Earth is a funny place. You think you understand it at first, then it throws you a curveball and everything gets all topsy turvy. In this case, the meaning is literal. The Earth is due for a geomagnetic reversal, a phenomenon where the magnetic poles shift and change position. The North pole becomes the South pole and vice versa. This happens naturally every 100,000 to a million years, and the last known event was 780, 000 years ago.
Scientists aren’t exactly sure what causes this phenomenon, and if it does happen soon it will be the first time we’ll be able to monitor it with scientific equipment. From the best of my understanding, the solid iron core of planet Earth shifts, causing the poles to change. This change can be as quick as a hundred years, and can take as long as a thousand.
When you have such a massive change to something as important as the locations of the poles, there’s bound to be some sort of alarm. You’re certain to find notions of apocalypse and cataclysm bubbling from the internet. The source of this panic shocked me a bit. The crazy isn’t coming from where you think it would.
First off, there isn’t anything to be worried about from the standpoint of the planet. There have been no mass extinctions that coincide with the geomagnetic reversals of the past. There have been no more earthquakes that what the planet normally goes through. Many animals and insects use the planet’s magnetism to migrate. I’m certain that they will quickly adapt to deal with any changes.
Even our own ecosystem will be largely unaffected. Most navigation now relies on satellites, as opposed to the compasses of yesteryear. There’s speculation it may have consequences on the power grid, but it’s only still speculation. Some people have become concerned that the shift would cause more solar radiation to come through our atmosphere, driving the skin cancer rates through the roof. Even though the magnetic field can fluctuate, there has never been any scientific evidence that points to it disappearing completely.
To be frank, this is an area outside of my limited expertise. What I do know is that most of the scare from geomagnetic reversal was from the 2012 doomsday prophecy, when the Mayan calendar ended. Many people thought some apocalyptic or cataclysmic event would occur in the year 2012. Nothing of the sort ever did happen, unless of course you voted against Obama in the 2012 presidential election.
I knew a number of people that took the 2012 prophecy seriously. When I pry them about it now, they have a hard time remembering it was even a concern. The strange thing is, when I started doing research, to see if there was any concern regarding the polar switch., there was. There were still articles being written, less than a year old, like this one.
These kind of publications seem to be the source of any kind of calamity claxon that has been sounding regarding the polar switch-a -roo. The shift in geomagnetic poles isn’t a particularly devastating event that could occur. It will be incredibly interesting in regards to science, as we will be able to study the phenomena for the first time. Gossip wise, though, without the doom and gloom future laid out for us by poorly put together ideas, there isn’t anything most people would be interested, except that we might all have to buy new compasses.
What fascinated me most of all wasn’t the switch of the poles, but rather how desperately some publications were trying to push the story. My questions from this foray into geomagnetic pole reversal has nothing to do with the topic. Rather, the question is, what happened to investigative journalism? What happened to facts? News has changed so dramatically, not only with the now constant twenty-four hour news cycle, but also how the news has changed from the reporting of incidents to the entertainment of the populous.
Unless you’re either a geologist, or a scientist with an interest in the magnetic poles, there isn’t anything in the story to make you feel an emotion. Throw in the possibility of us all dying in a cancerous inferno, well, now you’ve made people feel something. You’re making them feel fear, dread, and despair. At least you’re making them feel something though. And that sells papers.
The Illustrious Mr. Charlton
p.s. I’m telling this story so I can tell you another one.
p.s.s. I get terribly sad when someone send me an article and the headline starts with ‘Top Twelve Reasons…’
p.s.s.s. The kind of sad where I just drink a bottle of wine and stare at a blank wall for an hour or so. That sort of sad.