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Earth Has Tilted Due to Groundwater Pumping

Earth Has Tilted Due to Groundwater Pumping


A study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters shows that the pumping of groundwater impacts the tilt of Earth’s rotation and further exacerbates climate change. The study reports that in less than two decades, Earth has tilted 31.5 inches because of pumping groundwater, equating to about a quarter of an inch of sea level rise.

Previous research from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in 2016 demonstrates that because the Earth moves on a rotational pole, the distribution of water on the planet impacts the distribution of mass. In other words, the Earth spins a little differently as water is moved around due to pumping, ultimately impacting its tilt. Researchers believe this shift could have serious consequences in the long term—from changes in climate patterns to more frequent seismic activity if Earth's core moves as a result.

Human activities, such as irrigation, water consumption and global droughts have led to a considerable amount of groundwater pumping in the last few decades, with the water eventually relocating to the oceans. Conservationists are using this data to understand how to rethink water usage and work toward preventing continued sea level rise and other climate issues.

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