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Groundwater extraction affected Earth’s rotation: Study

  • Published
    20th Jun, 2023

A recent study has highlighted that, the Groundwater pumped up from the earth and moved elsewhere for humans activities, resulted in the earth’s axis tilting nearly 80 cm to the east.

  • Scientists estimated that nearly 2,150 billion tonnes of groundwater have been pumped and drained into the oceans.

Highlights of the study:

  • Background: 
    • A study published in 2016, showed that the movement of water around the world contributed to the wobble in the earth’s axis.
    • But the role of groundwater hadn’t been considered before.
  • However the recent study found that nearly 2,150 billion tonnes of groundwater has been pumped and drained into the oceans in 1993-2010, making it one of the important contributors to global sea-level rise.
  • The earth’s rotational pole tends to vary in a circular pattern several meters wide every year due to the weather, seasonal changes, the molten core, and even powerful hurricanes.  
  • The scientists also mentioned that the location of groundwater depletion is important to identify the extent of tilt.
  • Using this model, they found that pumping groundwater from mid-latitude areas would impact the drift the most. 
  • They also found that the most amount of groundwater redistribution took place in northwest India and western North America, both situated at mid-latitudes.

Earth’s rotation and tilt:

  • Earth is tilted on a 23.5° axis relative to our orbit around the sun. 
  • Because of this tilt, we are able to experience winter, autumn, summer and spring
  • The earth’s rotational pole is the point along which the planet rotates
  • This point, which lies on the axis of rotation of the planet, moves in a process called polar motion. 
  • In other words, the location of the earth’s pole varies relative to the earth’s crust.

Status of India’s groundwater profile:

  • Groundwater depletion has been a particular concern across India since the last decade. 
  • About 95% of India’s groundwater depletion was traced to north India where groundwater is primarily used for irrigation
  • Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, and western Uttar Pradesh have critical groundwater levels due to the indiscriminate use of groundwater.
  • Rajasthan and Gujarat have low groundwater levels due to arid climate. 
  • Groundwater availability is also low in parts of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and Andhra Pradesh due to the crystalline nature of the aquifers found here.

Effects of Earth-tilted axis:

  • Earth's axial tilt is responsible for the ‘formation of seasons’
  • When a hemisphere is tilted towards the sun, that region receives more sunlight and becomes warmer, while the hemisphere that is tilted away receives less solar energy and is cooler.


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