An Earth spinning in the opposite direction would have very different atmospheric and ocean currents. Although the global mean temperature would remain almost the same, the major ocean currents would switch from the Atlantic to the Pacific, changing the planet’s climate drastically.
The result would be about a quarter of all deserts in Africa and Eurasia disappearing (being replaced by woodland or grassland). The Amazon basin would become an arid wasteland, the Russian steppes would be positively balmy, northwestern Europe would suffer extremely harsh winters, and the Atlantic sea ice would have a much greater southern extent. Although survivable, you might not recognise your particular spot on the planet!
- What would happen if all volcanoes on Earth erupted at once?
- The thought experiment: What would happen if the Earth stopped spinning?
- Why doesn’t Earth’s core melt the planet?
- How would our Solar System be different if Jupiter had been big enough to be a star?
Asked by: Roy Young, Leeds
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- This article first appeared in issue 372 of BBC Science Focus Magazine – find out how to subscribe here