MOLINE, Ill. — Falling leaves, snow, rain and human activity build upon the Earth. Could this mean that Earth's diameter is actually growing and our beloved planet is getting bigger? That's our topic for this "Ask Andrew" segment.
"Has the Earth's diameter increased over the last 500,000 years due to leaves and new ground clutter, and will it increase in the next 500,00 years? How much does it change?" - Ed B.
It's a valid question given how much we see our landscape change from day to day. However, it all boils down to the give and take involving our atmosphere.
Earth is constantly gaining and losing mass, or weight. Our atmosphere is leaky and as many of us can personally attest to, oftentimes takes on new mass, like meteors drifting in from space, while taking away gas molecules from Earth. It's another balancing act, just like with the weather.
We do know that the planet does change shape quite frequently, but, using sophisticated equipment, scientists have been able to confidently conclude that the planet itself isn't growing and shrinking, at least in a very noticeable way.
This particular group of scientists used equipment including satellites, GPS systems, and doppler oritography to measure any potential changes in the Earth's radius.
What about all that matter, including leaves, and buildings that we have erected? Well, this one is a bit more complex to explain, so stick with me.
The ground is constantly changing from day to day. While leaves falling from trees may add to the ground's overall diameter, we have to keep in mind that the amount of ground cover on this planet is huge, and not everyone is seeing leaves fall off of the trees at the same time. Also, rain, wind, and other factors with storms traversing the planet can also impact the diameter of ground cover at any given time!
Also, keep in mind that everything we are building, in terms of homes, or any other physical product here is made with resources that were already present on the planet itself. We are not "adding" anything more to what was already here, we are just simply "relocating" resources. After all, you can't just pull something out of thin air. It has to exist in some form, to begin with.
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