Do you remember that scene from Bruce Almighty where Bruce (Jim Carrey) lassos the moon and pulls it closer to Earth to impress his girlfriend Grace (Jennifer Anniston)? If you do, you might even remember the next scene which shows floods occurring in various parts of the world.
That depiction was quite on point, and it boggled many people who were troubled by questions like what would happen if the moon came so close to the Earth. Many wondered about the kind of havoc it would wreak and the way it would disrupt life back here.
If you too were puzzled by similar thoughts, you can look up to Neil Comins for answers.
The after-effects of the moon coming closer
Neil Comins (physicist at the University of Maine) told Live Science that if the moon suddenly comes close to Earth, it would cause dangerous floods. This is because the moon's gravitational pull at Earth controls the level of oceanic tides, resulting in two high and two low tides every day. So if the moon comes halfway close to Earth, these tides would be eight times higher. That means many islands would submerge in water, and many populated coastlines would be unlivable.
Citing an example, Comins said the moon's closeness would cause a gong-like effect. It would reverberate energy waves throughout the globe. Not only would it cause earthquakes, but also slow down Earth's spin. Describing the process, he said that when the moon's gravity pulls the Earth's oceans, the friction between the ocean floor and water slows down the planet.
Now, if the moon covers half the distance, this force will increase, and the speed of Earth will slow down further. Naturally, if Earth's spinning slows down, the day and night cycle will get hampered, and we will experience more solar eclipses.
Jazmin Scarlett (historical and social volcanologist at the Queen Mary University of London) agreed with Comins. She said that the increase in the gravitational pull would impact Earth's crust resulting in more volcanic eruptions.
Taking Jupiter's third-largest moon ‘Io’ as an example, Scarlett described how it experiences volcanic eruptions due to Jupiter and two of its other moons’ gravitational pull. She said the Earth might meet the same fate if the moon came halfway closer to it.
And what if the moon comes closer gradually instead of suddenly?
When asked what would happen if the moon moved towards us slowly rather than at once, Scarlett said it would give us time to adapt to the situation. She said all the things we talked about would happen gradually, and Earthlings would have time to process them. Comins, on the other hand, decided to visualize the situation.
He said if a huge object passed through the Earth-moon system, it would draw the moon's energy, causing it to spiral towards us. He said when such an object passes through the right place at the right time, it will push the moon further towards Earth. But, the after-effects won't be seen at once. That means we'll witness everything but at a slower pace.