Study Finds Groundwater Pumping Has Altered Earth’s Spin

The Earth is tilting as the result of human interference.

According to a study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters titled “Drift of Earth’s Pole Confirms Groundwater Depletion as a Significant Contributor to Global Sea Level Rise 1993–2010,” Earth has tilted 31.5 inches in less than two decades.

Photo: SpaceX/Pexels

The reason for the tilt? Pumping groundwater.

The study notes that pumping Earth’s groundwater can change the planet’s tilt and rotation, and that’s exactly what’s happened over the past two decades.

According to Science Alert, Ki-Weon Seo, a geophysicist at Seoul National University and study lead, said: “Earth’s rotational pole actually changes a lot. Our study shows that, among climate-related causes, the redistribution of groundwater actually has the largest impact on the drift of the rotational pole.”

Photo: Leonhard Lenz/Wikimedia Commons

Back in 2016, NASA published a study that showed how a distribution of water can change the Earth’s rotation.

This new study builds upon that realization by adding hard figures on how water distribution is impacting the earth.

Pumping the groundwater was also shown to lead to ocean levels rising. The water that’s pumped is largely used for irrigation and human use, and it eventually ends up in the oceans.

Photo: Pexels/Tiago Cardoso

Further research will need to be done on how further groundwater pumping will impact the earth and sea levels. According to, Seo said: “Observing changes in Earth’s rotational pole is useful for understanding continent-scale water storage variations.”

According to, Surendra Adhikari, a research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said: “This is a nice contribution and an important documentation for sure. They’ve quantified the role of groundwater pumping on polar motion, and it’s pretty significant.”

Researchers and conversationists can use the information to possibly help slow climate change and sea-level rise.

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