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Thread: What WILL happen when the poles shift?

  1. #1
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    What WILL happen when the poles shift?

    I hesitated posting this on General Astronomy, but really, it is a legitimate astronomical question. Earth's poles have shifted in the past, they will shift again. That, it appears, is fact. Do we know what will happen? Do we have an idea why? Can we make any predictions based on what we know about the nature of the Earth, its magnetic field, and its biosphere?

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    Geologic of magnetic?

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    With GPS I don't think navigation will be a problem and apart from aurora turning up in unusual locations I don't think we will notice a lot of difference. The Earth's magnetic field will still offer protection from solar rays during a reversal and there won't be any mass extinctions. There is a lot of literature out there (good and bad) but some sites might be of interest

    Computer generated model

    Space.com Hubble article

    British Geological Survey

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    I've never heard that there was a relation between changes in the magnetic field of the earth and the development of the biosphere. So, except for that your compass would mislead you, I wouldn't worry too much.

    And, hey, we all know from Star Trek that reversing the polarity is always a good thing! :-)

    Harald

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    Not so fast. It is possible that a field reversal occurs by the field collapsing and then rebuilding. If that happens we have a serious problem without the magnetosphere to protect earth. Solar radiation levels at ground will increase greatly and we may experience a world wide ozone hole which will increase UV insolation. Even if the field simply topples without losing strength the polar ozone holes will follow. Place an ozone hole over the equator and it will be unliveable.

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    Quote Originally Posted by frogesque
    With GPS I don't think navigation will be a problem and apart from aurora turning up in unusual locations I don't think we will notice a lot of difference. The Earth's magnetic field will still offer protection from solar rays during a reversal and there won't be any mass extinctions. There is a lot of literature out there (good and bad) but some sites might be of interest

    Computer generated model

    Space.com Hubble article

    British Geological Survey
    Great sites! Unfortunately there are many other websites that feature the doom and gloom, end of the world scenario as coming with the pole shift. There seems to be a lot of "woo woo" thinking in regard to the pole shift. My personal favorite site typifying this genre being The Grant Chronicles examination of the pole shift. When you see sites such as this please disregard them.

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    All the maps in the world will have to be reprinted, because they will be the wrong way up

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    going completely from memory here, but doesn't it take like hundreds/thousands/tens thousands of years for the pole to actually reverse? Its like a slow gradual process I believe. Most people make it sound like 'omg north is now south and it happened while i wasn't looking"

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    Quote Originally Posted by Evan
    Not so fast. It is possible that a field reversal occurs by the field collapsing and then rebuilding. If that happens we have a serious problem without the magnetosphere to protect earth. Solar radiation levels at ground will increase greatly and we may experience a world wide ozone hole which will increase UV insolation. Even if the field simply topples without losing strength the polar ozone holes will follow. Place an ozone hole over the equator and it will be unliveable.
    What? You want to try that again?

    There is a website attached to his board...and a search feature.

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    I enjoyed the articles here and here on the subject. The first offers a little nicer detail while exploring the same modeling done by Glatzmaier in frogesque's first article -- unfortunately, on that source they link out to that (rather sad) NYT article from earlier this year at the bottom of that page, which was discussed here.

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    Nobody understands how the shift occurs. Perhaps, Clement says, the magnetic field shrinks to essentially nothing, leaving several "mini-poles" at the surface before the main poles rebuild on opposite sides of the world.

    Scientists have plenty of reasons to seek a better understanding. For one, the magnetic field lines extend out beyond Earth's atmosphere and provide the first line of defense against strong solar storms. And Clement wonders how the reversals might affect navigation by migrating birds and other animals that key in on the magnetic field to find their way.
    My emphasis, from the link posted above.

    A severely weakened geomagnetic field is not going to fry life on Earth but it does increase the ground level radiation. This may well be sufficient to boost the mutation rates of species. Look up "ground level event". Then think of it continuing for 1000's of years.

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    Magnetic compasses will be screwed up for a while. Life as usual will continue. And no, we won't die from cancer, because a nice thick atmosphere makes good radiation shielding.

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    The pigeons might have problems though.

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    Current measurement data suggests we are going towards a pole shift indeed. Examining stones reveals that the earth is "overtime" (relative to the average interreversal time, which isn't constant at all, so this doesn't mean a lot) already. But nobody can predict when it will happen. It can be within 10,100,1000,100000 or more years and it won't happen overnight. What we see now is that the poles move more rapidly than before, and the earth magnetic field intensity decreases. Its strength however is still above average. I doubt whether the magnetic field would completely fall apart considering the relatively long time it takes to complete the shifting event (days at least, years could be very well possible, many years too) compared to the rediculously short time it takes an electron to do the retour trip from pole to pole (0.2 seconds for an electron at 1 earth radius from the surface at the equator). The magnetic field possibly will look quite ugly during the reversal, but an ugly field consisting of multiple poles can provide protection too. maybe less, but the phenomenon is so poorly understood or examined (the last time wxas about 800.000 years ago...) that nobody can tell for sure. WE'll have to wait and see. Considereing the numerous times it has happened before, it won't be the end of the world. We just might have some trouble with it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Evan
    Solar radiation levels at ground will increase greatly and we may experience a world wide ozone hole which will increase UV insolation. Even if the field simply topples without losing strength the polar ozone holes will follow. Place an ozone hole over the equator and it will be unliveable.
    Solar radiation (unspecified type) yes, increased UV due to a worldwide ozone hole, no. Ozone is a chemical - oxygen-3. It won't magically disappear with a change in the magnetic properties of the earth.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Damburger
    All the maps in the world will have to be reprinted, because they will be the wrong way up
    The geographic north (a convention) wonīt be affected by magnetic pole shift. Only the compasses wonīt point to the north. Itīs not a great problem because even now compasses donīt point to the north, really.

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    Are you all crazy!? The pole shift will cause a swath of destruction unheard of! 99.9% of all the world's species will be killed by the magnetic reversal! I know all this because the aliens that visit me told me.


    8-[

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    Well in that case I'll just borrow a hundred grand from a bad a.. loan shark and spend it all on a stripper named Molly Mount.



    Wanna hear something funny? My wife's maiden name is Mount. Her first name isn't Molly though. So close.

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    [Helen Lovejoy voice]Somebody pleeeaaase think of the icebears!!!![/Helen Lovejoy voice]

  20. #20
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    Nova had a good program about this a while back....

    Here is a link to their Program Page
    I may have many faults, but being wrong ain't one of them. - Jimmy Hoffa

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    Yeah, that program on Nova was impressive. I loved the computer model projecting what the pole shift would be like.

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    wait a sec if the poles slowly change over time like ---|+++ / --+|-++ / -++|--+ / +++|--- will the earths magnetic polls ever be neutral like -+-+|-+-+?would magnetic cumpiss just freak out? :-s i mean what would happen?

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    Quote Originally Posted by metal_dragon35
    wait a sec if the poles slowly change over time like ---|+++ / --+|-++ / -++|--+ / +++|--- will the earths magnetic polls ever be neutral like -+-+|-+-+?would magnetic cumpiss just freak out? :-s i mean what would happen?
    There are no monopoles, so far as we know

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    Quote Originally Posted by A Thousand Pardons
    Quote Originally Posted by metal_dragon35
    wait a sec if the poles slowly change over time like ---|+++ / --+|-++ / -++|--+ / +++|--- will the earths magnetic polls ever be neutral like -+-+|-+-+?would magnetic cumpiss just freak out? :-s i mean what would happen?
    There are no monopoles, so far as we know
    Mmmm... Three would be possible though - 2 North and one South, now that would cause a bit of confusion

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    Quote Originally Posted by metal_dragon35
    wait a sec if the poles slowly change over time like ---|+++ / --+|-++ / -++|--+ / +++|--- will the earths magnetic polls ever be neutral like -+-+|-+-+?would magnetic cumpiss just freak out? :-s i mean what would happen?
    What apparently happens is that the Earth's magnetic field goes from one big field into dozens of smaller ones, giving you dozens of North and South magnetic poles all over the world. Eventually, they consolidate back into two poles, but at the opposite ends of the planet from before.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kesh
    What apparently happens is that the Earth's magnetic field goes from one big field into dozens of smaller ones, giving you dozens of North and South magnetic poles all over the world. Eventually, they consolidate back into two poles, but at the opposite ends of the planet from before.
    Are you sure? I thought that they had mapped the path of the major dipole as it flipped, and it showed a preference for a particular north-south path.

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    There may have been a dominant dipole, but there were also dozens of smaller, weaker dipoles popping up all over the place.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kesh
    There may have been a dominant dipole, but there were also dozens of smaller, weaker dipoles popping up all over the place.
    How do you mean that, and how is that any different than now?

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    *sigh* Let me see if I can find one of the graphics. It's... difficult to explain in text.

    Right now, we have the major dipole with a couple small patches that are 'reversed' from the main magnetic field they're in.

    What they showed in that special was that many other magnetic anomalies start showing up as the pole shift begins, from small to very large. Eventually, we end up with a magnetic field that looks like a painted easter egg... patches of "north" magnetics a hundred miles across in the middle of a "south" field, and dozens of these anomalies all over the planet. You might have a "south" magnetic field sitting over the US midwest, a "north covering a similar part of Canada, and another "south" at the physical north pole, etc.

    Over time, these anomalies start to die down. As they do, it becomes clear that the dominant field in the northern hemisphere is the "south" magnetic field, and vice versa.

    This 'path of dominance' may have a preferred route, but the large anomalies seemed to be fairly random as the poles shifted. And, at the midpoint, they were so frequent and large that there was no discernable "north" or "south" magnetic. Just patches of such fields all over the globe.

    Ah, here we go. This is one of the views from the special. Note that, on the surface, it appears that the poles (mostly) follow the specific path you mentioned, while in the core it's much more chaotic and patchy.

    The other computer model I saw showed the field more like the large 'bands' of energy surrounding the globe, such as in your average textbook. When the flip is modeled in that one, the various patches of magnetic field are much more pronounced and visible.

    Of course, it may be that the latter animation was based on the core magnetics, rather than what we'll notice on the surface. Even so, we're going to have a lot of trouble with compasses for a while when this happens.

  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kesh
    Right now, we have the major dipole with a couple small patches that are 'reversed' from the main magnetic field they're in.
    I don't think so. What do you mean?
    Ah, here we go. This is one of the views from the special. Note that, on the surface, it appears that the poles (mostly) follow the specific path you mentioned, while in the core it's much more chaotic and patchy.
    The core is pretty chaotic anyway. The downwards projection of the magnetic field would seem to have the (on the surface dominant) dipole field about equal to all the other levels of the field. That's a result of how the fields attentuate with distance.

    If all degrees of the magnetic field were about equal on the surface of the core, and that was the source of the Earth's magnetic field (not a bad assumption), then the dipole field would dominate at the surface. The dipole would only really disappear if the field itself disappeared and left only the remnant magnatism at the surface--which is a lot smaller than the dipole field.

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