Oceanic Effects on Earth's Rotation Rate

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Science  11 Sep 1998:
Vol. 281, Issue 5383, pp. 1623-1624
DOI: 10.1126/science.281.5383.1623

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Changes in the mass distribution of water in Earth's oceans in turn leads to variations in its angular momentum. In his Perspective, Wilson discusses results presented in the same issue by Marcus et al. in which techniques of radio astronomy were used to measure changes in Earth's angular momentum. The variations were observed by measuring changes in the length of day, and therefore Earth's rotation rate. Measurements such as these may serve as an indicator of oceanic behavior, much as other indices are used to keep track of atmospheric climate.