Lots of things cause Earth’s spinning top-like axis to shift — earthquakes, El Nino, and even volcano eruptions. Now scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory say that global warming could actually alter the tilt of our planet’s axis due to instability from melting ice sheets! Scientists have long theorized that climate change could cause a negligible amount of movement in the axis, but NASA’s research shows that the problem could be much more severe than was initially thought. In fact, it could be as drastic as the northern pole shifting by 1.5 centimeters every year towards Hawaii and Alaska.

The shifting pole won’t speed up climate change itself, but it could potentially act as a measure of sea level rise. In other words, the more the pole shifts each year, the faster ice sheets are melting. It’s not a foolproof plan–scientists have no way of telling if a shift in the axis is because of a massive earthquake in Japan or a giant ice sheet turning into fresh water–but it is one more way to calculate the effects of global warming on the planet.

Via New Scientist