What Would Happen if the Earth Stopped Spinning?

What would happen to us if the Earth suddenly stopped rotating? Would we be thrown off it, or would our lives even be affected at all by the change? ScienceStruck explains exactly what will happen in this case.
ScienceStruck Staff
Last Updated: Feb 26, 2018
Relax, it's not happening!
The rotation of the Earth is slowing down over time, due to being tidally locked with the Moon. But the reduction is extremely slow. In the last 100 years, an average day has shortened by 1.7 milliseconds. Though that may sound scary, let me assure you that more than 2000 milliseconds may have gone in the short time in which you took a breath! So while the Earth is actually slowing down, it will take a millennium for it to slow down by even a single second!
So, all in all, this is a purely hypothetical discussion. But it's an interesting one, it must be said!

The fundamental question is why does the Earth even spin in the first place? This question is a tough cracker, and has no irrefutable answer. Earth was created in a dust cloud billions of years ago, and the only plausible answer is that it is spinning because it has no external resistance. It had been spinning when it was formed, and since nature is extremely lazy (in scientific terms, it tries to maintain inertia), the Earth had no reason to stop spinning.
If the Earth stopped by gradually slowing down and coming to a halt over billions of years, the effects wouldn't be felt as drastically, since the conditions would have adapted to the intermediate steps. This is actually a mathematical certainty, although, it will take more time than the age of the universe to occur. On the other hand, if the Earth suddenly stopped spinning due to some unforeseeable reason (Kryptonian rebels would be the best guess), the effects will be much more immediate and deadly.
What Would Happen if the Earth Stopped Rotating?
We Would Be Launched Eastward
boy flying
The Earth rotates at a speed of 1,040 mph at the Equator. Since the speed is constant, Earth is static from our inertial frame of reference. So, as long as Earth keeps spinning at the constant speed, the incredible speed doesn't affect us.
If Earth suddenly stopped rotating about its own axis, the momentum of it would propel everything on the surface of the Earth at the supersonic speed of its rotation. Think of the unfortunate situation when you had to brake your car in an emergency, and you didn't have your seat belt on. Since the Earth spins towards the East (that's why the Sun rises to the East), we would be thrown towards the East, along with cars, buildings, animals, and water from the oceans.
A Day and Night Cycle Would Take A Year
earth sipping lemonade
Right now, the Earth spins approximately 365 times during one revolution around the Sun. If the rotations were to stop, the same side would face the Sun for 6 months, before moving into 6 months of night. Temperatures in the half that is facing the Sun would soar to incredible heights, whereas the other half will be icy cold. This would cause probably-irreparable changes to the wildlife on the planet, and make human survival much more challenging.
A common and understandable misunderstanding in this matter is, the Earth would become tidally locked with the Sun. Many think that if the Earth stopped spinning, one half of it would be in constant daylight, and the other would always be in the dark. However, this implies that the planet is rotating. For one half of the Earth to always be illuminated, the Earth would have to be tidally locked with the Sun. If the period of a celestial body's rotation and revolution (around another body) are the same, the two bodies are said to be tidally locked. The Moon, for instance, is tidally locked with the Earth, which is why we can't see the other side of the Moon. However, the Moon does rotate around its own axis while it revolves around the Earth. Since the time taken for the Moon to rotate around itself and revolve around the Earth is virtually the same, only one side of the Moon is constantly visible from Earth.
tidally locked planet
The following diagrams illustrate both these scenarios. In the first one, the orientation of the planet has changed, as can be seen from the arrows, implying rotation. In the first figure, the same half receives sunlight, since the tidally locked planet IS rotating. On the other hand, in the second one, the orientation remains the same while the planet is revolving around the Sun. As can be seen in the second figure, different halves of the Earth would receive sunlight if it stopped spinning.
revolving without rotation
Earth Would Become A Perfect Sphere
perfectly spherical earth
Though it is usually displayed as a perfect sphere, Earth is actually slightly bulged at the Equator and flattened at the poles. This is caused by the Earth's rotation, which is the most influential at the Equator. If the spinning stopped, the poles would 're-inflate', and the Earth would become a perfect sphere.
Earth Would Lose Its Tilt
tilt of the earth
Earth is vertically tilted at an angle of 23°. This causes the various seasons, since the Northern and Southern hemispheres are always at slightly differing distances from the Sun. Thus, when the Northern hemisphere is tilted towards the Sun, it experiences Summer, and vice versa.

The tilt is defined by the rotation with respect to the revolution around the Sun. The loss of rotation would result in a loss of seasons.
Oceans Would Shift
The present geography and hydrology of the Earth is defined to a large degree by the bulge around the Equator. If the bulge was negated, the land-ocean divide would look much different than it does now. A prominent prediction is that the water will move to the polar areas, while the land will be seen in the equatorial region.
We Could All Die
No, really. Earth's magnetosphere, which protects us from the harmful solar radiation, is thought to be generated by the Earth's rotation. If that is indeed correct, the sudden loss of the rotational energy would cause the magnetosphere to decay. This would leave all life on Earth almost inevitably susceptible to solar winds.
Earth's rotation is surprisingly crucial for our survival. If the Earth suddenly stopped spinning, the effects would be catastrophic. Good thing it isn't going to happen anytime soon, then!
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