Articles | Volume 17, issue 6
30 Jun 1999
30 Jun 1999

The influence of global warming in Earth rotation speed

R. Abarca del Rio

Abstract. The tendency of the atmospheric angular momentum (AAM) is investigated using a 49-year set of monthly AAM data for the period January 1949-December 1997. This data set is constructed with zonal wind values from the reanalyses of NCEP/NCAR, used in conjunction with a variety of operationally produced AAM time series with different independent sources and lengths over 1976-1997. In all the analyzed AAM series the linear trend is found to be positive. Since the angular momentum of the atmosphere-earth system is conserved this corresponds to a net loss of angular momentum by the solid earth, therefore decreasing the Earth rotation speed and increasing the length of day (LOD). The AAM rise is significant to the budget of angular momentum of the global atmosphere-earth system; its value in milliseconds/century (ms/cy) is +0.56 ms/cy, corresponding to one-third of the estimated increase in LOD (+1.7 ms/cy). The major contribution to this secular trend in AAM comes from the equatorial Tropopause. This is consistent with results from a previous study using a simplified aqua-planet model to investigate the AAM variations due to near equatorial warming conditions. During the same time interval, 1949-1997, the global marine + land-surface temperature increases by about 0.79 °C/cy, showing a linear correspondence between surface temperature increase and global AAM of about 0.07 ms per 0.1 °C. These results imply that atmospheric angular momentum may be used as an independent index of the global atmosphere's dynamical response to the greenhouse forcing, and as such, the length of day may be used as an indirect indicator of global warming.

Key words. Meteorology and atmospheric dynamics (general circulation) · Geodesy