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  Earth bulges at equator, flattens at poles

Earth bulges at equator, flattens at poles
ABC ONLINE 7/8/2002

The earth bulges more at the equator and is flatter at both the North and South Poles because of modifications in its gravitational pull, NASA has found.

It based its information on image data collected by the Topex/Poseidon satellite.

The researchers who operated the French-US ocean-observing satellite suggest that the gravitational pull of the ocean itself could be responsible for changing the overall shape of the earth.

Before 1998, the bulge at the equator seemed to be shrinking due to glacial shifts at the end of the last ice age.

"Whereas the rebound had been decreasing the bulge in the earth's gravity field at the equator, this recent phenomena is causing the bulge to increase," Christopher Cox, a research scientist at the US space agency's Goddard Space Flight Centre in Greenbelt, Maryland, said.

"The earth behaved much like putting your finger into a sponge ball and watching it slowly bounce back," he said.

Scientists suggest that shifts in the ocean tides, moving water from one pocket to another, are the most likely culprits for the change in the earth's shape, as bodies of water move closer to the equator.





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