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In a new study, scientists from the University of Oslo say one side of Earth’s interior is losing heat much faster than the other side—and the culprit is practically as old as time.
The research, published in Geophysical Research Letters, uses computer models of the last 400 million years to calculate how “insulated” each hemisphere was by continental mass, which is a key quality that holds heat inside instead of releasing it. The pattern goes all the way back to Pangaea.
Earth has a red hot liquid interior that warms the entire planet from inside. It spins, too, generating both gravity and Earth’s magnetic field. This holds our protective atmosphere close to Earth’s surface.
Over the extremely long term, this interior will continue to cool until Earth is more like Mars. The surprise in the new study is how unevenly the heat is dissipating, but the reason makes intuitive sense: Parts of Earth have been insulated by more landmass, creating something of a Thermos layer that traps heat.