What Could Cause the Earth's Rotation to Dramatically Slow Down?

In summary: While Venus' thick clouds make it impossible to see its surface to time its rotation by looking trough a telescope, this has been measured using radar, that can penetrate those clouds, carried in two missions named "Magellan" and "Venus Express." Comparing their results has shown that the Venusian day became longer by 6.5 minutes between these measurements taken 16 years apart.In summary, a large enough object could slow down Earth's rotation if it didnt vaporize or rip apart the planet. The atmosphere would remain with the planet and slowly rotate at the same rate.
  • #36
My understanding is that the horrificly deadly 2004 earthquake/tsunami moved the poles by 25 cm.
 
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  • #37
Hornbein said:
The obliquity/tilt of Mars is 25 degrees, almost the same as Earth. It is Uranus that has an obliquity of 98 degrees.
I would imagine that the "Midnight Sun" on Uranus lasts a LONG time.
 
  • #38
OscarCP said:
Ken G, Too little is known of Venus, this very hard to observe world, for people to know what its long-term change in rotation speed is likely to be.

As to the OP, that was about why the Earth rotation is genrally slowing down? Well, it should slow down, although in recent years it has been accelerating a little, so the last time a leap second was added to UTC (Universal Tine Coordinated, our Civil Time we keep track of with watches, clocks, computers and cell phones, a.k.a. Mean Solar Time), to keep it wthin 0.9 seconds of the time measured by astronomical observations of our planet's spin (UT1) and to stay in line with the millenary tradition of keeping time by the Sun, was in 2016. On average, a leap second is added every year and a half, but that has changed for the time being.

The main reason for the slowing down is the gravitational interaction of the masses of the Earth and the Moon, that causes them to exchange rotational moment, so the Earth slows down and the Moon moves farther away from us - VERY SLOWLY. Some of the Earth's rotational energy is also lost due to friction of ocean waters rubbing gainst the ocean bottom as they are moved by the tides raised by the Moon (a gravitational interaction). There are also tides raised by the Sun that do the same things, but play a much smaller role in this. As to the recent slight speeding up of the Earth? I think nobody has a good explanation for that right now.
It's only the Earth's crust that has been accelerating; the iron-nickel core could very well be decelerating (perhaps we'll see a magnetic pole swap soon?).
 
  • #39
Ken G said:
It seemed that you were saying the Moon moves away from the Earth because of an orbital resonance. There are not two periods that are in a ratio n/m that are resonating in that situation, maybe you were talking about something else. No biggie, we're all in agreement and you are bringing a lot of interesting information into play!
I remember reading the Time-Life Nature book "The Universe" saying that the Moon would first go farther away, but then would move closer in so much so that the Moon would disintegrate and give the Earth rings. Perhaps this speculation was based on the Sun becoming more luminous as it slowly gets to its red giant phase, causing the Earth's atmosphere to thin?
 
  • #40
swampwiz said:
I remember reading the Time-Life Nature book "The Universe" saying that the Moon would first go farther away, but then would move closer in so much so that the Moon would disintegrate and give the Earth rings. Perhaps this speculation was based on the Sun becoming more luminous as it slowly gets to its red giant phase, causing the Earth's atmosphere to thin?
No, it's just mechanics. Due to there being two pairs of tidal interactions - the Earth-Moon system, and the Earth-Sun - there is no stable configuration with both systems tidally locked as one lunar month will always be shorter than one year.
Right now, a day is shorter than both a month and a year. And, the lunar tides dominate due to Moon's proximity. As long as a day is shorter than a month, the tidal interactions with Earth raise the Moon on its orbit.
Once the Moon drifts far enough, draining Earth's rotational angular momentum in the process, and sometime before a day and a month equalise, the Earth-Sun tidal interactions will start to dominate. These will act to further slow down Earth's rotation even below the period of a month (toward one day=one year).
At this point, the Moon begins to have a shorter period of the orbit than the period of rotation of the Earth. This reverses the direction of the tidal acceleration acting on the Moon. From then onwards, the Moon will always be getting closer until it collides/disintegrates.
Although the time scale may be comparable with the Sun swelling up and vaporising both rocks, so it might not actually happen.
 
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