|What would happen if all convection currents on
|Question Date: 2017-01-30|
If all convection currents on Earth stopped that
would be a natural disaster. The amount of
heat which the sun radiates at us sets the
temperature of the Earth's surface. If it weren't
for convection, then the North and South poles
would be even colder and the equator even hotter.
Oceanic currents like the Gulf Stream bring warm
water further north, and currents like the
California current bring cold water towards the
equator. So if convection completely stopped
the high and low temperatures would force people
and animals to move away from the poles and
Most of the rocks in the earth convect at a
large scale. Even though they are solid they
can still move slowly, a little like putty.
Convection can even help form large islands like
Hawaii and Samoa in the Pacific Ocean. If the
rocks stopped flowing inside the Earth we would
eventually not have any new volcanoes on islands
If all the convective currents stopped, Earth
would become a very different place than we know
it today. If Earth had no convective currents,
that would mean the inner Earth has solidified,
therefore, we would not have plate tectonics.
Our Earth’s crust is made up of plates of varying
sizes that move very slowly around the planet over
time, this theory is called Plate
Tectonics. Plate tectonics create many of the
geologic features we see on Earth today, such as
volcanoes and mountain ranges. These geologic
features play a huge role in regulating the
earth’s climate; if these features ceased to
exist, our climate would become intolerable to
life. We humans would not be able to exist.
Eventually the landscape would flatten out from
the simultaneous lack of mountain building from
colliding tectonic plates and from erosion of
existing mountain ranges. The planet would
likely become desert-like. Even scarier is
that, chaotic convective motions in the outer core
of Earth are what maintain our magnetic
field! If these convective motions were to
stop, we would loose our magnetic field, which is
our ultimate protection from the sun’s harmful
radiation (this is what causes sunburns), as our
ozone layer (the layer of our atmosphere that
protects Earth from the sun’s ultraviolet
radiation) would deteriorate.
That's not possible, but if somehow, magically, it
did, then anybody not living in a desert would be
baked to death by the greenhouse effect (because
water vapor is a greenhouse gas). There would
be no more weather. Plate tectonics and
volcanoes would also stop.
First let's identify the main convection
currents on the earth. Convection is the
circulation (and mixing) of gases or liquid.
On earth, this happens in air (which causes our
weather), and in ocean currents. If for some
reason convection stopped, air would not
circulate, and weather would stop. Air wouldn't
flow over the waters, suck up moisture and then
rain it out on land. Without this rain, all
plants and crops would die. The movement of
weather systems is also how warm air at the
equator moves and gives heat to the poles.
Without the movement of this warm air, northern
countries like Canada would be even colder.
The movement of water in our oceans also pushes
warm water at the equator to the poles. These
water currents also move nutrients. Without the
convection of the oceans, and the currents to move
the nutrients, most of our marine animals and
plants would die.
It's a good thing we still have convection to keep
us all alive! This is a great example of a
simple scientific principle can explain some big
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