What is that pole shift thing?

Here’s what people selling books about the end of the world and stuff don’t want you to know. Too much misinformation is going around so that people can cash in!

Pole shift is a rare phenomenon and characterized by the north and the south poles swapping places. Such reversals, recorded in the magnetism of ancient rocks, are unpredictable. They come at irregular intervals averaging about 300,000 years; the last one was 780,000 years ago. There is some sort of hype around pole shift since the fear propaganda has started about the end of the world in 2012 (see my post about 2012).

Pole shift is a process that roughly takes 5,000 years to complete and doesn’t start on a specific date and time and the real truth is that nobody knows when the next one is due. So let’s put an end right now to that 2012 thing before we go any further.

If you came here to know if a pole shift would end our world in 2012, well no.

Earth inner coreThat being said, to really understand what a pole shift is, we have to take a look at the inner core of our planet. The magnetic field of our planet comes from this inner core, which is mainly a solid ball of iron 70% as wide as the moon and as hot as the sun. It doesn’t spin at the same rate as the earth; it has it’s own rate.

What creates the magnetic field is the convection of molten iron, within the outer liquid core and also with the overall planetary rotation. The creation of the magnetic field can be explained with the dynamo effect: When conducting fluid flows across an existing magnetic field, electric currents are induced, which in turn creates another one. When this new field reinforces the original, a dynamo is created which sustains itself. It’s a little more complicated than that and you can do your own research on magnetic fields and dynamo if you want to have more details about it.

There’s a popular belief that wants a pole shift to completely remove the earth’s magnetic field during it’s reversal. It would then expose the earth to space radiation and solar storms. Well, once again, this ain’t true and here’s why from a NASA article:

They’ve also learned what happens during a reversal. Reversals take a few thousand years to complete, and during that time–contrary to popular belief–the magnetic field does not vanish. “It just gets more complicated,” says Glatzmaier. Magnetic lines of force near Earth’s surface become twisted and tangled, and magnetic poles pop up in unaccustomed places. A south magnetic pole might emerge over Africa, for instance, or a north pole over Tahiti. Weird. But it’s still a planetary magnetic field, and it still protects us from space radiation and solar storms.

Earth's magnetic field

To summarize everything, pole shift have happened before and will happen again. We just don’t know when the next one will occur. Like some say, we might be overdue because the last one was 780,000 years ago, but here’s the way I see it:

They come at irregular intervals averaging about 300,000 years and it has now been 780,000 years since the last one. Then we’ve been due for 480,000 years! Where I’m getting at is that your parents generation was also overdue, your grandparents generation was overdue and since the start of civilization on this earth it was overdue. Even the Mayas were overdue. What I’m trying to say is that it could’ve happened way before that and that it can happen tomorrow or in 100,000 years so don’t worry too much about it. Again, the process takes 5,000 years to complete so I bet you won’t notice it too much.

Here’s all the popular beliefs and why it’s not true:

  • A pole reversal will happen in 2012. False, it will happen but we don’t know when yet. I’m pretty sure the NASA would be able to confirm if it was even a 2012 possibility.
  • A pole reversal would decrease the strength of our magnetic field to near zero. False, it would still be there and as strong as it is now, just more complicated.
  • A pole reversal would have terrible impact on our planet. True, but the process takes 5,000 years to complete. It doesn’t happen just like that when you wake up one morning.
  • We’re overdue for a pole shift. Maybe, but we’ve been overdue for the past 380,000 years. Our little 2,000 years of history is pretty small in that. Do you believe we don’t know when it’s going to happen?

I hope this article is putting light on the subject because I think it’s an important matter: too much false information is going around about the end of the world in 2012 and pole shift so that people can cash in.

Update: Read What is that pole shift thing part II for answers on the physical pole shift due to the Earth’s crust moving.

images are taken from NASA website.

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