Two More Earth's Chandler Wobble Jumps Revealed, Last in 2005

Sep 02, 2009 by Lin Edwards weblog
Earth

(PhysOrg.com) -- The Chandler Wobble is a small variation in the rotation of the Earth on its axis. It has been known for some time that the phase of the Chandler Wobble jumped by 180 degrees in the 1920s, but a new study by scientists at the Russian Academy of Sciences has found that the same thing also happened in 1850 and 2005. But no one knows why.

Any sphere that is not perfectly spherical has a slight wobble when it spins, rather like the effect you see as a spinning top is slowing down. The Earth's wobble was discovered in 1891 by an American astronomer called Seth Carlo Chandler, and is named after him. The Chandler Wobble is one of the main components of the movement of the Earth's axis of rotation relative to the surface of the Earth. Because the axis passes through the polar regions, this motion is also called Polar Motion.

The amplitude and phase of the Chandler Wobble change over time, which is widely believed to be caused largely by pressure fluctuations at the bottom of the oceans. The pressure changes result from currents, and variations in temperature and salinity. This theory explains small changes in phase and amplitude, but in the 1920s the Chandler Wobble phase suddenly jumped by 180 degrees, which cannot be explained by gradual variations in pressure.

Scientists working at the Central Astronomical Observatory in Pulkovo near St Petersburg recently analyzed all the data on the Earth's rotation provided by the IERS (International Rotation and Reference Systems service). The period of available data covered the last 163 years.

The study looked for variations in the amplitude and phase of the Chandler Wobble. The results showed that the phase and amplitude often change by small amounts, but the scientists also discovered there were two other occasions when the phase jumped by 180 degrees: in 1850, and in 2005. A deep decrease in amplitude coincided with each phase jump.

The scientists, Zinovy Malkin and Natalia Miller were studying the anomalies in the Earth's , especially as seen by the moving at the poles, because understanding these anomalies could help us understand changes in the Earth's surface and interior and in the atmosphere and oceans. They used several methods of analysis to ensure their results were reliable, but they were not able to explain the reasons for the sudden dramatic changes in phase and amplitude.

More information: Chandler wobble: two more large phase jumps revealed, arxiv.org/abs/0908.3732

via MIT Technology Review

© 2009 PhysOrg.com

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User comments : 5

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Bob_B
4.7 / 5 (3) Sep 02, 2009
"the phase jumped by 180 degrees" What does this mean? 180 degrees being the opposite let me see, the phase stayed in place for an extra half cycle then resumed?

We didn't wobble for a half cycle?
IMPORTER50
1 / 5 (1) Sep 02, 2009
I would think a possible answer to the extreme increase in wobble is the combination of the standard causes along with volcanic activity, earth core activity, earthquake activity, moon phase, and other planets aligning in such a way as to increase their gravitational effect. Just a thought...
axemaster
1 / 5 (1) Sep 02, 2009
It must be the aliens. Gotta be.
NotAsleep
4 / 5 (4) Sep 02, 2009
Primary cause of earth wobble = excessive alcohol consumption. I'm pretty certain the last earth wobble was last Saturday night, with another one expected tomorrow night
googleplex
not rated yet Sep 11, 2009
I think the earths core is mostly iron. I recall that it is liquid and rotates at a different rate to the mantle and crust. I would think that the core has its own wobble or precession. To view the earth as one uniform solid is IMHO too simplistic.