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Name: Renate
Status: educator
Grade: 6-8
Location: GA
Country: USA
Date: Fall 2011

If Earth's rotation were to increase, would that have an affect on the general temperature of Earth? Would Earth get cooler since it would not have as much time to heat up the surface before it cools down again at night?

Dear Renate,

I am sorry to say you seem to have a critical error in your thinking.

Although the earth spinning faster would mean that any part of the surface spends less time in the sun each day, it would also spend less time in darkness before coming back into sunlight the next morning. In other words, no matter what the speed of rotation, (and disregarding the effects of polar tilt) half the time is spend in sunlight, and half in dark.

There may be other effects, such as an increase in general wind speeds, and some loss of atmosphere from centrifugal forces.

Nigel Skelton

An interesting and complex question!

According to work by several scientists, the earth spun faster and had shorter days, when it was younger and has slowed down over the last 400 million years or so. During that time, Earth's temperature changed often and over a wide range. That tells us that, whatever the speed of Earth's rotation does to temperature, other things are far more important or powerful.

As a guess, I would say there would be no change. Shorter days also mean shorter nights. Since the Earth loses a lot of heat at night, I would think the less solar energy absorbed during the day would be balanced by less energy being lost at night.

Sorry I cannot give you a more firm answer. Earth's temperature is controlled by many factors that it is hard to measure just the effect of the rotation.

R. W. Avakian

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