Groundwater plays a significant role in the planet’s agriculture — but it’s also raised big questions over precisely how sustainable these practices are. Last year, Modern Farmer reported on a Dartmouth study that suggested that making groundwater use sustainable would significantly decrease the amount of several major U.S. crops. That study, and its implications, point to one alarming facet of the way humans manage groundwater. Turns out it’s not the only one: the way we’re using groundwater is also changing the tilt of planet Earth.
Writing at Space.com, Tereza Pultarova has more information on the findings of a recent study that makes clear just how much of an impact humanity’s use of groundwater has had on the planet. The study measured the amount of water removed from the planet’s natural reservoirs between 1993 and 2010, which came to 2,150 gigatons. During that same time, the planet’s tilt has changed by almost three feet — specifically, 31.5 inches.
Seoul National University scientist Ki-Weon Seo, the lead author of the study, addressed its findings. “Our study shows that among climate-related causes, the redistribution of groundwater actually has the largest impact on the drift of the rotational pole,” Seo said in a statement.
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Scientists have only known about water’s ability to change the planet’s rotation since 2016. Seo’s comments balanced satisfaction with understanding the root causes of the altered tilt with alarm over the future.
“I’m very glad to find the unexplained cause of the rotation pole drift. On the other hand, as a resident of Earth and a father, I’m concerned and surprised to see that pumping groundwater is another source of sea-level rise,” Seo said.
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