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‘Surprised and concerned’: Scientists find groundwater extracted by humans has shifted tilt of Earth’s axis (


Earth Photograph AFP )

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A new study has left scientists surprised and concerned after it was found that humans have pumped out so much groundwater in the past two decades that it has shifted the tilt of the Earth’s axis. According to the findings of the research published in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal by the American Geophysical Union, the Earth has tilted as much as 80 centimetres (31.5 inches) between 1993 and 2010, which has been attributed to humans pumping out groundwater and moving it elsewhere.

How much groundwater has been extracted?

The study, based on climate models, has said that an estimated 2,150 gigatonnes of water have been pumped out between 1993 and 2010 which is enough water to fill Lake Victoria in Africa and would weigh as much as 5.5 million Empire State Buildings.

The study also noted the impact of the location of the groundwater on the change in the polar drift as most of the water was redistributed in western North America and northwestern India during the time period studied. Since both regions are at midlatitudes, researchers observed that redistributing water from the midlatitudes has a larger impact on Earth’s rotational pole.

“Countries’ attempts to slow groundwater depletion rates, especially in those sensitive regions, could theoretically alter the change in drift, but only if such conservation approaches are sustained for decades,” said Ki-Weon Seo, a geophysicist at Seoul National University in South Korea, who led the study, in a statement.

He also spoke about how this study finds “that among climate-related causes, the redistribution of groundwater actually has the largest impact on the drift of the rotational pole.”

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