If The Earth Were To Stop Orbiting …

Andrew Sullivan —  Jan 6 2015 @ 8:19am

… we would slowly fall into the sun. Aatish Bhatia provides a timeline. Here’s what Day 35 would look like:

It’s been over a month of Earthfall, and we’re now 20% of the way to the Sun. The Sun in unbearably bright and intense, and noticeably larger in the sky. At 58 C (137 F), the average global temperature now exceeds the historic hottest temperature recorded on Earth, which was 56.7 C (134 F) measured in Death Valley, CA.

For most people on the planet, it’s now impossible to stay alive without air conditioning, and the electricity infrastructure is either tapped out or failing. Forest fires are ravaging through the wilderness. Land animals that can’t burrow in to the soil to get respite from the heat are going extinct. The insects, too, are feeling the heat and dying out. The increasing water temperature will cause fish to start dying out, because warmer water holds less oxygen and more ammonia (which is toxic to fish), and because the entire marine food chain would be disrupted and collapsing.

It’s so hot that even the Saharan silver ant, one of the most heat resistant land animals on Earth, can no longer survive the heat (for it can stay alive up to 53.6 C). However, the Sahara desert ant is thriving – it can survive surface temperatures of up to 70 C. As scavengers, these ants feed on the corpses of other creatures that have died from the heat, and there’s now plenty of food to go around.

Update from a reader:

I’m sure I won’t be the only person to point this out, but I think the title “If The Earth Were To Stop Spinning …” is a bit misleading.  The hypothetical scenario that the post presents is where the speed of the Earth’s orbit around the Sun is reduced to zero, not if the Earth stops spinning around its own axis, which is what the title sounds like. Now, it wouldn’t work out so well for us either if the Earth stopped spinning around its axis, but at least it’s a different sort of problem.