If somehow we were to move the Earth's axis of rotation to, say, Mexico, making some spot in Mexico effectively the North Pole, would this change how the continental plates drift over time, thereby changing the shape of a World Map a hundred million years from now (as compared to how that map would look had we not changed the axis)?

I'm wondering about the effects of so called centrifugal forces and so on, or any other effects I might not be thinking of.

  • $\begingroup$ I doubt it. Tectonic plates are not decoupled from the mantle or just floating above it. Their motion is driven by subduction (slab pull) and mantle convection. $\endgroup$ – Jean-Marie Prival Dec 10 '20 at 9:48
  • $\begingroup$ They are much too slow for centrifugal forces. $\endgroup$ – Keith McClary Dec 10 '20 at 23:39
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    $\begingroup$ this is a lovely question don't only think of centrifugal force, and regarding the crust of the Earth if it is floating or not over mantle... You don't actually know what tectonic plates do @Jean-MariePrival... There is a list of discontinuities in the inside of the Earth... for example en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lehmann_discontinuity or en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mohorovi%C4%8Di%C4%87_discontinuity. This does not mean that you have a gap there... But is is something different that could behave differently. The inner core is solid and a superconductor... $\endgroup$ – user19169 Dec 13 '20 at 14:49
  • $\begingroup$ @Jean-MariePrival example of superconductivity... e.g. youtube.com/watch?v=l0jEbWfFAXU. Not to mention that some regions of our Earth has larger quantities of minerals that are by nature permanently magnetized. We actually don't "exactly" know what happens inside Earth, we only have some "hints" to create a model. $\endgroup$ – user19169 Dec 13 '20 at 14:50

This is an idea that we can consider "wild". Or even better, untamed. Every then and now there are researchers trying to address the questions, but the proof have not been conclusive up to now (as far as I know).

If you have sufficient knowledge, you may try to go through this peer-reviewed paper Riguzzi et al, (2009) Can Earth's rotation and tidal despinning drive plate tectonics? https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0040195109003321#!

It has been cited 67 times, which is a small number, but not negligible. I would say your question at the moment has only a possible answer: maybe.

But it is a good question and maybe someone can provide a better answer!


Changes in axial tilt on out planet occur but during a very large time-frame.

What you are referring to is the Pole Shift Hypothesis and it is very improbable to happen (very wild scenario) in the near and not so near future.

But to answer your question, in case of a sudden event of axial tilt, tectonic movement would occur (and not only).

It would probably be a most catastrophic event that would include:

  • large cracks in Earth's crust
  • tectonic movement that would create:
    • vast volcanic eruptions
    • extremely powerful earthquakes

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