than it is now, possibly as fast as one rotation every four to six hours. You have been asking the wrong question all along. Since the atmosphere formed from a rapidly rotating Earth, the right question asks why the Earth's atmosphere rotates so slowly. The answer is of course friction. The time scale between changes at the surface to the top of the planetary boundary layer is about an hour (that's pretty much the definition of the planetary boundary layer). The time scale to the top of the troposphere is a few days, to the top of the stratosphere, a weeks or months, and to the thermosphere, years to decades. That's tiny compared to the 4.5 billion years that have transpired since the formation of the Earth was complete.
 
  • Like
Likes PeterDonis and Bandersnatch
  • #78
Drakkith
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
20,861
4,606
Then what kind of motion is it? For one, big bang sounds like an explosion. For another, it started out as a singularity and expanded outward. If it started out as a point, there's not much else it can do besides radiate outward.
That's not an accurate description of what happened, but you'll have to make a thread in the cosmology forum or look up some of the existing threads there, as explaining it here would be off topic.

And I'm not saying they can't have angular momentum. I am asking how they actually got it in the first place.
Take a parcel of gas or plasma. Every particle in this parcel is moving about and will thus have some angular momentum about an axis passing through the parcel's center of mass. If we add up all the angular momentum vectors we will almost certainly not get zero. This is true even if our parcel of gas is within a larger parcel of gas that does have zero net angular momentum. If we were to look at a smaller parcel of gas within our original parcel, it too would have a different amount of angular momentum than the original parcel. This is because the random motion of the gas particles will give us different results when we add up the momentum of different particles.

I'm not sure how a spin would arise from these variations in density. I'll have to think about that.
Angular moment is spin. When the gas collapses under the force of gravity, the angular momentum the gas cloud already has is conserved. This means that, just like an ice skater pulling in their arms while spinning, the angular velocity of the gas cloud must increase in order to conserve angular momentum. The variations in density allow the gas to collapse under the force of gravity in the first place.
 
  • #79
D H
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Insights Author
15,393
683
The variations in density allow the gas to collapse under the force of gravity in the first place.
That is the (by far) dominant theory of how stars form. It is anything but the dominant theory of how planets form. Even if planetesimals did form by gravitational collapse, this still does not explain how those planetesimals combine to form planetary embryos and then planets. And it certainly doesn't explain how the Earth's atmosphere formed. The Earth's atmosphere, along with the atmospheres of Venus and Mars, formed after the planets formed. Instead of forming from gravitational collapse, the terrestrial planets' atmospheres formed from within via the huge amount of volcanic activity that marked the planets' early Hadean conditions.
 
  • #80
Drakkith
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
20,861
4,606
That is the (by far) dominant theory of how stars form. It is anything but the dominant theory of how planets form.
I'm not addressing the question of how the Earth's atmosphere formed, but the one about where spin originally comes from.
 
  • #81
PeterDonis
Mentor
Insights Author
2019 Award
29,628
8,903
The force of gravity can be simplified to a single point mass acting at a certain distance, regardless of the size or shape of the mass.
You have repeated this incorrect claim several times. Either give a reference or show your work, or stop making it. You are skating close to a warning at this point.

Almost all the planets, stars, moons, and asteroids/meteors are spherical or round.
No, they're not. The ones that have negligible rotation are, to a good approximation. But the ones that have significant rotation, which means, at a minimum, the Earth, Jupiter, and Saturn, are not. They're oblate spheroids. In the case of Jupiter and Saturn, you can see the oblateness in pictures.

Once again, you have repeated incorrect claims several times now. Please take a step back and think.
 
  • #82
PeterDonis
Mentor
Insights Author
2019 Award
29,628
8,903
The OP's question has been sufficiently addressed. Thread closed.
 
Last edited:

Related Threads on Earth's Rotation and Atmosphere

Replies
25
Views
4K
  • Last Post
Replies
8
Views
7K
Replies
8
Views
8K
  • Last Post
Replies
11
Views
5K
  • Last Post
Replies
2
Views
7K
Replies
3
Views
4K
Replies
7
Views
8K
Replies
1
Views
3K
  • Last Post
Replies
3
Views
6K
Replies
7
Views
8K
Top