Will a Magnetic Pole Shift Mean the End of the World?

Josephine Smit May 9, 2012 2

A reversal of the magnetic field would make a compass point South. Courtesy of lifeslittlemysteries.com.

Some say the world will end in fire and some say in ice; yet, other doomsday-sayers predict our demise in massive earthquakes and bombardment by solar radiation resulting from a reversal of the Earth’s magnetic poles. But rest assured — there is no scientific basis for such a cataclysmic scenario.

Reversals of the Earth’s magnetic field are natural and regular phenomena that occur approximately every 250,000 years. The last reversal occurred 720,000 years ago, and evidence of a ten percent decline in the Earth’s magnetic field since the nineteenth century has led some scientists to speculate that we may currently be heading into a reversal. Because Earth’s magnetic field has always been dynamic, though, it is difficult to know for sure. We can speculate that because the Earth’s magnetic field acts as a shield against solar radiation, a weakening of the magnetic field may result in an increase in solar radiation. Although this would not be harmful to humans, technology such as satellites and power grids could suffer more outages because of their vulnerability to solar storms. There are also concerns about how a reversal might affect migrating species that use Earth’s magnetic field for navigation. As there is no convincing evidence that magnetic field reversals have triggered species extinctions in the past, it seems that species are capable of adjusting to a pole reversal.

So, if you see your compass needle starting to point south, no need to worry — it is not the end of the world.

2 Comments »

  1. Alex January 25, 2013 at 3:38 AM - Reply

    Nice piece of logic. If we have no witness accounts of mass extinctions caused by weakening of Van Allen belts, then they must not have happened, so there ain’t nothin’ to worry about. Yee-ha, as one of my skiing buddies famously said right before breakin’ his neck ;-)

    • Gabe July 7, 2013 at 9:13 AM - Reply

      Dude! That was his first time skiing, so he would probably !@*%ing break his neck! This is science.

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