The Earth spins at roughly 1,000 miles per hour (1600km per hour), and is essential in creating the world we live in. The spinning often goes unthought about, because we are unaware of it – we have never known life without it. But what would happen if the word stopped, and stood still in space? Would we notice, survive, or even thrive? Is there a difference between a sudden stop, or a gradual one?
The sudden stopping of the Earths rotation is probably less likely to happen than a gradual stop (although both are extremely unlikely). However, if the Earth was to suddenly stop spinning, everything that isn’t secured down very tightly would be thrown in a Eastward direction (the direction of the Earths rotation) at about 1,000mph. The force alone of this would kill everyone and everything outright. The world as we know it would be nothing more than a pike of dust, soil and rubble. You would never even know it happened, or what how the world would change. This wouldn’t happen if the spinning gradually slowed down though.
The Earth takes 23 hours and 56 mins (which we round up to 24 hours) to do 1 complete rotation on its axis, which represents a day. An orbit around the Sun takes 365 days, and that makes our year. Without the 24 hour rotation of our planet, the only influence of which side of our planet is exposed to the sun is our orbit around the Sun. This means our day length would be 6 months, and our night would be 6 months. The impact on the climate would be massive – with half the world being continuously scorched, and the other plunged into darkness and cold.
The rotation of all planets causes them to slightly bulge around the equator. Saturn for example, is about 10% wider at its equator than it is high, and this is because of the centrifugal force of its rotation. Earth is 0.3% (or about 43km) wider than it is tall. If the Earth stopped spinning the bulge around the equator would gradually disappear. The loss of this bulge would cause the oceans and seas to shift dramatically. In fact, the oceans would divide to the poles, and create one massive super continent across the equator, with 2 oceans to the North and South. Esri created an image of what this would look like:
No. Even if the Earth was to gradually slow down, the impact of the Earth stopping spinning on the climate would be too large. The vast majority of plants would die very quickly, either from the lack of sun and heat, or too much. As most of the life on land survives on plant life (either by eating it, or eating animals that eat it), food would become extremely rare. Much of the sea life will die out too, because most marine creatures live close to the cost. With the equatorial coasts vanishing, and the Northern/ Southern coasts deepening, the marine life would suffer dramatically. It may not all die out, but what we consider ‘food’ would almost certainly die.
Additionally.we would be exposed to sun for 6 months non-stop, followed by 6 months of complete darkness. The human body would be unable to cope with this, and disease and illness would spread rapidly. Physically, mentally, and nutritionally degraded – the human race would soon die out if the Earth stopped spinning.