For incredible it may seem, each year the Earth loses much mass. This mass loss I caused by different factors, each one with a different intensity grade. However, the planet also earns many weight every year, but in a smaller amount than the one it loses.
The Earth earns weight
As I’ve said, even if the Earth loses much mass, it also gains many of it. One of the reasons for this mass growth is due to the drop of material coming from space, which adds 40 000 annual tonnes. The majority of the material coming from space gets disintegrated when entering the terrestrial atmosphere, increasing, in this way, the atmosphere’s mass, and, therefore, the one of the Earth’s. However, every day, about 17 meteorites manage to hit the Earth’s ground.
The Earth also gains weight due to the climate. As marked by the laws of thermodynamics, if energy is added to the system, the mass increase. Climate change causes an increase in the planet’s temperature, which implies the mass to grow by 160 annual tonnes.
Even if can seem that the fact of constructing new objects, as televisions, vehicles or buildings adds a very big quantity of mass, in fact, it isn’t like this, since what we do is taking materials from the Earth and transforming them.
The Earth finishes by losing weight
Despite gaining large quantities of materials due to different phenomenons, the truth is that the Earth ends up losing weight. To our scale, it can seem a lot, but on a global level, if we compare it to the Earth’s weight, it is nothing.
The nucleus of the planet
The planet’s nucleus makes the Earth lose mass. This is due because it converts the mass into energy, and this one ends up escaping. Despite this, this mass loss is very little, only 16 tonnes per year.
We also lose weight because of human activity in space. Each time that we send a spacecraft to space, the Earths loses a little bit of mass. These effects are negligible, as many of the components that form the ship end up returning to the Earth. In this way, it is calculated that we lose the equivalent to an adult elephant every three weeks.
Even if in our days this mass loss isn’t very important, in the future, when the spatial exploration will require more resources, as for example a permanent base on Mars or an increase of spatial probes, this effect will be more important.
What causes most of the weight to be lost on the Earth is the loss of gases in the atmosphere, especially hydrogen. The lightest gases, as can be hydrogen (the simplest element of all), and helium, escape to the outermost parts of the atmosphere, where there isn’t so much gravity. As a result, for being so light and being in a place of less gravity, these two gases escape to space, causing a loss of atmosphere. We calculate that, every second, the Earth loses 3 kilograms of hydrogen, which, in a year time-lapse, equal 95 000 tonnes of lost hydrogen. The helium, even if in smaller quantities, also goes out to space. Every year we lose 1 600 tonnes of helium.
A very little mass
The Earth loses 57 000 tonnes of mass each year. Even if this number can seem to us an enormous quantity, at a terrestrial scale it isn’t relevant. In fact, the 57 000 tonnes of matter that we lose, represent the 0,000000000000001% of the terrestrial mass. As a comparison, it would be as if a man of 70 kilograms, lost, every 10 billion years, 10 grams of its weight.