Every day, Earth spins on its axis. This rotation gives us day and night (but not our seasons – that’s due to the Earth 23.5° tilt in relation to the sun – sort of; see #8). But, what would happen if the Earth stopping spinning? Though it’s not possible – at least for billions of years – it’s interesting to think about what kind of cataclysmic events would occur without the balance of forces and Earth’s standard rotation. Super storms would be unleashed across every country on the planet, the oceans would redistribute, and new land masses would emerge while many existing land masses filled with cities and people would be drowned underwater. Utter chaos would descend upon the planet as nearly all organic life would be wiped out almost immediately. To make this situation seem less catastrophic, at least it’s good to know even if our planet does stop rotating, the sun will die out long before we stop spinning. Read on to find out what would happen to our planet in this list of 25 Catastrophic Scenarios That Would Take Place If The Earth Stopped Spinning.
We would go for one heck of a rollercoaster ride
Gravity keeps us firmly rooted to the planet’s surface, especially useful considering – if on the equator – Earth’s rotation shoots us through space at 1,040 miles per hour (1,674 kmh). Compare this to a transoceanic Boeing 777 which can only reach top speeds of 590 miles per hour. Thus, if the Earth stopped spinning, we would be hurtled sideways at 1,040 miles per hour.
But we wouldn't fly into space
Some science-fiction films would have us believe if the Earth stopped spinning we would be launched into space. Despite getting hurtled sideways, we would not fly off into space. Since Earth’s escape velocity is 25,020 miles per hour (40,000 kmh), we would not have enough speed – only moving at 1,040 mph – to leave the planet.
A global hurricane would destroy countless cities
But, since our atmosphere turns at the same speed, an abrupt stop would create a massively destructive hurricane over nearly our entire planet.
A global tsunami would roll in
Remember Newton’s First Law? An object in motion will remain in motion unless acted upon by an external force. Since our oceans are in constant movement as well, the momentum will hurl them around just like us, creating tsunamis that could reach over 17 miles (27.4 km) inland in less than a minute.
An earthquake would rock the world
The different forces acting on Earth are so perfectly balanced that we rarely experience or notice a change in them. When we do, natural disasters such as earthquakes happen. If our planet were to stop spinning, the delicate balance would be immediately disrupted and earthquakes would be triggered all over the planet.
Fires would ignite everywhere
The rapid change in wind speed and the development of hurricanes mentioned in #23 would create a force so strong fires would spontaneously ignite across the planet. (Think about how friction caused by rubbing two sticks together can cause a fire.)
GPS would be thrown off
Global positioning systems (GPS) use satellites loaded with intricate and elaborate calculations to determine the users’ location on Earth. If our globe stopped rotating, the specific calculations would be thrown off. Though it may not seem like a big deal for your inter-city trip to that fancy new restaurant, planes rely on GPS to get between airports. With GPS’ calculations thrown off, planes will shoot way off course, likely resulting in numerous crashes and fatalities.
The sky we see would be more static
If the Earth stopped spinning, most of what we see in the night sky would, too. The stars in the sky would appear to freeze in place, though we would still notice the other planets continuing their orbits.
The moon would eventually crash into Earth
The Moon is currently (slowly) drifting away from Earth. With the Earth stopped, the Moon would slowly drift closer to Earth until it impacts the planet many millions of years in the future.
One day would be a year long
Today, one day is equal to 23 hours and 56 minutes. If our planet was to stop spinning, the sun would stay over half of Earth for six months and the other half for six months, killing off most plant and animal life. That means a six-month-long day followed by a six-month-long night.
The poles would be mostly unscathed
Since Earth’s rotational velocity diminishes the further away one gets from the Equator, if the Earth stopped spinning, a polar bear or penguin standing on the North or South Pole would feel little disturbance. (Though #11 might prove being there to be a bad idea.)
Sunlight would be blocked from reaching Earth
Dust and debris shot into the atmosphere by a stopped-Earth would likely block out the sun, at least temporarily, as happens when volcanoes spew ash into the sky and as happened during the asteroid impact which killed off the remainder of the dinosaurs.
The sun's pattern would change
Without the Earth’s normal rotation, the sun would rise in the west and set in the east.
Earth would become a sphere
As it spins, Earth bulges out at the equator due to rotational velocity. If the Earth were to stop spinning, the 5 miles (8 km) of bulging oceans would redistribute over the planet, flooding many low-lying regions.
Oceans would redistribute
On a similar coin, since gravity is strongest at the poles, the oceans would concentrate around the North and South Poles, leaving behind one super-continent wrapping around Earth’s equator.
Wind patterns would change
Current wind systems move in parallel to the equator but would move from the equator to the poles if the Earth stopped spinning, massively altering weather patterns.
The oceans' surface would atomize
The rapidly moving wind systems would atomize the surface layer of any body of water, including oceans, creating a spray on the surface and waves that would overturn most if not all vessels.
Sea life would die off
The churning of the water would kill off any creature relying on air to breathe and would kill off any creature unable to survive on the low-oxygen water brought up from the cold depths.
Global temperatures would freefall
With our atmosphere largely covered by dust and debris, a dense fog would simultaneously settle over the colder ocean waters, causing temperatures to further drop.
We would be bombarded with radiation
Assuming the Earth’s core would simultaneously stop rotating, our planet’s magnetic field would cease to exist. Without this magnetic field, we would be vulnerable to all the host of space radiation that bombards our planet on a daily basis. The waves would irradiate us all and kill us instantly.
The northern lights would disappear
Also known as the Aurora Borealis, the northern lights would cease to exist without a magnetic field.
Seasons would cease to exist
Earth’s 23.5° tilt would disappear. The sun would still be strongest at the equator but we would have no seasons.
The sun would appear mostly stationary
If the Earth stopped rotating, we would see the sun increase or decrease in the sky only when changing our latitude.
Everyone would be dead
If it hasn’t become clear by now, nearly everyone and everything would die.
How to survive
But, even though the Earth won’t suddenly stop spinning, to have just a slight chance of surviving, be underground. Being underground and inland would shelter us from the hurricanes and tsunamis that would immediately erupt and would prevent the harmful radiation from reaching us. The problem is you may never be able to leave the underground again.