Earth becoming unstable?

I saw the news today, oh boy… oops, sorry about that. I read the account of another earthquake today and I began to wonder: have any studies been done about what is happening to the planet due to the increasing mass of humanity? I don’t mean the environment, just the sheer weight of lots and lots of humans. I seem to remember a discussion with a friend a long time ago on this subject, and he stated that the earth’s ecosystem was a closed loop and that all the consequences offset each other, or something like that (dang, that was a bunch of years back, okay?) Has anyone seen any studies along these lines?

Don’t know of any off-hand but this would sure go a lot faster over in General Questions.

Okay…Eutychus55, will you please move this to General Questions, as suggested by funneefarmer?


Saint Eutychus

Errr… Nothing is happening to the Earth from a standpoint of geologic stability due to the increasing mass of humans. Why? Cause the mass was here in the first place. We just converted it from random plants, minerals and water into people. Besides, the mass is tiny. Even if you counted the weight of the infrastructure (i.e. cities and houses) that we build around ourselves, it’s still pretty minuscule compared to the weight of the landmass.

The increase in human beings does not cause the Earth to get heavier. The molecules of your body are and always have been part of the Earth and always will be unless you fly into space, never to return. The only way the Earth could get more massive would be if something fell on it from space. Meteoric dust and ice and other debris are falling on the Earth, but the amount is so tiny, it’s negligible.

This is a good place to remind everyone that the Leonid meteor shower takes place next week on the 17th and 18th. And while it should look spectacular, remember that all you’re seeing is specks of material no bigger than grains of sand. But they light up so brightly because they’re moving through the atmosphere so fast, more than 30,000 MPH, IIRC.

And as far as earthquakes are concerned, I read an article a couple of months ago in the Orange County Register that pointed out that we’ve actually had fewer major earthquakes this year than last. The worst year this century for earthquakes was 1944 or '45. Of course, World War 2 dominated the news then. If anyone wants to know more, I could get that article tomorrow and quote from it. (I kept it because some folks think earthquakes are a sign that Jesus is returning. I wanted to refute them.)

Fighting my own ignorance since 1957.

Finagle beat me by five minutes.

Fighting my own ignorance since 1957.

Well, OK, but everbody don’t just rush off to Waikiki at the same time. It might just unbalance things and get the earth to wobbling too much for the good of its orbit. Then communication satellites might get confused and people wouldn’t then be able to watch so much TV, and then they’d all get on the Net, and the Net would then get even more unbalanced than the people who are already here on it. . .I theenk.

TILT! Who said that?

Thanks, folks; that’s essentially what my friend pointed out to me a long time ago, but I just forgot the reasoning. So I guess what it boils down to is that as the planet humanity mass increases, something’s got to give, like resources to sustain the life forces…oh yeah, now I remember the Malthusian Doctrine!

Plus: There aren’t really any more or less earthquakes than there used to be. There are more seismic stations, more people living near tectonic plate boundaries, and more instantaneous and sensational news coverage. Bottom line: it only appears that there are more earthquakes these days.

(Also, when two totally unrelated EQ’s occur coincidentally on opposite parts of the globe within a couple of weeks of each other, typically science-ignorant media types are sure that it’s gotta mean something and it thus gets even more press.)

It is true (or theorized) that seismic activity is one of the factors contributing to the excitation of the Chandler wobble of the earth’s orbit. It’s controversial, but anyone got any better theories about why the wobble doesn’t dissipate over time?

Back in the 60’s, we scared ourselves silly reading Edgar Cayce’s books about earth changes. (As if there wasn’t already enough in the 60’s to scare us.)

It’s accepted (isn’t it?) that some desert areas used to be seas, and vice versa (fossil records and such show that), but I wonder if the scientists accept Cayce’s statements that the magnetic poles have changed several times.

I guess I figure the earth (at least the crust part) has always been unstable.

And Yellowstone? What the heck is that about? That place is downright frightening.

I’ve seen magnetic field reversals presented as established fact quite a few times, though as far as I know geophysists aren’t quite sure WHY this happens.

I post this solely for your amusement:

is a site devoted to something called the HAB theory, which as nearly as I can determine has to do with how polar ice caps have caused the Earth’s spin axis to change. Well, maybe not the spin axis itself, but the orientation of the continents with respect to the spin axis.

You know, I should disclaim that even more strongly: I do not believe in the HAB theory in the least. In particular, consider that at one point it’s implied that the equatorial bulge… some 26 miles of rock, situated EXACTLY where it’s got the most effect on the moment of inertia… is an insignificant stabilizing factor, but that the polar ice caps… a couple of miles of ice, at the point where it’s got the LEAST effect on the moment of inertia, and more or less symmetrically distributed about the spin axis anyway… is a DEstabilizing factor of epic proportions.

With so many earth-shaking posts to this MB, the earth will never lose its wobble.


AuntiePam said:

“It’s accepted (isn’t it?) that some desert areas used to be seas, and vice versa (fossil records and such show that), but I wonder if the scientists accept Cayce’s statements that the magnetic poles have changed several times.”

Geoscientist accept that the magnetic poles have changed several times, but Cayce had nothing to do with it. Magnetic anomalies were first noticed by geophysicists in the 1950’s. Fred Vine and Drummond Matthews (Cabridge U.) described these in their 1963 treatise that defined modern plate tectonics. We’ve recognized periodic magnetic reversals for some time–why they happen, though, is still very much uncertain.

Also, like she mentioned, deserts have been seas and vice versa–but no Cayce-esque catastrophism is required to explain it: I again draw your attention to Vine and Matthews’ 1963 magnum opus! (e.g., shed sediments into an ocean basin, collide a continent or contiental fragment which scoops up the seds, folds them into a mountain range, and dumps them onto the continent, erode down the mountains, change the climate… viola! Seas turned to deserts over a mere 200-300 million year span!) Of course, that’s not to say that catastrophic deserts-turning-to-seas hasn’t happened (if not infrequently): consider the Mediteranean basin… a desert a mere 6 million years ago!

As for Yellowstone: be afraid! Yellowstone sits over an anomalously hot area of the mantle (a “hot spot”, like Hawai’i), which sits and stews and generates magma for long periods of time (10+ million years and counting). There’s still loads of magma under the park and more being created all the time–it’s just a matter of time before we see another BIG eruption (as in, bigger than we’ve seen for all of recorded history) which could have catastrophic effects on global climate (cooling), not to mention the residents of Wyoming, Montana, Idaho,…

(Calderas are the types of volcanic systems I study, BTW, hence my handle.)


Pantellerite, I’d bet that you laughed out loud at movies like Volcano and Dante’s Peak. (A volcano in the La Brea Tar Pits??? Puh-leeeze!!)

Minor correction to my earlier post: 1943 was the most active year for earthquakes in this century, with 41 temblors registering 7.0 or higher. The last year we had even 30 big 'quakes was 1968. This year, counting the most recent one in Turkey: 12.

If anything, the Earth is getting quieter. But the doomsayers don’t wanna hear that.

(The article I’ve quoted was published 10-5-99 in the Orange County Register. It was also publihed in the New York Times. Might still be on their websites. I’d look it up now, but I gotta go home. :()

Fighting my own ignorance since 1957.

jab: “Volcano” made me laugh… but I haven’t yet brought myself to be able to watch “Dante’s Peak” (outrunning a pyroclastic flow? spinning tires in a lava flow? Rumors like these have continued to keep me away… give me a good film of Krafft footage anyday!)

Your info is correct. Those scenes actually do appear in Dante’s Peak.

Who’s Krafft?

Fighting my own ignorance since 1957.

Maurice and Katia Krafft were a husband-wife team of volcanologists whose life mission was to document on film every volcanic eruption they could. I’m just spouting off guesstimates here (a SWAG, if you will–SCIENTIFIC wild-ass guess): but I’d be willing to bet that more than half of the pre-1991 volcano-erupting footage you see on the Discover Channel, et al., were shot by the Kraffts; they documented almost 150 eruptions in approximately 25 years.

You may’ve noticed my extensive use of the past tense in the preceeding paragraph. Unfortunately, the Kraffts (and 30-something others) were killed by a volcanic surge during the June 3, 1991, eruption of Unzen in Japan a few weeks before Pinatubo erupted. Killed in an eruption, I should add, just as they predicted they someday would. (“I’d be dissapointed if I didn’t”, I believe is a quote attributed to Maurice regarding the possibility.)