Visions of a post-apocalyptic Earth stopping in its tracks are common in Western mythology, a cosmic nightmare which has been spelled out in everything from religious texts to heavy metal lyrics. But try to disconnect yourself from the horror of such a planetary pratfall and focus on the physics. What would actually happen if the Earth quit rotating? The short answer? It all depends. Here are 5 Strange Things That Would Happen If The Earth Stopped Turning! Let’s begin!
5. Exit Stage Left
The most obvious, and catastrophic disaster would occur if the Earth suddenly stopped spinning, as opposed to a gradual slowing down of its rotation. Remember that even when you’re sitting still, relative to the cosmos you are booking faster than a race car. The planet spins at a rotational velocity of over 1500 kilometers per hour, so if that stopped suddenly, everything on the Earth’s surface would be thrown sideways at fantastic speed. Buildings would collapse, and almost everyone would die. But objects light enough to be thrown into the air would remain largely at rest relative to each other. What does that mean? Well, if you were sitting in a lawn chair on a hilltop, you’d have a pretty interesting seated ride for a moment before the g-force knocked you out, with your beer still clinging to its cup holder.
4. The Rest of You are Finished
If the ceasing of the Earth’s rotation was sudden, one of the only ways to avoid the supersonic sideways-blast would be to stay underground, in a hardened bunker. Of course, this survival solution presumes that you know in advance when the day is coming. Scientist Randall Monroe recommends Helsinki, Finland as a potential survivalist’s haven if our planetary spin sputters to a stop. Helsinki comes with a vast underground network of tunnels and resources, including a shopping mall. But it might get crowded in there, so book your spot early.
3. Pole Position
Not everyone on the surface of the Earth would die. Monroe also points out that the North and South poles would be immune to the effects of the thousand-mile-per-hour winds. The closer to the equator an object began, the more likely it would be to get demolished – but everything at the poles would survive intact.The dozens of scientists and staff at the Amundsen–Scott research base in Antarctica would notice that their radios were only getting static from all of the major continents below the Arctic Circle. When resident astronomers noticed that the Earth was no longer spinning, the scientists would reach the horrifying conclusion that most of the living world had been thrown headlong to its doom. Even The Thing would be screwed out of a population to conquer! Stuck in Antarctica fighting Kurt Russell for eternity? That’s one icy burn.
2. Air Supply
The stopping of the Earth’s spin would play havoc with the air, leading to global storms and turbulence. Normally, the heat created by wind is negligible due to the relatively low amount of kinetic energy produced. But a 1500 kilometer-per-hour wind? That’s gonna generate some fire. The cold of the ocean would clash with super-heated air, creating a type of weather never before seen on Earth — a mix of wind, spray, fog, and rapid temperature changes. The ocean would become so unsettled that its surface would be impossible to locate exactly – survivors wouldn’t be able to tell where the stormy mist ended and the water began.
1. Magnets, How Do They Work
The hellish cataclysms of numbers 5 through 2 would kill most of the people and animals on Earth, but even if the planet slowed gradually to a stop and gave everyone ample warning, we would still have gigantic problems to deal with. If the Earth did not spin, its magnetic field would no longer be regenerated and would decay to a very low, residual force. The northern lights would disappear, and the Van Allen radiation belts would vanish. Worse yet, so would our protection from cosmic rays and other high-energy particles. That would create a bio-hazard that would make the Chernobyl meltdown seem like a mildew attack.