(Submitted April 21, 1998)
I am reading Sobel's Longitude , and she speaks of
the Earth's rotation rate slowing as a result of tidal forces.
At what rate is the Earth's rotation slowing down? What will be
the result of this slowing, and how long will it take?
The interaction of the Moon and the tides is pumping angular momentum out
of Earth's spin and into the Moon's orbit.
Currently the day is lengthening by about 1.5-2 milliseconds per century.
This is thought to be higher than normal due to resonance frequencies in
the slosh time of the current configuration of oceans (which changes with
continental drift). If this were to continue forever, the Earth and Moon
would end up tidally locked so that they kept the same faces towards each
other throughout each day=month which would be about 50 of our current days
long. However, the Sun will expand and incinerate the Earth well before
for Ask an Astrophysicist
Questions on this topic are no longer responded to by the "Ask an Astrophysicist" service. See http://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/ask_astro/ask_an_astronomer.html
for help on other astronomy Q&A services.