The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Letter to the Editor: additional global warming factors

Could there be another global weather influencer that may be responsible for what is presently known as “global warming”?

Natural occurrences of radial movement of the earth’s mass in the radially outward direction have continued over thousands, if not millions, of years. Meteor impacts and earth surface eruptions have most likely contributed the greater portion of this mass movement. This movement may have been compensated in part by a corresponding shrinkage as the earth cools from its original forming.

Humans have been in the process of moving material mass radially outward near the surface of the earth for thousands of years. This human contribution to earth surface mass movement began at least 3,000 years ago, but has increased exponentially in the past 100 years. 

Some undeniable examples of these activities are: mining, water and oil extractions, air flight and satellite orbit insertions. All of these contributions over the past 100 years will add up to billions of tons of mass movement radially outward that have intensified in the last 50 years. Generally speaking, there have been no recognizable compensating effects for these processes.

What possible significance can this mass movement have?

One of the fundamental relations in physical science is the law of Conservation of Angular Momentum. Stated simply, it would read, “The total angular momentum of a rotating body remains constant if the net torque acting on it is zero.” A classic example of this law is observed when an ice skater spins on the almost frictionless ice surface (near zero torque on the skater). 

Skaters may change their speed by changing the distribution of body mass by extending or retracting their arms. If they desire to speed up their rotation they move their arms inward. If they want to slow their rotation they extend their arms. As rotational inertia is changed by changing the mass distribution from the center of rotation, the rotational speed has to experience a corresponding change in order to meet the requirement of Conservation of Angular Momentum.

To the extent that the earth’s mass distribution has shifted outward we should expect that the earth’s rotational velocity has slowed. This is because of the incremental change in the effective earth mass radius will result in a corresponding increase in rotational inertia which will, in turn, require a slowdown in rotational speed. How much of a change has occurred? What is the rate of change? Is it now essentially constant? No one will have the answers to these questions without an extensive study. However, it should be noted with as little as a 1,000-foot change in the effective earth radius (corresponding to approximately 0.005 percent change) results in an approximately eight second slowing of the 24-hour rotation.

What possible impact would this type of change have on the more pronounced heating and cooling noted in the earth’s weather in the past few years?

A rotisserie distribution of solar energy: when a spindle suspends meat over a barbecue flame it will result in localized heating directly facing the source of the heat. Left in this position very long the flame-side of the meat may burn while the backside may experience only a small temperature rise. If, instead, the spindle is rotated over the flame the heat is more evenly distributed and localized “hot spots” are minimized. One may reduce the unevenness of the heating by speeding up the rotisserie and increase the effect of uneven heat distribution by slowing the rotisserie.

The earth may be described as a large mass suspended in space with one side facing a source of solar heat and the opposite side free to radiate heat outward into space. Like the barbecue rotisserie example, the earth possesses its own rotisserie action with the earth’s axis of rotation as its spindle. In this scenario, the sun heats the earth as it continuously rotates and the uneven heating is realized by the relative conductions of the surface atmosphere, soil and water. The movements of the atmosphere and the surface waters control most of our localized weather as they move toward thermodynamically re-distributing the heat input. 

May any conclusions be reached regarding a change in the earth’s rotation?

The answer is YES!

First, there is no question the effective radius of the earth has had an incremental increase over the last 50-100 years. How significant this change may be remains hidden, but the data are likely available or are attainable through calculation. Likewise, the earth has experienced a corresponding incremental slowing in rotational speed. Also, there is no reason to question that the slowing of the earth will result in a corresponding change in the rotisserie effect of heating and cooling. 

The direction of this effect is such as to increase the likelihood of more pronounced weather extremes as the atmosphere and water currents try to dissipate the more localized heat additions and losses.

Therefore, there is legitimate reason to request that this argument be investigated as another possible theory for the increase in localized weather extremes.

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The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University
Letter to the Editor: additional global warming factors