Sunday, March 26, 2023

The spinning of Earth's core may be slowing

| January 30, 2023 1:06 AM

Our second winter season arrived with much colder temperatures and windy conditions. Despite the recent snow, Coeur d’Alene’s January snowfall total will finish well below the normal of 21.4 inches. It’s also been very cold, as lows were down into the single digits early this week with highs near 20 degrees in the lower elevations. By the end of the week, temperatures should rebound into the 30s.

Our seasonal total for snow at Cliff’s station in northwestern Coeur d’Alene is over 56 inches for the 2022-23 season. The normal is 69.8 inches with a good chance of near-normal snowfalls for the rest of the season. Therefore, we’re still holding on to our seasonal snowfall forecast for Coeur d’Alene of between 80 and 85 inches.

Snowfall in the mountain locations has good despite the occasional rain earlier this month. At Silver Mountain, over 150 inches has been reported since the start of the season with approximately 6 feet on the ground at the summit. Over 250 inches of snow has fallen for the season at the summit of Lookout Pass with snow depths around 6 feet as of late last week. Snowfall totals have also been plentiful at Schweitzer as the summit is reporting a total near 200 inches for the season. Approximately 7 feet of snow is on the ground at the mountain’s summit location. Mount Spokane has around 6 feet of snow on the summit. More snow is expected in the mountains, which should make for some very good skiing and snowboarding.

As we head into the spring season, much of the western half of the country is expected to turn much drier and warmer than normal. The driest locations will extend from California eastward into the Rockies and southward into the central and southern U.S. Great Plains. However, our part of the country should have a spring season that is close to normal.

With the cooler sea-surface temperature La Niña falling apart and with the expected warmer waters in the south-central Pacific Ocean, the Inland Northwest may flip to the much warmer and drier side in the late spring and summer season once again.

On another note, according to research published in Nature Geoscience and other news outlets, the spin of our planet’s inner core may have slowed down over the past decades. They speculate that the slowing pace of the Earth’s inner core is now slightly slower than the 24-hour daily rotation. There is speculation that the slower rotational speed of the inner core could eventually change how rapidly the Earth spins and how the core will evolve over time.

The spinning of the inner core has been debatable. Some scientists believe that the inner core doesn’t spin at all. Others theorize that the spin of the Earth’s inner core follows a six-year or a 70-year cycle. Based on their current analysis, this type of event has happened many times in our planet’s long history. The published study indicated that scientists used a database of earthquakes, or seismic records from as early as the 1960s to determine the spin of the inner core.

The internal and external part of the Earth is composed of different layers. The top one, the crust, is our planet’s thin outer shell of rock. The crust sits on top of the mantle, which has a thickness of approximately 1,800 miles and makes up nearly 85% of the planet’s total volume.

The mantle is mostly solid and sits above the super-heating outer core layer that consists of a molten-metal ocean. Therefore, with deep drilling, temperatures get much hotter the farther down into the Earth’s crust. Also, the deepest hole ever drilled is known as the Kola Superdeep Borehole located on the Kola Peninsula in Russia. It took the Soviets nearly 20 years to drill down to a depth of 40,230 feet, only one-third of the way through the crust.

The Earth’s inner core is solid and hot with temperatures estimated to be over 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit, but scientists believe that the liquid portion of the outer core that surrounds the solid interior causes our planet’s magnetic field. This geomagnetic field extends into space and surrounds the planet and will often interact with the stream of charged particles from the sun. Life on this planet would likely not exist without this protective shield, as the charged particles would destroy or strip away the ozone layer that protects us from the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation.

The magnetic field also gives sky watchers a show of the northern lights, or the aurora borealis when the sun’s charged particles interact with the magnetic field. The incredible dancing waves of light have captivated people and there are occasions when we can see the lights in our region. However, despite the beauty, the collision has been described by scientists as a violent event.

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