Tilting Earth

Published: Wednesday 15 March 2000

A new study of undersea volcanoes in the Pacific says that the Earth may have suddenly tilted on its axis by up to 20C about 84 million years ago. Geologists have traced the slow wander of the Earth's magnetic poles across its surface by examining the magnetic record laid down in lava. Generally, the movement of the poles -- which is thought to reflect the crust and mantle slipping over the metallic core -- is slow. However, the study says that the movement was more than 10 times as fast for around two million years. "Most of the plate motions around the globe seem to have been changing," says Will Sager of the University of Texas, USA, who did the study ( New Scientist , Vol 165, No 2223).

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