Irrigation may be shifting Earth’s rotational axis

From 1993 to 2010, irrigation helped nudge the North Pole toward eastern Greenland

A photo of sprinklers watering crops.

Sprinklers water crops near Rio Vista, Calif. Similar irrigation around the world has pulled so much water out of the ground that Earth’s rotation might have shifted.

California Department of Water Resources

Runoff from irrigation has moved so much water from land to sea that Earth’s rotation might have measurably shifted.

Computer simulations suggest that from 1993 through 2010, irrigation alone nudged the North Pole by about 78 centimeters, researchers reported in the June 28 Geophysical Research Letters.