MadSci Network: Environment & Ecology

Re: As the moons orbit increases will our oceans die due to gravity changes

Date: Sun Nov 5 16:18:18 2000
Posted By: Adams Douglas, Senior Developer
Area of science: Environment & Ecology
ID: 972035712.En

The Moon moves slowly away from the earth due to tidal drag; as the moon raises tides on the Earth's surface, the Earth's rotation carries the tidal bulges ahead of the sublunar points. The fractional lateral pull on these tidal bulges by the Moon's gravity accelerates the Moon in its orbit, which causes the radius of the Moon's orbit to increase. Conservation of angular momentum also causes the Earth to slow down

Over time the Earth's rotation will slow sufficiently to be the same period as the then-more-distant Moon's revolution about the Earth. That is, the Day and Month will be the same length and the tidal drag effect will no longer occur. Earth's rotation will be "tidally locked" to the Moon, just as the Moon is to us now. There will be no further ocean tides. This will take many tens of millions of years, so evolution will have plenty of time to adapt life to the changing conditions. Gravity itself will remain unchanged.

Satellite studies recently discovered that about one-quarter of the energy of tidal drag also stirs the deep oceans. Since the moon used to be much closer to Earth, with much stronger tidal force, this stirring may have affected the climate and contibuted to the evolution of life. This effect will gradually decrease as the Moon moves away from Earth. What changes this will have on climate will be hard to predict, but presumably we'll have plenty of time to figure it out.

-Adams Douglas

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