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Scientists at Peking University Say Earth’s Iron Heart has Stopped

Peking University scientists released a study on Monday, January 23, 2023, revealing that the Earth’s inner core has not only stopped but can begin to rotate in the opposite direction.


Yi Yang, one of the scientists, and Xiaodong Song, chair professor, have been studying seismic waves and their impact on the Earth’s inner core for a while now by looking at data from the 1960s to the present. They drew their conclusions after examining the change in speed from various locations throughout the planet. Their findings indicated that from 2010 to 2020, there had been little to no change in seismic records. Their study results have given scientists more information on how the planet’s inner layers work together and influence one another. 


“This globally consistent pattern suggests that inner-core rotation has recently paused,” Yang and Song wrote in an online publication on Nature Geoscience. “We compared this recent pattern to the Alaskan seismic records of South Sandwich Islands doublets going back to 1964, and it seems to be associated with a gradual turning-back of the inner core as a part of an approximately seven-decade oscillation, with another turning point in the early 1970s.”


Although many people believe this to be true, Hrvoje Tkalcic, a geophysicist at the Australian National University, said that the inner core does not come to a stop. The rotation and speed can vary, but the inner core will not come to a halt. 


On Space.com, Tkalcic shares his beliefs. He says the inner core “is now more in sync with the rest of the planet than a decade ago when it was spinning a bit faster.” He also believes that the cycle Yang and Song explained is not 70 years but instead 20 or 30.


He is not the only researcher questioning or doubting Yang and Song’s implications. Alexandra Witze, an author on this topic, wrote that “other work has suggested that super-rotation happens mostly in distinct periods, such as in the early 2000s, rather than being a continuous, steady phenomenon.” 


“Some scientists even argue that super-rotation does not exist,” Witze said. "The differences in earthquake travel times are instead caused by physical changes on the surface of the inner core.” A seismologist at the Univeristy of Southern California, John Vidale, is skeptical about what these findings could mean. He believes that the models Yang and Song use are not very accurate. Nonetheless, the scientists have explained that they want “their study to motivate researchers to build and test models which treat the whole Earth as an integrated dynamic system,” as seen on Phys.org.


People have said that all this talk about the Earth’s inner core stopping, speeding up, slowing down, and changing direction can sound alarming, but scientists have said there are no profound consequences.


Researchers have said that the only effects the inner core’s changes can have are “that the day lengthens or, [if the findings are incorrect], it shortens by a thousandth of a second compared to the last few years…The scientific community has indicated that human beings will not feel the change in the core’s rotation.” 


In sum, researchers in the science world question Yang and Song’s findings. However, everyone is still intrigued since this information could be a gateway to learning more about the inner layers of the planet and how they work together. 


Changes or no changes, we are still beings on a rotating planet that has many complex layers. The findings only provide more information about Earth’s iron heart and how it may or may not be akin to other layers of the Earth.

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