Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Tracking Earth's Wobbles Down To The Size Of A Cell Phone

Date:
June 26, 2006
Source:
American Geophysical Union
Summary:
Earth's irregular, shorter term wobbles, lasting a week or so, have been difficult to study, partly because these motions are usually masked by those of more prominent wobbles, like the Chandler. Now, scientists have taken advantage of a quirk in the pattern of large-scale motions and the advent of the Global Positioning System (GPS) to pin down short-term wobbles that occurred from November 2005 through February 2006.

Motion of the North Pole, as determined by the IERS Earth Orientation Parameter Center of the Paris Observatory, for the study period, 1 November 2005 to 14 February 2006. Each marker represents the position of the pole on one day. Five loops are identified. Never before have these small polar movements been traced with such precision.
Credit: Image courtesy of American Geophysical Union

New technologies are enabling scientists to determine precisely the extent and causes of Earth's short-term wobbling. Like a spinning top, Earth wobbles as it rotates on its axis. In fact, it displays many different wobbling motions, ranging in period from a few minutes to billions of years. Some of these are well studied, like the Chandler wobble of 433 days and the annual wobble, which together can tilt Earth's axis up to 10 meters [30 feet] from its nominal center.

Earth's irregular, shorter term wobbles, lasting a week or so, have been more difficult to study, partly because these motions are usually masked by those of more prominent wobbles. Now, scientists in Belgium and France have taken advantage of a quirk in the pattern of large-scale motions and the advent of the Global Positioning System (GPS) to pin down short-term wobbles that occurred from November 2005 through February 2006.

During this period, the Chandler wobble and the annual wobble essentially cancelled each other out, an event that occurs every 6.4 years, allowing the researchers to focus on the short-period wobbles. Over these three and a half months, the pole position traced small loops, ranging in size from that of a sheet of A4 [8-1/2x11 inch] paper down to that of a cell phone, and it remained within a one meter [yard] square during these four months.

Sebastien Lambert of the Royal Observatory of Belgium and colleagues there and at the Paris Observatory took advantage of the opportunity to track short-term wobbles, using newly available GPS data that establish the location of the poles precisely. They then sought to determine why these motions occurred when they did.

In a paper scheduled to be published 1 July in Geophysical Research Letters, they conclude that weather patterns in the northern hemisphere played a significant role. Both the location of high- or low-pressure centers--for example, over Asia or northern Europe--and the relationship of these weather systems to each other played a measurable role in creating, or "exciting," small, short-term wobbles, they report.

The ocean also affects short-term wobbles, according to Lambert and his colleagues. They were able to correlate oceanic and atmospheric pressure variations with the small observed wobbles during the study period. Although these forces had been credited by previous researchers with maintaining the large Chandler wobble, this was the first time that scientists have been able to demonstrate that day-to-day changes in atmospheric pressure produce a measurable effect on Earth's rotation.

The study was funded by the Belgian Science Policy Office, the Royal Observatory of Belgium, and the Paris Observatory.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Geophysical Union. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

American Geophysical Union. "Tracking Earth's Wobbles Down To The Size Of A Cell Phone." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 June 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/06/060626125117.htm>.
American Geophysical Union. (2006, June 26). Tracking Earth's Wobbles Down To The Size Of A Cell Phone. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/06/060626125117.htm
American Geophysical Union. "Tracking Earth's Wobbles Down To The Size Of A Cell Phone." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/06/060626125117.htm (accessed August 29, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Friday, August 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) State health officials say testing has confirmed the presence of a killer amoeba in a water system serving three St. John the Baptist Parish towns. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Have Figured Out Why Rocks Move In Death Valley

Scientists Have Figured Out Why Rocks Move In Death Valley

Newsy (Aug. 28, 2014) The mystery of the moving rocks in Death Valley, California, has finally been solved. Scientists are pointing to a combo of water, ice and wind. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Big Waves, Minor Flooding from Hurricane

Big Waves, Minor Flooding from Hurricane

AP (Aug. 27, 2014) Thundering surf spawned by Hurricane Marie pounded the Southern California coast Wednesday, causing minor flooding in a low-lying beach town. High surf warnings were posted for Los Angeles County south through Orange County. (Aug. 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Calif. Quake Underscores Need for Early Warning

Calif. Quake Underscores Need for Early Warning

AP (Aug. 26, 2014) Researchers at UC Berkeley are testing a prototype of an earthquake early warning system that California is pursuing years after places like Mexico and Japan already have them up and running. (August 26) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins