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Climate change has been altering Earth ‘s poles since at least the 1990s, new research finds.
The planet’s spin on its axis is determined, in part, by the distribution of weight around the globe, in the same way the spin of a top is determined by its shape. Satellite data from 2002 and later had already shown that climate change is altering this weight distribution, largely because melting glaciers and ice sheets have caused the North and South poles to drift .
Scientists had also observed polar drift in the 1990s, but uncovering the cause of that drift was tricky, because there were no direct satellite observations of water distribution around the globe from that era. Now, researchers have compared possible scenarios of total water distribution around the world and found that the best explanation for the changes to the poles in the 1990s is human-caused climate change . Melting ice sheets, combined with groundwater pumping for agriculture, altered the water distribution on the planet enough to make the planet’s axis shift.
“The findings offer a clue for studying past climate-driven polar motion,” said study co-author Suxia Liu, a hydrologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. A changing axis
Earth’s axis […]