It even caused sea levels to rise.
Over less than 20 years, humans extracted so much groundwater that it changed the tilt of the entire planet and even caused sea levels to rise, a new study suggests.
Published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, a new study by a team of researchers at South Korea's Seoul National University suggests that the massive amounts of water pumped out of the ground between 1993 and 2010 literally shifted our planet's poles.
Specifically, the researchers found that the Earth tilted almost 31.5 inches in those years.
This process is known as "polar motion," and occurs, per a press release, when the Earth's rotational pole changes relative to its crust.
The research highlights just how much of an impact human activity can have on the planet and how there are many different factors that contribute to sea level rise.
As geophysicist and research leader Ki-Weon Seo explained in the statement, "Earth’s rotational pole actually changes a lot" — and, per this new study, "the redistribution of groundwater actually has the largest impact on the drift of the rotational pole."
It wasn't until 2016 that scientists even discovered water's ability to change Earth's poles by raising sea levels— a finding that helped explain why our planet's poles wander.
In the intervening years, however, groundwater extraction had not been isolated when studying this effect until now.
First, the geophysicists at the University of Seoul took data from initial climate models to look only at how much water shifted from the melting of major ice structures like ice sheets and glaciers, and then added in various levels of groundwater extraction.
For their model, the researchers considered that humans had pumped a whopping 2,150 gigatons of water from the ground between 1993 and 2010 which led to six millimeters of sea level rise, something that scientists had previously estimated.
"I’m very glad to find the unexplained cause of the rotation pole drift," Seo said in the press release. "On the other hand, as a resident of Earth and a father, I’m concerned and surprised to see that pumping groundwater is another source of sea-level rise."
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